To err is human, and with error comes a need for forgiveness. But how often do we seek forgiveness from ourselves? If you are struggling to release the guilt and emotional pain from a past mistake, start by asking yourself the following questions. Get ready to unpack that pesky emotional baggage!
Let's start with an easy one:
1. Can anything be done to change what happened?
The answer here is always no. You can't change the past. No act of magic, god, or science fiction is gonna make that happen. Accept it. As contrary as it may seem, this isn't bad news. Time will continue to pass as it has always done, so take comfort in that. Remember, your past is part of who you are, but it is not where you are now. All life happens exclusively in the present, so make yourself at home.
Now it's time to get a little introspective:
2. Do I allow myself to make mistakes?
Self-forgiveness is about self-kindness. Your flaws are just as big a part of your individuality as your talents, strengths, or sense of humor. Learn to embrace every part of yourself, both the good and the not-so-good. Understand that mistakes are an unavoidable part of life, and it's OK to make them. Living your best life is less about perfection and more about developing healthy personal relationships. On the subject of forgiveness, Psychology Today states that "self-forgiveness is often the first step toward a more loving and positive relationship with yourself, and therefore with others." It's time to show yourself a little love, my friend.
3. Have I done everything possible to make things right?
It may seem as if this portion of the process is solely for the benefit of others, but there's something in it for you as well. Putting forth your best possible effort means you will never be left to wonder if you could have done more. Now's the time to tie up loose ends. When you can answer yes to this question, it's time to start forgiving yourself. It's time to move on.
4. Why am I holding on to this?
In her article on the subject of shame and self-forgiveness, Beverly Engel explains that "if you do not forgive yourself, the shame you carry will compel you to continue to act in harmful ways toward others and yourself." Really think about why you're holding onto this emotional pain, and what purpose it's serving. Now visualize how it would feel to be free of that pain. Pretty good, right? Complete release of these feelings is often easier said than done. You may feel the weight off your shoulders immediately, or it may take some time. Go at your own pace, be patient, and be gentle with yourself.
OK, the hard part's over. Last question:
5. How can I use this as an opportunity to grow?
Engel goes on to say "forgiving yourself will help you to heal another layer of shame and free you to continue becoming a better human being. Without the burden of self-hatred you have been carrying around you can literally transform your life." You read that right. By showing yourself the compassion you deserve, you can literally change EVERYTHING. How exciting is that? Jump-start your transformation by learning from your mistakes. Always be radically seeking opportunities for self-improvement.