The Power of Forgiving Yourself and How to Do It

When was the last time that you forgave yourself for something that you weren’t happy you did, or didn’t do, or said, or whatever?!  And I mean truly forgive yourself.  If you can’t remember the last time ,or you realize you never really have, then it’s time to learn the power of forgiving yourself (and some of my suggestions for how to do it)!

We know it’s important to be kind and not too hard on ourselves, but how many of us actually do that?

If we look at the self-sabotaging behavior that so many people participate in (overeating, negative self-talk, etc.) its clear there’s not a lot of forgiveness for our mistakes going on these days.

It’s a tough world and trying to get ahead, heck, trying to get through each day is tough! 

But, if we want to go further in our lives and accomplish greater things, we HAVE to get into a practice of not getting hung up on our mistakes and that we forgive ourself.

Let’s look at a few examples:
  • You overspent your budget on a killer pair of shoes after promising your husband that you’d cut back on spending…oops!
  • You were only going to have a couple of Oreos, but while engrossed in a page-turner book, you weren’t paying attention and you look down and notice you’ve eaten the entire sleeve of cookies…crap!
  • You bailed on your best friend when you knew she needed to lean on you to binge watch Orange is the New Black…#sorrynotsorry?

We’ve all been there and whether it’s a one off thing or a regular habit, we all do things that we beat ourselves up for later.

The problem arises when we don’t let it go, learn from it, and move on.  We let it fester, we call ourselves horrible names, and it negaitvely impacts our future choices.

My Recent A-Ha Moment

I’m currently taking the Joy Equation e-Course by Molly Mahar of Stratejoy.  This class has been nothing short of amazing!  While I feel I have pretty healthy self-love since I’ve been working on it for several years, the digging deep that we’re doing in this course has opened all kinds of things that I just didn’t know were buried in there!

This little workbook helped me realize an area in my life where I wasn’t forgiving myself for past mistakes…

Despite my years of independent work, there is one area in my life that I know still needs a healthy dose of self-love.  Each day we get a journal prompt in our inbox and during the first week, I wrote in detail about this specific topic, my past mistakes, and wondering why I couldn’t get move past it.

During one of our assignments, we had to re-read our entries up to that point.  When I got to this particular entry, I found that I still felt the same frustrations, but it was almost as if I were reading it from the outside since I was outside the moment.

About half-way through the entry something hit me like a lightening bolt – there was absolutely no forgiveness on my part in my words.  I just kept blaming myself and not understanding why I couldn’t make some changes.

I instantly knew this was the reason I couldn’t get past this and make improvements in this area.

So, I stopped right there, closed my eyes, put my hand over my heart, and forgave myself out loud.

I suddently felt a sense of lightness and a shift inside. Something inside me healed.  I still have more work to do, but I patched that hole in my foundation and can now truly build some new floors on top of it without it crashing down around me.

This just goes to show that no matter where we are on our self-love journey, we still have work to do (which I find exciting!).

What it Means to “Forgive”

According to Google…

To Forgive: “to stop feeling angry or resentful toward (someone) for an offense, flaw, or mistake”

To forgive ourselves we have to face what we’ve done (or what we think we’ve done), acknowledge it, take responsibility for it, and then move on.

This doesn’t mean we condone what we’ve done and we may not even forget it, but by taking responsibility and accepting our mistakes we release ourselves from the grips of our offense.

Why you Should Forgive Yourself

Take a second and think of why you forgive someone you love when they make a mistake…that’s the same reason you should forgive yourself!

Everybody makes mistakes, but we tend to judge ourselves more harshly when we screw up.  We hold ourselves to a higher, almost unachievable standard than we do others. 

To some degree, I think this is okay (being the go-getter, self-challenger that I am!).  Expecting more of yourself in order to push past fear or to achieve challenging goals is perfectly fine.  The key is allowing yourself to make mistakes without holding it against yourself.  This is showing kindness & compassion to yourself.  It’s letting yourself off the hook and acknowledging your weaknesses and imperfections (we all got ‘em and that’s okay!)

More importantly, it allows you to move on and it’s the key to accepting yourself.

Forgiving yourself is the path to true self-love…

Forgiving yourself also clears your guilt.  We will always experience guilt in our lives and this isn’t necessarily a bad thing (it allows us to be more self-aware, have more compassion for others, and can motivate us to be a better person).  The key is to not let a seed of guilt plant itself and grow into nasty weeds within our heart and minds.

Learning to deal with guilt by forgiving yourself is the means to truly accepting yourself.  It can boost your self-esteem.  Think how much better you feel when someone else forgives you for something – the guilt lifts, you feel lighter, and more positive about yourself.  The same holds true when you forgive yourself (only I’d say the impact is even greater!).

How to Forgive Yourself

Knowing you should forgive yourself and really knowing how to do it are two separate things.  I don’t think most of us really know how to truly forgive ourselves, which is sad!

