This is a big issue for me! As a perfectionist, it’s hard for me not to beat myself up over a every mistake! Can any of you relate to this?
Everyone has things in their past that they’re not proud of, but sometimes it’s difficult to forgive yourself. Maybe you did something terrible to a friend or family member. Maybe you feel guilty about committing a crime. Maybe you made a bad decision, and someone got hurt because of it.
No matter what you did, or what you’re holding onto, it’s important to forgive yourself, so that you can move on with your life. If, on the other hand, you let guilt linger without ever addressing the underlying issue, it will sap your joy and wreak havoc in your life for years, or maybe even decades, to come.
Below are some steps to help you forgive yourself:
- Reflect on what is bothering you. Facing the problem is the first step. What happened? What was your role? What was it about the situation that bothered you the most? You may want to write this out, though it’s perfectly fine to just think about it.
- Imagine a different outcome. If you could go back in time, what would you do different? What would you say differently? This exercise is the closest you can get to going back to the past. Focus only on factors that you would have been within your direct control. How would you correct your mistake? Try to picture it in your mind, concentrate on the details, and fix your mistake. This is a way that you can learn from your mistake.
- Accept that you can’t go back in the past. To move on, you will need to accept that no matter how much you would like to, you can’t change the past. That doesn’t mean you’re powerless, it’s just a truth that you will have to accept before you can move on.
- Make amends, if you can. This doesn’t necessarily mean confessing your mistake, especially if it’ll hurt someone even more, it just means trying to right the wrong if you can. If you wronged a friend, reach out and apologize. If you can make things better for the person you wronged, do something nice for them. This won’t apply to every situation, such as when the person you harmed is no longer alive. Also, some things are better left alone. You’ll have to decide that on a case by case basis. If you need help determining how to make amends, seek advice from trusted friends, family, or a therapist. You may also choose to do random acts of kindness or community service, especially if your situation prevents you from making amends directly.
- Start over. Create a new starting point for yourself. You’ve made some mistakes, like everyone else has, and now it’s time to move on. Commit to being a better person.
- Remind yourself of your commitment. During low points, you may be tempted to dwell in the past. Remind yourself of your commitment to start over, and then try to double down on your pledge.
Forgiving others is often easier than forgiving yourself. We tend to hold ourselves to a higher standard, so the guilt and pain can last longer when we make a serious mistake. Guilt eats away at happiness, making it difficult to enjoy even the good times. It’s important to realize that forgiveness is one of the most powerful things you can do on the path to a happy and fulfilling life.
What do you need to forgive yourself for? What can you do to alleviate your guilt? How would your life be different if you were able to let go of your regrets? I’m interested in any thoughts or comments that you have.
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