To err is human, to forgive, divine.
You have probably heard this saying before.
People often mention this saying when they talk about the importance of forgiving other people.
It tells you that as humans, it is in our nature to make mistakes.
After all, we are flawed beings. We don’t always know what the right thing to do is.
Through our actions or words, we might hurt other people from time to time.
And so, it is important to forgive others.
But what about your own self? Have you considered that you might need forgiveness from yourself as well?
This might sound like a strange thing at first, but it is totally legit.
Self-forgiveness is as important as self-love or self-care.
In fact, you can say that it is a part of those two things.
What Is Self-Forgiveness?
Contrary to what many people think, self-forgiveness is not something that happens in an instant.
You can’t just say, “I forgive myself for everything,” and move on with your life as if nothing happened.
That’s not how emotions work, you know!
Self-forgiveness is a journey that takes time and effort. It requires introspection and working through your emotions.
The bigger the mistake, the more work you will need to do.
Do not see self-forgiveness as an easy way out.
If you do this, it will never work in the first place.
Just like love for a person cannot be faked, self-forgiveness can also not be faked.
It has to come from the heart.
It happens when you take responsibility for your action and still maintain a positive sense of self. It happens from a place of self-compassion with an attitude of self-growth.
So, keeping all this in mind, we can say that self-forgiveness is an acknowledgment of one’s wrongdoings and letting go of self-resentment from a place of self-love and self-compassion.
When Is Self-Forgiveness Not The Answer?
Now, self-forgiveness works for most of your mistakes or other traumatic events that you might have faced in your life.
However, there are instances when it is not the answer.
Instead of leading to healing, it could lead to self-blame and self-sabotage.
For example, if a person continues to harm their spouse even after realizing their mistake, they can’t turn to self-forgiveness. Because in this case, they haven’t taken responsibility for their actions.
And so, self-forgiveness won’t lead to any change in their behavior. It will not even be genuine!
Also, when it comes to victims of sexual abuse, you can’t tell them to take responsibility because there is nothing to take responsibility for!
Even though they might blame themselves for what happened to them, self-forgiveness is not the answer here because it would solidify their self-sabotaging belief that they were somehow responsible.
Why You Should Forgive Yourself
You might wonder why you should forgive yourself in the first place.
What will you get out of doing so?
Well, self-forgiveness has an undeniable psychological impact on you.
It might sound like a simple thing but it truly has profound effects on your mind… especially when you do it genuinely.
Let’s check out some really eye-opening reasons you should forgive yourself.
1) To Give Yourself Peace
If you don’t forgive yourself, you are likely to keep beating yourself up for your past mistakes.
You will be stuck in the past and be tormented by the “what ifs.”
This will obviously take your peace of mind away. It will keep you in a state of self-resentment and self-loathing.
However, forgiving yourself requires you to realize that the past is gone.
What’s done is done.
You can’t change that now. There is no use torturing yourself about it.
You tried to do your best with the skills, knowledge, and wisdom you had at that time!
So, when you truly forgive yourself, you essentially set yourself free from the past.
This gives you peace of mind.
2) To Accept That You Are Not Perfect
We all know that we are not perfect.
We all have our own flaws and these lead to mistakes from time to time.
However, despite knowing all of this, we are often hard on ourselves. We are constantly trying to do everything perfectly, which only increases the mental burden.
But, when you practice self-forgiveness, you have to accept that you are not perfect.
You have to be okay with not knowing everything all the time.
You have to acknowledge that no matter how hard you try, you will never be able to avoid making mistakes in life.
This, too, will help you be at peace with who you are. It leads to greater self-acceptance and self-love.
3) To Be Able To Forgive Others
It is often said that if you don’t love yourself, you can’t love other people truly.
The same applies to forgiveness.
If you can’t forgive your own self, how can you forgive other people?
By nature, you will be inclined to hold on to what happened in the past. And that will cause you to remain in a state of resentment.
However, if you learn to forgive yourself, you will change that tendency.
You will slowly become more inclined to let things go.
And when you do that for yourself, doing it for other people will also become easier.
Forgiving yourself and others will take a huge burden off your shoulder.
4) To Become A Better Version of Yourself
People often have a negative view of mistakes and failures.
But if you think about it, these actually help us grow in life.
They shine a light on what needs improvement and that leads to better results.
Your mistakes can end up making you wiser and stronger if you work on them consciously.
This is what self-forgiveness helps you do.
