My Guide to True Self-Forgiveness

Okay, so you messed up? You messed up big time. You made a huge mistake at work. You lied about something you should have just told the truth about. You hurt someone you love. You acted irrationally on impulse and said some things you wish you could take back. You cheated on your significant other. You took your frustrations out on an innocent third party. You drank too much and did God knows what with God knows who. You gossiped about a friend and now your friendship is in jeopardy. I could go on, but long story short…You. Messed. Up. And you know it.

So now you’re depressed, lying in bed eating ice cream, listening to John Mayer and watching Lifetime wondering what in the heck you’re going to do and how you’re going to fix the situation. You beat yourself up, wish you could take it back, you keep replaying it over and over and over again in your mind as if you could change it. You cry about it, you stress yourself out over it, you really regret it, you’re praying for forgiveness…

You bide your time waiting for the other shoe to drop. Will your friend forgive you? Will your boss fire you? Will your world crumble and cease to exist as you know it? Every possible scenario plays out in your head and yet somehow everything works out, smoothes over and you make it through the fire without getting too burned. Lesson learned! However, we can’t forget the times when things don’t work out the way we’d like and that the mistake that we made was too large to be repaired. The relationship ended, the friendship is over, you lost someone’s trust, you weren’t forgiven. You try to move on with your life, but somehow you still feel “off”.

You begin questioning yourself and the decisions that you make from then on and invite self-doubt and insecurity into your life. You know something’s wrong, but you just can’t pinpoint it. Sometimes some people figure it out on their own, other times someone else has to point it out to them, and unfortunately some people never figure it out.

So, what’s the common denominator here?

SELF- forgiveness! That’s what! Often times when we mess up really bad we’re so concerned with smoothing everything out with other people that we forget we also need to smooth over things with ourselves, too. We need our own forgiveness. I truly believe that’s an integral part of personal growth, accepting that you’re going to make mistakes and being able to forgive yourself instead of fostering regret and anguish over the mistake.

Forgiving yourself can be really difficult, it actually takes practice to do it correctly. Some people say they have forgiven themselves yet still obsess over the mistake and its consequences, this is not true self-forgiveness. True self-forgiveness finds peace no matter the outcome. That doesn’t mean that the outcome won’t hurt, it doesn’t justify what you did, it just means that you are not challenging the other party’s decision because you acknowledge their prerogative to handle your mistake how they so chose. You make the conscious choice to delve deep into what compelled you to make this mistake so you can learn from it and hopefully avoid repeating it in the future. You have tried to make it right and you just truly let it go and still have inner-peace and manage to keep the self-doubt out of your life.

So, what’s the best way to go about learning how to forgive yourself effectively? Well, I’m glad you asked!

1. Own up to your mistake, completely. Admit you were wrong to those affected and apologize and asked what you can do to make it right. If the other party is willing to accept your apology and give you the opportunity to make it right, seize the opportunity. Conversely, if the other party is unwilling to accept your apology and doesn’t feel that there’s any way you can right your wrong, simply respect that decision. Don’t fight it. But, if it is a relationship or situation you value, be open to the possibility of it coming back around in the future, some people and situations need time and space.

2. In the case of your actions not being forgiven, allow yourself to be upset. You must allow yourself to feel this pain and correlate your pain to the pain you may have caused the other party. Don’t only be upset because of the loss of a friend, relationship, or circumstance. If you don’t allow yourself to at least partly identify with the pain you feel, but most importantly the pain you caused, you will simply fool yourself into thinking that this pain doesn’t exist. Doing this will make the self-forgiveness process longer and it’s much easier to deal with the pain in that moment.

3. Self-reflection is key in the self-forgiveness process. Take a long, hard look at yourself and really think about that mistake you made. Ask yourself questions and give yourself the truth. Why did you lie? What did you think was going to happen? Were you aware of the possibility of betrayal before you acted? How did you make the other person feel? How do you feel? What choice do you think you should have made instead? How can you avoid repeating this mistake in the future? Questions such as these, or questions relevant to your particular situation are a great start.

4. After you have given yourself time to grieve over the situation not turning out as you’d desired, you have to start living your life again. This may be difficult initially, if a person isn’t in your life anymore or if you got fired from your job, but you must find some semblance of normalcy. The best way to do this is to literally carry on with your life and have faith that things really will be okay.

5. Prep for your relapse. Just when you think you’re moving on just fine, nostalgia will smack you in the face you like called her a…. well you’ll just miss the person or miss the situation. This is when you’ll be at your most vulnerable. This is when regret, anguish, self-doubt, and insecurities will be chomping at the bit to weasel their way into your thoughts. BE STRONG. Write your feelings, share your feelings with a friend, just whatever you don’t rehash the situation with yourself, it just slows down the self-forgiveness process.

6. If you’ve managed to avoid self-deprecating behavior for the majority of this process, then dare I say it you may have successfully and effectively forgiven yourself or are pretty darn close! Congratulations! It’s difficult, but completely worth it and completely necessary.

As with anything, self-forgiveness can be easier said than done, but if you notice, not in a single of the 6 steps that I mentioned did I have a timeline. Nope. Not a single one. That’s because these things take time, they especially take time if you want to do them right. So take your time, just don’t become stagnant, commit to moving forward and moving on with your life.

Knowing that you have the ability to forgive yourself will add to your power, to your security, to your sense of self. Remember, at the end of the day, people and situations will always come and go, but you still have you and how you view yourself is just as important if not more, you deserve your forgiveness, too!

So, I dare you to fully forgive yourself! Make that a triple-dog dare =]

With So Much Love,

Brittni Pope



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