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How to Forgive Yourself

I did something really dumb. There. I said it. I could name the thing - “I screamed at my teenager in public,” or “I drank more than what’s appropriate at a work party,” - but then you’d think this article was about that. 

It’s not about that specific thing.

It’s about all those things that we do that we beat ourselves up about. And if we heard a friend raking herself over the coals about a similar mistake, we’d say, “Hey! Let it go already!” Then we’d give that friend all the great reasons why she is not defined by her worst mistake. We’d coach her right into the endzone of self-acceptance, or the home-run, or the hoop? I’m not great with sports analogies. But I know coaching! And we sometimes have a hard time coaching ourselves.

I’m not sure if this is gonna stick, but for the purposes of this exercise I’m summoning Coach Plum, and she’s here to help you let go of that dumb/thoughtless/forgetful/inconsiderate/selfish thing you did.

WOMAN! Forgiving yourself isn't always as easy as pie, but it's like a lifeline to your well-being. It's not like apologizing to your college roommate for snagging their last slice of pizza. No, this is about you, and often we tend to be our harshest critics. But here's the truth: you're not alone in this struggle. Every single one of us has found ourselves trapped in the web of self-blame, self-doubt, and self-criticism at some point in our beautifully messy lives. It's a part of our shared human experience, and you, my friend, are beautifully human.

So, let's tackle this together:

Affirm your ability to forgive yourself: Start by believing in your remarkable capacity to heal and grow. Sure, you made a mistake, but that doesn't mean you're destined for eternal doom. Understand that you're on a journey, just like the rest of us. Ask yourself this: "Do I believe in my ability to become a better version of myself?" It's like striking a match that can ignite the flames of self-forgiveness.

Treat yourself like you’d treat your friend: It doesn’t even have to be your best friend! Think about how you'd comfort any friend when they're facing a rough patch. You'd shower them with kindness, compassion, and unwavering support. It's time to offer that same level of love and kindness to yourself. Ask yourself how you would speak to your friend in a similar situation and extend that same gentleness to your inner dialogue.

Write or talk it out: Guilt can be a fog that distorts your perception of reality. So, grab a pen and paper, speak your thoughts aloud to yourself, or confide in a trusted, non-judgmental friend. This process helps you gain clarity and a fresh perspective on the situation. Remember, recognizing your actions is the very first step toward growth.

Ask yourself, "What was my expectation?" Sometimes, we set impossibly high standards for ourselves. Reflect on the expectations you had and whether they were grounded in reality or some far-fetched perfectionism. Recognize the distinction between acknowledging a mistake and unfairly branding yourself as inherently flawed.

Try to make amends: Self-forgiveness isn't about relentlessly punishing yourself; it's about learning and evolving. Take a moment to figure out how you can make amends or take positive steps forward. Let's say you lost your cool and yelled at someone, admit it, apologize if appropriate and move ahead—use that experience as a catalyst for personal growth, not self-punishment. 

Try a mantra...and repeat: Train your mind to release the grip of your mistakes with a powerful mantra. How about something like, "I did the best I could at the time with the knowledge I had. Now, I'll do better." This mantra challenges your inner critic and serves as a reminder that you absolutely deserve forgiveness. Alternatively, delve into the Hawaiian practice of ho'oponopono with the mantra: "I'm sorry. Please forgive me. Thank you. I love you."

Remember that forgiveness is a process: Self-forgiveness isn't a one-time event; it's a journey. It may take time, effort, and perhaps even professional guidance. Be patient with yourself and summon Mister Rogers: it's alright to take your time. Remember, forgiveness isn't a destination; it's a path you walk on.

So, my friend, know this: you're not alone in this journey. Countless souls have traveled this path of self-forgiveness before you. Embrace your humanity, believe in your immense capacity for growth, and shower yourself with the kindness you truly deserve. Forgiving yourself is an act of profound self-love, and you, my dear friend, are absolutely worthy of that love. Keep moving forward, keep growing, and most importantly, keep forgiving. You are nothing short of amazing.