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Why You Must Forgive Yourself, for Your Company's Sake

Forgiveness may seem simple, but its impact is powerful and complex.
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Wouldn't it be nice if things always went our way and we never had to face being hurt, betrayed, or ignored? Sure it would. But realistically, when you become an entrepreneur, you heighten the odds of these unwanted experiences simply because of the emotional risks needed to achieve success.

What separates the outrageously successful entrepreneurs from those who struggle is the ability to face these events in a healthy way. Those with a refusal or inability to move on live in constant bitterness, anger, and even self-loathing. Though these powerful emotions can have a crippling affect on anyone, when a leader falls into this self-destructive behavior, the stakes are even higher.

Project: Forgive Yourself

I spoke to Shawne Duperon, a six-time Emmy Award-winning producer, international speaker, incest survivor, and the visionary behind The Project Forgive Foundation, about the value of forgiveness. Duperon knows firsthand how difficult it can be to forgive another's actions, and she also knows that forgiving yourself can feel nearly impossible. Where do you begin when such inconceivable pain has been inflicted? It may seem impossible to do so, but it's critically important.

"When you become mired in blame and anger, you are highly likely to repeat your mistakes, ignore the red flags surrounding your choices, and basically fail as an admirable leader," she says. "Really successful business owners can separate themselves from what's been done to them and take 100 percent of the responsibility for their part in the story. When you can then see and accept your part in the nightmare, the answers to your problems will come."

I think that maybe we shouldn't seek to forgive what has been done to us as much as seek to forgive ourselves for allowing that personal pain to interfere with our need and desire to live life fully.

"Forgiving yourself is one of the hardest things to do," Duperon concedes when I raise this point. "Yet, when you don't forgive yourself, you only perpetuate and relive the damage that's been done."

As an entrepreneur, Duperon has learned the invaluable lesson of forgiveness. With the endorsements and involvement of such notables as visionary leader Archbishop Desmond TutuChicken Soup for the Soul author Jack Canfield; country artist Naomi Judd; and Chrysler Group, she has achieved amazing success in developing her vision. Here's what forgiveness granted her.

  • Confidence. "With this notion of forgiveness, I became able to promote without shame, and my confidence level grew," she says. "Now I'm powerful in my sharing, and I can make a difference in my company and the world." It's difficult to take risks when you are holding on to blame and carrying the emotional burden of your past mistakes.
  • Perseverance. "My ability to keep going, keep asking for help, and continue to take emotional risks stems from my capacity to grieve my losses and forgive myself. When I got rejected by prospective investors for instance, shame would pop up and stop my progress...until I allowed myself to grieve the loss," she says.
  • Responsibility. "The fact is that every drama that's created in our business we generate ourselves," she says. "When a leader finally gets that, that's where the powerful success comes from." Acknowledge and embrace your regrets and anger, and you will find power in that.

Forgiveness, of course, is a long journey, not a linear process. Shock, anger, grief, acceptance, and peace are the phases of forgiveness, but they may come and go--and come back again. Duperon points out that you can find peace with a situation one day, but the next day a similar experience may occur and your anger will resurface. If you're struggling with forgiveness, be patient with yourself. "We move through these phases of forgiveness in no particular order," says Duperon, "but with some practice, forgiveness becomes natural."

You can learn more about deepening your trust in yourself as a leader--even if you do make a wrong choice--at the Project Forgive Authentic Leadership event on Wednesday, May 14, 2014. You can join in person or watch the live stream.

What are your three best practices to move through difficult life events? Contribute to this important movement by sharing them below.

IMAGE: Getty Images
Last updated: May 13, 2014

MARLA TABAKA

Marla Tabaka is a small-business advisor who helps entrepreneurs around the globe grow their businesses well into the millions. She has over 25 years of experience in corporate and start-up ventures and speaks widely on combining strategic and creative thinking for optimum success and happiness.




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