6 Tips on How to Forgive Yourself
Self-forgiveness, as easy as it may sound, is one of the most difficult choices to make in life.
We are human and we all make mistakes, but some mistakes are easier to move past than others. Some mistakes feel utterly impossible to move past and extend self-forgiveness. When that happens, feelings of self-blame, shame, and guilt take over so intensely that it becomes destructive for your mental wellbeing. In forgiving yourself you nourish your mental health and overall wellbeing.
Here are 6 tips on how to forgive yourself when you’re having trouble doing so.
1. Take Complete Ownership of The Mistake
Facing the mistake head on and taking complete ownership of the mistake is the hardest step, but it is a huge step toward self-forgiveness. Maybe you’ve internalized everything because there’s so much guilt circling around it that it’s too unbearable to face. Whatever mistake you have made; you deserve as much compassion and empathy for yourself as you extend to others when it comes to forgiveness. Taking complete ownership of the mistake helps move past the negative emotions and thoughts.
In letting go, it’s not about pretending the mistake never happened but rather about acknowledging and accepting that it happened. Forgiveness doesn’t create an excuse or remove responsibility. Many times, forgiveness is misunderstood as not being able to continue experiencing feelings about what happened. Emotions are connected to experiences and telling yourself that you are not allowed to feel a certain way makes it more difficult to accept and move forward.
Here are a few powerful ways to take ownership of your mistake and release the thoughts and feelings that are circling around it:
- Write a letter to yourself. Acknowledge what you did and take full responsibility. Express to yourself every thought and feeling that you’ve been holding on to. Then read that letter out loud and release it by shredding it or burning it (safely).
- Ask a trusted friend or loved one to sit with you as you speak it all out loud, releasing it verbally in a judgement–free zone so you don’t have to do it alone.
- Talk to a licensed therapist who can equip you with tools and strategies to extend empathy, compassion and forgiveness to yourself.
2. Allow Yourself to Feel All Your Emotions
Holding onto guilt and regret is a sign that you’re not forgiving yourself. There is an immediate link between not forgiving yourself and being in a constant state of blame, fear, regret, guilt, and worry. It’s healthy to have an emotional response when a mistake has been made. It shows that you are a good person at your core and you’re having trouble letting go. Exploring the emotions and feelings under the mistake will help you not only move toward self-forgiveness but also learn from your mistake.
3. Explore the Lessons Learned
Understanding why the mistake happened and what you learned from it can help you prevent it from happening again. Try to have a curious perspective about what could have played out differently. Often, it’s the process of self-reflection and learning lessons that has the power to move you toward making better choices and being an overall better person.
4. Start a Journaling Practice
Journaling is a great way to increase your self-awareness as well as develop self-compassion. We all have negative inner dialogue from time to time, and when there’s guilt or regret, that inner dialogue can be quite loud. Putting pen to paper can help you become aware of thoughts that are keeping you from making the choice to forgive yourself. Once you notice those thoughts, gently challenge them with compassionate responses. If it helps, substitute a person who is dear to you (ie. what would you say to someone who you love dearly if they said what your inner dialogue is saying?).
You can also use this practice to build your self-esteem by taking time to write about how you’ve improved and how you’ve grown from this mistake so you can reframe negative thought patterns. Also, how you forgive yourself has a ripple effect on how you treat others. Knowing to forgive yourself helps to relate to others who may have hurt you and helps you to also understand how to forgive them.
5. Redirect Your Thoughts by Doing Something Else
If you find that you’re getting in a place where you’re reliving the mistake in your mind and beating yourself up all over again, redirect your thoughts by getting up and doing something that brings you joy. There is power in moving your body and focusing on something else when you are self-sabotaging. By shifting to something that brings you joy, the negative thought often goes away on its own.
6. Talk to A Mental Health Professional
Talking to a licensed mental health professional can help you work through self–forgiveness by identifying patterns that are holding you back and by providing you with tools and strategies to reach your goal of self-forgiveness. Having a mental health professional through the journey with you can help you along every stage and crossroad you experience.
Self-forgiveness is essential to moving on and healing.
The power of self-forgiveness gives you the opportunity to let go of overwhelming emotions such as anger, regret, guilt, sadness, disappointment, and resentment. No matter what emotions you may be experiencing, the journey to self-forgiveness is important for your mental health, your overall well-being, and your quality of life.
We Are Here to Help Support You in Self-Forviveness.
We have therapists at Elliott Counseling Group who are trained in therapies such as cognitive behavioral therapy and acceptance and commitment therapy, both of which help clients to move through past hurts and begin to move forward. These therapies and others help clients move at their own pace through the journey of self-forgiveness with the support and guidance of their therapist.
About the Contributor
Proofed and Verified by: Rachel Bunyard, LCPC
Mandy is a creative and multi-passionate marketer. She is responsible for supporting, developing and executing strategic marketing campaigns. She works on all marketing pieces for the company from the life of the website, email marketing, social media and outreach to support brand awareness around all things Elliott Counseling Group offers.
Rachel is the Clinical Team Leader and one of many therapists at Elliott Counseling Group. She works with the Clinical Supervisor to provide clinical direction, support and supervision to therapists, in addition to providing therapy services to clients.
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