One of the most challenging things to lean to do as a human is how to forgive yourself – but it is the only the way to learn how to be happy. We all like to hold ourselves to impossible standards of perfection. But the reality of being human is that we all make mistakes, big ones, small ones, and some that might seem unforgivable.
We all like to hold ourselves to impossible standards of perfection. But the reality of being human is that we all make mistakes, big ones, small ones, and some that might seem unforgivable. Here’s how you can learn how to give yourself some slack and why it’s so important for your health.
Why forgiving yourself is important
Guilt vs. Shame
Living with guilt for extended periods of time will eventually lead to shame. While a little bit of guilt keeps us honest and on our toes about our moral compass, shame is useless. Shame makes it impossible to heal.
Guilt makes us think about our actions, improve, and, most importantly, applies to specific situations. Shame, on the other hand applies to your entire being. It is when you equate the value of your entire being on a few actions.
Forgiving yourself will involve guilt, but ensure that shame does not overtake your life, just because you made a mistake, or a few.
How to forgive yourself: step by step
The first step in how to forgive yourself, is to admit to yourself that you did something wrong. This is a huge challenge, because it’s an invitation for a slew of uncomfortable emotions. Guilt is probably the biggest emotion that comes from admitting fault.
Like I mentioned earlier, guilt is what allows us realize our mistakes, and then make amends for them. Admitting responsibility is the way that you can confront difficult emotions and move forward. This will also avoid subconscious shame.
Notice your self-critical tendencies
Now that you have taken the first step in forgiving yourself, it’s time to make sure that you don’t go to far in beating yourself up. Admission of fault is NOT the same as perpetually punishing yourself for the mistake you made.
Nobody is perfect. Everyone makes mistakes. Most of us have a tendency to be overly self critical because its a natural human reaction. We want to be above making mistakes, but we’re not. So when we do, it gets to our fragile egos, and we usually react in one of two ways. 1. Complete denial (before step one) or 2. being overly self-critical.
It is incredibly important that you be one the lookout for your self-critical tendencies. If you are aware of them, you can stop in them in their tracks, and rewire you thinking. Which brings us to the next step in how to forgive yourself.
Stop the negative self-talk
After you have addressed you self-critical tendencies in your mind, it’s time to do something about them: stop the negative self-talk. Self-talk is how your inner voice talks to you. We have a tendency to talk to ourselves in a very rude manner, especially after we have made a mistake.
“Stupid idiot, why did you do that.” Or “I really shouldn’t have done that, I must be the dumbest person to ever live.” These are examples of negative self-talk. It is detrimental to your healing process. You would not speak to another person like (I hope), so why would you treat yourself so poorly?
So stop talking to yourself like you are garbage, and start talking to yourself like a human being that sometimes makes mistakes. You can speak to yourself sternly and honestly without insulting yourself. Example “Okay, What I did was not a great thing, I don’t feel good about it. How can I make this better?”
This honest, but positive self-talk is solution-oriented. It does not insult, rather in focuses on getting results.
Imagine what it feels like to be forgiven
At this point, you should be in a good position to get your imagination flowing in a positive way. You know that you will need to make amends with the person that you hurt.
An exercise you can try is to imagine how good it will feel when this person forgives. Be as specific as you can with this. Chances are, if the person really loves you, they will forgive you. It may take time, but usually they will. After all “One forgives to the degree that one loves.” —Francois de La Rochefoucauld.
It would feel pretty good and relieving to be forgiven, right? Here’s the problem: you don’t control other people’s emotions. At the end of the day, they have to choose to forgive you or not. So, if you want to chase that feeling of relief, you will eventually have to forgive yourself.
After all of your personal reflection, the next step in being able to forgive yourself is to apologize to the person your action hurt. This is probably one of the most critical step in the entire process.
It is a real challenge to forgive yourself, if you haven’t put forth the effort into making amends amends with the other person. Even if they do not forgive you, you can be at peace knowing that your did what could to amend the situation.
Giving a proper apology is the best way to get the desired results. Make sure to say “I’m sorry,” take responsibility for your actions, and then work on the behavior that led to the issue in the first place. Most of the time, this will lead to both parties forgiving you.
The thing about forgiveness is that it usually happens on a timeline. You could apologize to someone, and it could be weeks or months before they forgive. The same is true with yourself.
Sometimes you might have done something so bad, that it will just take time for your to be okay with the fact that you made that particular mistake. Give yourself and others time. Eventually you will forgive yourself and be happy.
Let go of the past
Eventually, you’re going to have to put the past behind you, and move forward with your life. You cannot hold on to every little mistake you’ve made. If you do, you will see some serious consequences in your life.
Letting go is the only way to move on. It take hard metal work, but if you do the steps above and let go of the past, you will eventually be able to move forward and feel more at peace with yourself.
Take care of yourself
Just because you made a mistake, doesn’t mean you need to punish yourself forever. Let it go. Even if you think it was the worst possible thing a human can do, accept the consequences for what they are, don’t excuse the behavior, and then take care of yourself. Always strive to self-improve and learn from your mistakes. Let happiness be the result of forgiving yourself.