The first thing you have to realize is that by not forgiving yourself you are ‘punishing’ yourself.  You might carry out that punishment mentally (negative self-talk), physically (eating a pint of ice cream in front of the TV), or both.

And, girlfriend, that is NOT okay!!

While there are probably several ways to go about practicing forgiveness, here is the process that works for me…
 Journal about it  – Writing it out helps you acknowledge whatever it is you’re feeling guilty about, plus it gets your feelings out of your head. You may also be surprised at what comes out of your pen as you write!  Sometimes you can unearth some really juicy bits that will help you make progress!

 Set it aside and revisit it a few days later  – When you’re not in the throes of self-pity on the topic, you’ll look at things through a slightly different lens which can be very helpful.  You simply re-read it and reflect on it.  See if you can spot where you are being unforgiving with yourself.  Feel free to analyze why you’re judging yourself so harshly (which might prompt you to journal a little more!).

 Intentionally forgive yourself  – When you’re ready, pause, think it through, close your eyes, place your hand over your heart, and out loud tell yourself that it’s okay…you love yourself…you forgive yourself.

You can say more if you want or need to, but at the very least, tell yourself those three short statements.  Repeat them until you feel the release and the inner peacefulness from truly forgiving yourself. Before you open your eyes…smile and take another deep breath.  Then open your eyes and take a giant leap forward, girlfriend!

 Make amends (if necessary)  – If you need to make amends with yourself (or others) now is the time to put those in place.  For example, if you bailed on your friend for a night of TV binge watching, call her up and invite her to lunch at her favorite place!

You don’t have to spill the beans and tell her that you blew her off for your couch and TV and if you haven’t already apologized for canceling on her previously (I’m assuming you did when you ditched her), then apologize again and then make her feel special and appreciated!

3dots

Its been almost 2 weeks since I had that eye-opening revelation and I’m so happy to be able to say that I’ve made good progress on that area of my self-love that needs extra attention.  It still needs more work, but by forgiving myself, I’ve opened a new door and it feels oh, so marvelous.

To some of you, this may sound a little crazy (telling myself that I love myself with my eyes closed and my hand on my heart??), but I promise you…if you get past the awkwardness and really embrace the idea….it works.  

You have the power to unlock new doors in your mind and forgiving yourself is one of the many beautiful keys that will allow you to do just that.

One good thing to keep in mind…the past is the past and you can’t undo it. We can only learn from it to prevent ourselves from making the same mistakes again.  Forgiving ourselves lays the groundwork for forging new paths and not repeating the same mistakes over and over.

Let’s face it, we’re human, we’re going to screw up…we can’t really prevent this, but we can accept this, learn from it and move on.

And if nothing else…you deserve to forgive yourself!

3dots

Alright ladies…talk to me.  How are YOU on the forgiving yourself spectrum?  Do you need to forgive yourself of a few things?  If so, are you going to give this a try?  Leave me a comment…I’d love to hear your story!

Comments

  1. 1

    says

    This one was actually hard for me to read. Not because of you at all, but because I don’t want to take the time to forgive myself. And I have guilt, I prefer to push it to the back of my head and forget about it. I wonder if that counts as the same? Probably not. Maybe I should try this course …

    • 2

      says

      Hi Julie! I’m so sorry this was hard to read, but maybe it helped see things differently which can be a good thing (even though the unpleasant side of things isn’t always fun!). Guilt is such a powerful thing…it’s one of those things that we can’t avoid, so definitely don’t beat yourself up for having guilt, that’s okay!! Where it gets tricky is when we let the guilt control us instead of us controlling the guilt. I like to think of how I would treat a friend that was experiencing whatever I feel guilty about. I find I would treat her with kindness and forgiveness and we deserve that from ourselves as well, so I try to treat myself the way I’d treat a friend or loved one. It takes practice though, but definitely worth it in the end!! I think this course would be awesome for you…it’s really insightful and can lay the groundwork for a lot of change and growth if you’re willing to shine that light on yourself and work through it (scary, but also rewarding when you win a few battles with yourself ;)). Good luck with everything!!

  2. 3

    says

    I have been going through some a-ha moments recently, as you have, and I really believe what you say is true: until you can forgive yourself for past mistakes or mess ups, you can’t really move forward! It’s actually a simple realization, but at the same time a really difficult one, because that negative voice (in my head at least) is so ingrained I almost don’t take notice of it. But really, if I was in a relationship with that voice, it would be an abusive one . . . sad but oh so true!
    The forgiveness for myself will probably take a while because I realized that I have been conditioned my whole life to feel “not good enough” and to simply stay quiet and accept what is instead of going against the grain. I so wish I would have been able to speak up for myself throughout my life, but instead of being angry at my younger self for being so passive (an easy trap to fall into), I’ve started to see that person is really just a little kid who was never given the skills she needed…and it’s much easier to treat the misguided “little kid” version of me with forgiveness! And it’s not even about blaming anyone for me not having those skills, just more a realization that you wouldn’t get mad at a child for not knowing how to read or not knowing how to say please and thank you…you would simply teach them! So now that I’m older and wiser, I view it as I need to teach that lost part of me how to act and cope and it helps me not be upset or angry about it.
    Maybe this perspective may help anyone else who wants to attack this forgiveness thing but struggles to get past the negative/anger aspect of it…

