Here’s how to forgive yourself and move on!
The researchers define self-forgiveness as “a positive attitude change in feelings, actions and beliefs about ourselves, after a ‘transgression’ committed by ourselves”. Forgiving yourself can help “restore your positive sense of self and protect your overall well-being from the toxic effects of guilt, shame, and sadness.”
The opposite of self-forgiveness, meanwhile, usually involves denying and/or berating ourselves. There is this constant tendency to think we have to be perfect. It’s a self-protection mechanism, because when we’re not perfect, there are consequences and that’s scary.
When you strengthen your ability to recognize and accept your imperfection, “that’s literally one of the greatest life skills.” “And a side benefit of that is when we learn to do that for ourselves, we learn how to forgive other people, too.”
Self-forgiveness is not so much about letting it go, but rather “having a better relationship with that part of you.”
3 steps to forgive yourself:
- Reframe the way you think about your mistakes.
The first step to forgiving yourself is to change the way you think about your mistakes.
- Stop the “shoulds”.
As mentioned above, a common way we resist forgiving ourselves is by berating ourselves.
“Focusing on I should have done this or I should have done that makes you self-critical. When you say ‘should’ to yourself, you’re judging yourself.”
“When you judge yourself, you limit all your possibilities to grow and think openly.”
Instead of judging, we can learn from our past and use those experiences as tools for change. “Instead of getting caught up in the ‘shoulds,’ think of ways you can learn to adjust your thinking.”
- Take responsibility for your actions.
As you begin to reframe the way you think about your mistakes or regrets, you can work with “the four elements of forgiveness,” the first of which is responsibility.
In order to move on and forgive yourself, you must accept responsibility for your part in what happened.
“It’s a scary and difficult thing but it’s a daily act of heroism to really take responsibility and say, ‘this happened and in this way I was a part of it.’
Of course, taking responsibility opens you up to feelings of guilt and regret, which brings us to the next point.