The Power of Forgiving Yourself and How to Do It

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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 negatively 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!

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

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!!

My process for forgiving myself

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!

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!

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!