November 4

Self-Forgiveness 101: How To Make Peace With Yourself

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At some point in your life, it’s likely that you’ve been in the position of deciding whether to forgive someone in your life. 

Whether that person did something deliberately to hurt you or accidentally impacted you in a negative way, letting go of the negative feelings surrounding the incident(s) can be a difficult yet ultimately rewarding process. 

The thing is, while many of us feel comfortable forgiving those around us when we have been wronged, it can be so much more difficult to forgive ourselves. 

Forgiving yourself for mistakes and wrongdoings is essential for your mental health and your ability to continue living your life as your best self.

However, self-forgiveness can be extremely challenging, and the nuances of forgiving yourself must be observed in order to avoid its potential pitfalls.

In today’s guide, we will explain what self-forgiveness is, why it’s important, and how you can forgive yourself today (without relinquishing accountability) to get to a place of inner peace.

What Is Self-Forgiveness? 

To understand self-forgiveness, we first need to comprehend forgiveness in general.

To forgive someone who has wronged you or someone you care about means to let go of negative feelings towards that person. 

These feelings might range from anger or even rage to bitterness and resentment.

While these can be difficult emotions to let go of, the process of forgiveness involves accepting what happened (which does not mean excusing or approving it, but simply accepting that it happened) and committing to moving past it and not allowing it to continue to negatively impact your life. 

The same thing applies to self-forgiveness. The goal of forgiving yourself is not to justify your mistakes or misbehavior to yourself but to accept that you did what you did at a certain point in your life and move forward rather than remaining stuck in the past. 

Why Is Self-Forgiveness Important?

Self-forgiveness is important because carrying around guilt and shame or constantly ruminating over something you did wrong can limit your quality of life and your ability to show up as your best self for those around you. 

Feelings of guilt and shame over past actions can have a detrimental impact on your mental health, leading to conditions like anxiety and depression.

You might also start exhibiting avoidant behaviors, withdrawing from other people. You may even self-sabotage because you feel that you are not deserving of what you have in life. 

None of this is healthy for anyone involved, so it’s important to begin the process of forgiving yourself so that you can move forward, do better, and continue to grow as a person.

How To Forgive Yourself 

Self-Forgiveness 101: How To Make Peace With Yourself

Forgiving yourself may take time because it’s a process that consists of multiple steps. It’s important to include each step in your journey to self-forgiveness. 

Here’s what you need to do to finally forgive yourself: 

1. Introspect 

Before you can forgive yourself, you need to understand your present emotions as well as the emotional state that led to the actions you’re forgiving yourself for. 

Understanding the emotions you’re feeling now, whether that’s guilt or anger at yourself, will help you to effectively work through them.

Meanwhile, understanding the place you were in when you made that mistake or behaved poorly will give you a sense of perspective and closure. 

Let’s say, for example, that you lashed out at a loved one and hurt their feelings, and now you feel ashamed. Identifying that sense of shame is the first step to moving past it. 

In order to move past the same, it may help to look at the reasons why you lashed out in the first place.

For instance, you may realize that you acted out of frustration because you had bottled up feelings of stress and exhaustion all day at work.

From there, you can think about implementing stress management strategies moving forward and get some perspective on your behavior outside of the shame-based narrative of ‘I’m just a terrible person’. 

2. Take Responsibility 

While introspecting might lead you to identify triggers for your behavior, you must accept that these triggers are not ultimately responsible for your actions. You are. 

This is the hardest part of forgiving yourself because it can be tempting to say, ‘but it wasn’t really my fault. I was under a lot of stress’ or ‘if he hadn’t acted that way, I wouldn’t have said those things.’

Remember, identifying the triggers for our actions is about gaining perspective, identifying areas for improvement, and exercising self-compassion – not absolving ourselves of any responsibility. 

At this point in the self-forgiveness process, it’s important to fully accept that you are responsible for your own behavior regardless of external circumstances, and you are also responsible for doing better in the future. 

3. Be Kind To Yourself 

Accepting responsibility for behavior that we feel ashamed of is really difficult, so please remember to be kind to yourself during this process. 

Taking responsibility isn’t about beating yourself up. If you find yourself spiraling into negative self-talk such as ‘I’m so stupid’ or ‘I’m a horrible person’, stop and take a deep breath.

Nobody is perfect, and the fact that you’re doing the internal work to forgive and better yourself is admirable. Remember that. 

4. Apologize 

A lot of the time, when we are trying to forgive ourselves, it is because our actions have negatively impacted somebody else and we feel badly about it. 

However, it’s important to acknowledge there may be times when we need to exercise self-forgiveness for the way our actions have impacted ourselves.

Whether you have hurt another person and want to make it right, or whether you are realizing that you have harmed, sabotaged, or made life difficult for yourself, the next step after taking responsibility and exercising self-compassion is to apologize. 

No matter who it is you’re apologizing to (yourself or somebody else), make sure that your apology is sincere and expresses remorse.

When apologizing to another person, avoid phrases like ‘I’m sorry that you felt…’ or ‘I’m sorry, but…’ Instead, say ‘I recognize that I have hurt you through my behavior.

I should not have done/said what I did, and I am truly sorry. I will do better in the future.’

Then, think about how you can make it up to the recipient of your apology, demonstrating that your apology is heartfelt through your actions. 

5. Look To The Future 

Now that you have apologized and tried to make amends, it’s time to let go and look to the future. 

The past is the past, and you have now done what you can to lay it to rest.

Your job now is to learn from this experience and take steps to ensure that you don’t repeat the actions that led to it. 

Final Thoughts 

Self-forgiveness is hard work, but it’s worth it. 

Forgiving yourself will not only release you from the detrimental effects of prolonged guilt and shame, but it will also benefit anyone else your behavior may have impacted.

That’s because, through self-forgiveness, you will be better able to proactively make amends for any wrongdoing and show up as a better version of yourself in the future. 

Good luck on your journey, and remember to be kind to yourself and others along the way.


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