    • 4

      says

      I completely understand everything you said, Jaime! For a long time I had the worst self-talk and I remember thinking that I would NEVER let someone else talk to me that way, but it didn’t occur to me that I shouldn’t talk to myself like that either. It’s tough, but I do think being conscious of it is the first step to changing the behavior. It’s so hard to try to unlearn a lifetime of what you’ve known and I think for a lot of us, our parents didn’t know to teach us this (and not fault of them…they didn’t know either!). That’s why I’m so passionate about sharing all of this in hopes of encouraging other women to dig deep and find that love in there, because its there, it just might be buried and need to come out for some air and sunlight to grow into something truly beautiful :). I applaud you for starting to recognize these things in your life and showing kindness and forgiveness to yourself, even if you’re focusing on the hurt you from your childhood…that’s a great place to start!!! Wishing you lots of love and happiness on your journey! :)

  3. 5

    Tina says

    This was awesome and perfect timing for me! Forgiving myself includes realizing the difference between guilt and shame – and there IS a difference. Also, forgiveness takes time and patience. Definitely doesn’t happen overnight. The hurt and scars can be deep so allowing time to heal is very important.

    • 6

      says

      That is SO true, Tina!! There are some things that you can forgive easily, but yep, there are definitely deeper scars that take longer to sift through to really find that total forgiveness. It’s a process and not always an easy one, but definitely something that can be healed with the right frame of mind (ie. wanting to heal them) and, like you said, time. :)

  4. 7

    says

    SUCH a great post! Its so true – women are brutal (to ourselves!) and we need to seriously get a grip. Why all the negative self-talk? Its unproductive and just a bummer! Love your tips – journaling is always good. I sometimes just doodle to wash away the bad vibes. :)
    xx, Karen
    Glam Karen

    • 8

      says

      Thanks Karen!!! I get so sad to hear women abuse ourselves by the way we talk to each ourselves! I think we first have to ignore the media and Hollywood and everyone else that bombards us with what we ‘should’ be like. The only thing we ‘should’ be is our own awesome, unique selves!! If we were all exactly alike, it’d be a boring world. I LOVE your idea of doodling!! That’s a great release :)…I wish I was more of a doodler, but I never know what to doodle, lol (which is kind of not the point of ‘doodling’, lol).

  5. 9

    Leslie says

    This is a great post. I have to start forgiving myself. This came at the perfect time too. All day today I have been stressing about the poor decisions with overspending and what not.

    • 10

      says

      Awww…Leslie! Definitely give yourself a break, my dear. It’ll all be okay! Take a night off, put your feet up, and indulge in an hysterical movie to take your mind off things :). You deserve it!! Sending over a big hug to help you feel a little better!

  6. 11

    Jazmine says

    I really needed to read this. Fo me forgiving myself is the hardest thing to do. It’s weird because I forgive others so easily because I know everyone makes mistakes yet I am so hard on myself. I never realized until I read this post that not forgiving myself for choices I’ve made could effect my process of moving on. Thank you for sharing I always find your post very inspirational.

    • 12

      says

      I’m so glad you found some inspiration in this, Jazmine! And yep…if we don’t forgive ourselves, we can’t really move ahead because we’re tethered to the past. And isn’t it crazy how hard we are on ourselves?! I recently did an exercise where we were presented with a difficult situation (losing out on a job offer for your dream job). The first time the story was told to us it was from the perspective of it happening to us and we had to write down what was going through our minds after getting that call. Well, as you can imagine, I was beating myself up, blaming myself, wondering if I should even bother (and I knew that if this happened, I’d be in the dumps for a few days, then pull myself out of it and be okay). The 2nd story was the same story, but from the perspective of it happening to our best friend and she calls you in tears. We had to write down what we’d tell her. It was night & day different! I couldn’t believe the stark constrast and it really made me realize how different we do treat ourselves versus our friends. It’s time we start treating ourselves like we’d treat our friends, but most of us just aren’t aware of it. So glad you got a few nuggets of info out of this and thank you for your sweet words! :)

    • 14

      says

      Thanks Pascha! So glad you’re doing the work and still pushing forward…that’s awesome!! Thanks so much for stopping by :).

  7. 16

    says

    I am terrible at forgiving myself, particually when it comes to my grades in grad school. I get really hard on myself but I gotta learn to get over it, I think I will this summer because I am taking Math and I am not good at it. I just feel so much pressure to succeed and keep my high GPA.

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