Sometimes the most important person you need to forgive for past mistakes and hardships is the most difficult. Forgiveness is directed at the person who created the problem. What do you do when the person who created the problem is you, when the one you need most to forgive is the person in the mirror?
We tend to be harder on ourselves than any other person. Why is that? Our internal bully is the meanest of them all. Hounding us over and over again for bad choices, poor reactions, dumb mistakes. It’s time to put that bully in check. It’s time to forgive yourself.
First things first – own it.
You can’t forgive yourself for something you didn’t do or weren’t responsible for, so the first thing you need to do is recognize what you did to cause this to happen and own your mistake. The only way to learn and grow from a mistake is to admit where you were at fault. Think long and hard about what came to pass, and exactly what you did to get yourself there. And own it. Say “that was mine, my fault, I chose that.”
Apologize to the people you hurt. Make amends if you can. If it isn’t possible, try paying it forward. Do what you you wish you would have done. Then apologize to yourself. Stand in front of the mirror (or write yourself a letter) and say you’re sorry and what exactly you are sorry for.
Speak to your mirror or write yourself a letter. Express your anger! Tell yourself all of your emotions and exactly what you did to cause them. Explain how your actions made you feel. Get it all out. Every unpleasant little detail. Once you’e gotten all your anger and hurt out, tell yourself what you want to do differently next time. For this part I recommend writing the letter. (I find that I remember things better when I write them down.) Then, just as you would forgive someone who isn’t you, forgive yourself. Tell yourself, “You know, you really screwed things up for me, but I forgive you anyway. I forgive you because all I can do is move forward from here with the knowledge of what I can change next time.”
Recognize what you can change.
Make a note of what you wish you would have done differently so that the next time you are presented with this or a similar scenario, you can make another choice. Maybe what you needed to do differently was a choice, a response. Perhaps you blew up at something someone said and it’s your response you wish to choose differently. Maybe you just made a dumb mistake.
Lastly, let it go.
Continuing to regret your mistake is not productive and only serves to make you feel worse about yourself. Now that you’ve forgiven yourself, it’s time to let it go. Give yourself a mental hug and release the bad feelings into your past. Imagine placing your mistakes on a sailboat and shoving it off into the ocean to disappear into the sunset. There’s no rope tying you to this boat, so once it’s gone, it’s gone. Any time thoughts of your mistake creep into your consciousness, remember the sailboat and place those thoughts back where they belong.
“Well, we all make mistakes, dear, so just put it behind you. We should regret our mistakes and learn from them, but never carry them forward into the future with us.” ― L.M. Montgomery, Anne of Avonlea
I’d love to hear from you. Share in the comments of a time you had to forgive yourself and what you did to move forward.
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Copyright © 2016 Katherine J. Wheeler. All rights reserved.