Why You Have To Forgive Yourself

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Published Date|
September 2, 2014

Why You Have To Forgive Yourself


Mistakes.  Everyone makes them.  Some big, some small.  They lead us down various paths and there is always something to be learned from them.  Above all else there is one thing they all have in common, regardless of repercussions and regrets, and that is that they are (self) forgivable.

It is important to acknowledge our mistakes, reflect upon them, and learn from them in order to prevent them from happening again.  

However, what often tends to happen is we get trapped in a vicious cycle of self-criticalness, judgment, and guilt.  While these feelings are sometimes the natural product of poor decisions and missteps, we tend to indulge them past the point of usefulness.   We punish ourselves over and over without considering the fact that we cannot change what has been done.  This self-punishment keeps us stuck in the past with our mistakes while preventing us from moving forward.  On the other hand, we have forgiveness.  The ability to forgive ourselves is quite possibly the hardest, yet most wonderful gift we can give to ourselves.  It sets us free and helps to move beyond our mistakes to a place where lessons can be learned and changes can be made.  Let me clarify by saying that self-forgiveness does not mean condoning mistakes we’ve made.  It is not justifying undesirable behaviors. And it’s not rationalizing away pain we may have caused.  Instead, it is acknowledging the basic fact that we are all human, we make mistakes, but they do not define us.  Self-forgiveness is about reflecting on our misdeeds, taking responsibility for them, and coming to peace with them.  How? Read on…


Take the time to reflect upon whatever it is that you’re beating yourself up about. While it can be painful to be introspective, it’s important to be honest with ourselves and the choices we have made.  It’s only when we take the time to truly understand ourselves and what has happened that we can then learn and grow from our experiences.  Acknowledge your feelings and be open to them. Try to understand the context and history in which something happened and use this as information to better know who you are and how your choices came about.  When we reflect in this way we may uncover parts of ourselves that need healing and begin the growth process.

Take Responsibility

Avoid the temptation of making excuses for yourself. Do not try to justify or rationalize away what has happened.  This prevents us from truly healing and increases the likelihood that we will “re-offend”.  Instead, be honest with yourself. Take responsibility for your words or your actions and allow yourself to feel whatever comes up as a result.  It may not be easy but it will be worth it in the long run. Taking responsibility forces us to own every part of ourselves - the good, the bad, and the proverbial ugly - and when we stop disowning the parts of ourselves we don’t like, we can begin to be more self-accepting, self-loving, and self-forgiving.

Surround yourself with those that love and care about you

Having a solid support system is necessary through all of the trials and tribulations of life, but can be especially when you are struggling with feelings of self-blame and guilt.  Your friends, family, and loved ones know you best and will help you to remember that you are not defined solely by the mistakes you make.  This doesn’t mean that they will unequivocally accept everything you do – and they shouldn’t.  We need the important people in our lives to remind us of our good qualities but also to help us face the darkest parts of ourselves with honesty.

Try to make amends BUT don’t let self-forgiveness be dependent on somebody else

If you have somehow hurt or wronged another person, take action to make amends.  Extend sincere apologies where they are appropriate but understand that they may not be accepted.When we hurt others, we often tell ourselves that we will move on and forgive ourselves once the other party has done the same.  The first issue with that is that it may take days, weeks, or years.  In fact, it may not ever happen.  The second is that if your own forgiveness is dependent on someone else, the capacity for growth is minimal.  You’ll skip the reflective process which is ultimately the most important. Respect that each person has their own process when it comes to forgiveness.  We cannot rush others or change their minds. Do what you can to make amends but don’t try force anything.  Respect their process and trust your own.

Find the silver lining

With every mistake we make there is the opportunity for something good to happen.  Sometimes it’s blatantly obvious and sometimes it’s hard to find.  When it happens to be less clear, remind yourself that at the very least there is always the opportunity to learn something new and that in and of itself is a good thing.  Take the opportunity to acknowledge what you have done to learn from this experience and how it has the potential to change you for the better.  Use these lessons to make better choices, foster stronger relationships, and be more self-loving in the future.

“Forgiveness is the experience of peace in the present moment.  Forgiveness does not change the past but it changes the present and the future” -  Frederic Luskin
Author |
self care
mental health
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