We all have relationships in our lives that have lasted long enough for us to have hurt that person at one point or another. For this reason, we try to learn from mistakes, to behave differently, and of course to ask forgiveness from those who we’ve hurt. However, many of us forget to ask forgiveness from ourselves. This is despite the fact that some of the time we feel disappointed by certain things we did, said and thought, or vice versa, things we didn’t do even though we needed to. Feelings of disappointment or anger stand in our way of learning, correcting, and behaving differently the next time. The following tips will help you learn to forgive yourself, an action that is not only important, enriching and empowering, but may also be the biggest obstacle you face which prevents you from turning a new page.
Just as we punish our children when they do something wrong, we continue to punish ourselves but choose an inefficient way to do so. Anger and disappointment are a self-punishment mechanism that most of us implement without thinking twice because we often err and think that self-forgiveness is like forgetting what we did. If this is why you find it difficult to forgive yourself, remember that the more effective way to look at things is to understand that forgiveness is a process of being aware of what happened, and not reversing a mistake. It makes sense to tell ourselves that we aren’t proud of what we’ve done, but we want to move on in order to protect ourselves, our health and our relationships with those around us. This statement allows us to begin to find the way forward, instead of falling into a dangerous cycle of self-harm on an emotional level.
We may walk around with a sense of self-disappointment for a long time, without stopping to think about what exactly disappointed us in the way we acted. Our reluctance to classify the mistake we’ve made may stem from fear of dealing with the past and placing a mirror in front of an action we aren’t proud of. However, it is, of course, difficult and impossible to forgive ourselves for something we are trying to repress. Try to go back to the moment when you felt you were wrong, and ask yourself why this is a mistake that makes you feel bad today. If we fight with our partner, we may feel bad because in our opinion this is a sign of our failure in the relationship. If we lead an unhealthy lifestyle, we may be angry at hurting ourselves, and if we refrain from intervening in a family conflict we may be angry at ourselves for not acting, where in hindsight, we should have acted.
The reason most of us feel guilty or ashamed about past actions is that these actions are incompatible with our values today. Try to identify and define which values that accompany you now conflict with what you’ve done or haven’t done before, and in what way. Defining the values and identifying the precise location of the incompatibility allows us to get a clearer picture not only of the reason we regret what we did but also of the issue of whether we feel bad because our way of thinking has changed, or rather a clash of values we experienced the second we made the mistake.
Once you know the cause of your self-anger and why these feelings came up, remind yourself that this is a case, an act, or period in your life that is unable to define who you are as a person. Some of us tend to think of a mistake we made in work or relationships as a sign that we aren’t successful in what we are doing, rather than treating it as it is: a mistake. Of course, if we define ourselves by these mistakes, we won’t be able to emerge from the cycle that will enable us to be better partners or more efficient employees. Remember that every person, even the most successful, fails or makes a couple mistakes in their lifetime.
Accepting the fact that these mishaps don’t affect who we are doesn’t mean that we’re ignoring our flaws or that we aren’t trying to improve ourselves. This means that our strength is embodied in the fact that we value ourselves enough to rise above these moments, so as not to stop our progress. One of the things that can help you is to speak about the problem to a person you trust and try to use their point of view to see it in a less serious and even comic way. Such a conversation will give you the support and freedom you need to stop taking the problem too seriously and to realize that for the people you care about, you are much more than just your mistakes.
Go back to the day you feel you made the mistake, and think how you would react if you were warned about what was to happen. Your "re-do" list is the warning and tool that will allow you to be more prepared for the next time. Try to think or register to yourself how you would have acted otherwise if you could do things again. Thus, you can be sure that not only did you identify the problem and learn from the mistake, but that you’re allowing yourself to acquire knowledge and skills in order to do things differently in the future. Even if it is more than one mistake, don’t be discouraged by the size of the “project”. If the next time you encounter a similar situation you make all of the same mistakes except for one, know that you have internalized, improved and progressed, which is no small feat!
When we learned to ride a bike as children, most of us realized that it was a process and that we would need several attempts before we stopped falling. New patterns of behavior and thinking are no different, since here too we are learning acquired skills. Remember that there is no reason for you not to be wrong before you can move on, and if you hadn’t forgiven yourself for every fall while learning to ride a bike, you probably wouldn’t be able to ride properly today.
The way we respond to situations depends on the basket of skills we have, our mood, and how we perceive a situation at that time. Maybe we did not see things as they were, we acted out of defense or we were stressed. However, allow yourself to err in order to move towards your ultimate goal, that is to act more correctly next time. Look at the list of "re-doing" you created and remember that if you learn from your mistakes, they’ll never have been made in vain.
If you’ve hurt someone or you didn’t do something you were supposed to do, try asking for forgiveness and correcting what you can. Those who surround you knowing that you own your mistakes doesn’t diminish your value, in fact, it does the opposite. If you’ve made a few mistakes, don’t expect yourself to immediately improve and correct them all. Focus on the most important things, and remind yourself that you are on the right path even if you haven’t fixed everything.
At the same time, remember that not everything is fixable and that at some point you must accept that some things have happened and can’t be erased. The last step is to finally turn the page and accept what happened as a past event. Look forward, set new goals for yourself and move on to new destinations knowing that you’ll be able to do them more easily this time.