Many of us know that forgiveness is a good thing, right? It frees us from bitterness and anger, two emotions that not only don’t feel good, but can also ruin our physical health and hold us back from all the good we can achieve and experience. Many work to forgive others. But what about forgiving yourself? Even if we have become quite good and consistent in offering forgiveness to others, do we forgive ourselves more often isn’t it more difficult?
10 ways to forgive yourself and let go of the past
Have you ever noticed how you can hold on to past mistakes long after they happened? Some of us hang on to things for years! Forgiveness is a process. It doesn’t happen overnight and the process will be different for everyone. But no matter how long it takes, there is hope. Here are some steps you can take on the journey of forgiving yourself and your past.
1. Be clear about your morals and values as they are now
The reason most of us feel guilt or shame for actions performed in the past is because those actions are not in line with our current morals and values. Our past mistakes can actually give us clues about what we consider important. By identifying our morals and values, we begin to have a clearer idea of “why” what we have done or what others have done to us hurts us.
2. Realize that the past is the past
This seems simple enough, but when we can really understand the fact that we cannot undo the past, the past is done, those things happened, we open ourselves to greater acceptance. Greater acceptance can lead to the emotional healing that we are all seeking.
3. Create a “redo”
Never underestimate the power of a “redo.” Write how you would have done things differently if you could go back and do it again. By doing so, we affirm that not only did we learn from our past mistake, but if we had the skills that we have now, back then, we would have done things differently.
4. Realize that you did the best you could at the time
How we respond depends on the abilities we have, the state of mind we are in, and how we perceive the situation at the time. Maybe we weren’t as objective or we were acting out of survival or protection mode. Perhaps we were under a lot of stress, which put us at a higher risk of responding poorly. Whatever the factors, take a break. If you learn from it, it was never in vain.
5. Begin to act in accordance with your morals and values
The best thing you can do for yourself to be able to forgive yourself is to start replacing negative thoughts and behavior with more appropriate ones that are consistent with your morals and values. By doing so, you reassure yourself that you can handle situations the way you want. This can lead to a feeling of pride, which is a big part of building self-esteem.
6. Identify your biggest regrets
Once you’ve identified what you feel remorse for, working on behavior patterns is often more helpful than working on individual regrets.
7. Address the big regrets
There may be some regrets that don’t seem to get better, and they will require additional work. This means that you may have to “bring” this regret into your living room and apologize for your past mistake.
8. Turn the page
At some point, you must accept that the past has happened and that you have done everything in your power to make up for the mistakes of the past. Now is the time to turn the page and accept those events as part of your story. Everyone has contributed to make you who you are. Being grateful for those experiences allows you to move on and truly forgive yourself.
When we first learned to ride a bike, most of us realized that it would probably take a few tries before we reached perfection. The new patterns of behavior and thinking are no different. Both are skills. Relax while you are on a new learning curve. Realize that you are going to make mistakes. We all do.
10. Move towards self-love
The last step in building self-esteem is moving toward loving yourself. Think kind thoughts towards yourself and show yourself compassion. If we can learn to think of ourselves as our best friend, speak to ourselves with love and kindness, and put ourselves first, this reaffirms that we believe we are worth it. Participate in psychotherapy or trainings if you need some outside perspective in this area. Find books on this topic. Surround yourself with supportive people.
You are more than your past mistakes, and I promise you, you are worth it!