It involves acknowledging your past mistakes and taking responsibility for them.
It requires reflection which gives you valuable insights.
Using all of this, you are able to understand yourself better. You are able to fix your weaknesses and become a much better version of yourself!
8 Steps To Forgiving Yourself
As stated above, self-forgiveness doesn’t happen overnight.
It takes time, patience, effort, and determination.
You have to commit to this journey for it to bear fruit.
At the end of this journey, you will be able to acknowledge and take responsibility for past mistakes. And, at the same time, you will also be able to reaffirm your self-worth.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at the eight steps to forgiving yourself.
Any positive change needs to happen from a place of understanding and clarity.
Only when you know where you are can you move forward with confidence. The same applies to self-forgiveness.
You should first identify the event, behavior, or particular mistake that you want to forgive yourself for.
This might be easier said than done.
After all, there might be tons of mistakes you’ve made in the past. You might have been rude to a stranger, you might have lied to your sibling, you might not have helped your colleague when you could have, etc.
You need to go over them one by one to figure out what exactly happened.
You need to have clarity on your actions and behavior that you think were not right.
There might even be some events where you think you were not at fault, while in reality, you were.
So, maintain a diary and write about each incident separately.
Writing things down can help you remember things more clearly. It will also serve as a tangible thing that will remind you to keep working on self-forgiveness.
Once you have identified all the mistakes of the past that you want to forgive yourself for, the next step involves exploring your responsibility.
This means you need to play that incident back in your mind and think about the extent to which you were responsible.
For example, if a colleague at work asked for your help and could be fired if the problem was not fixed, and you refused even when you could, or worse, you did it on puprose, you need to understand your responsibility here.
Think about whether you could have really helped them.
Think about the state of mind you were in at that time.
Maybe you were already overwhelmed? If not, why did you not help them?
What thoughts cropped up in your mind? What stopped you?
The answer to these questions will give you a lot of insights into your behavior. Not only that, it might make you realize that you indeed made a mistake. And this will lead directly to the next step.
3) Accept and Experience Remorse
What happens when you make a mistake and you genuinely feel that in your heart?
What is that first feeling you feel?
If your answer is “remorse,” you are absolutely right.
You instantly regret what you have done, whether it was intentional or not.
For example, if you mistakenly bump into a kid and they fall on the ground, you instantly rush to help them up and feel remorse for not being careful.
Similarly, when you recognize the extent to which you were responsible for your past mistakes, the next step is to accept and experience remorse.
Of course, this will only happen when you genuinely know that it was your mistake and you should have done better.
Now, you need to be careful to not beat yourself up too much in this step.
Otherwise, you will go the opposite route of self-forgiveness.
Instead, you need to be kind to yourself. While you regret your past mistakes, also know that you are not a perfect being. In fact, this leads right to the next step.
4) Notice Thoughts And Feelings
While you’re still going over the memories of your past mistakes and feeling regret over some of your decisions and behavior, pay attention to all the thoughts and feelings that arise within you.
In other words, be mindful of what you’re going through in the present moment.
This will allow you to focus on the right thing.
Usually, when people feel remorse, they immediately start blaming themselves. Their inner perfectionist comes out and starts thinking about all the things they could have done to prevent the situation.
You might say to yourself, “I should have done this,” “I shouldn’t have said that,” “I could have done better,” etc.
It’s important to remember that you shouldn’t direct your remorse to your character. What is done is done.
You should direct it only to your actions. Again, focus on what truly matters. There is no use beating yourself up as a person.
5) Make Amends
The next step is to make amends.
For a lot of people, this can be quite hard.
It requires facing the other person, admitting your mistake, and saying sorry. It also involves trying to mend the relationship and promising to do better.
Obviously, all of this requires courage.
But the journey of self-forgiveness is incomplete without this step.
Now, I understand that it might not always be practical to make amends.
For example, if you were mean to your partner and then broke up with them, they might not want to contact you anymore. In fact, they might have moved to some other part of the world and you might not know where they are.
In cases, like this, you have to apologize to them in your mind and heart and make peace with yourself.
In other cases, though, you should talk to the person face-to-face. Let’s say you said some hurtful things to your sister.
Now, you should meet with her and apologize wholeheartedly. You should tell her that you realize your mistake and that you regret what happened. You should also see if she would be willing to mend the relationship and develop a stronger bond.
This next step is where you start making changes that will help you not repeat the mistakes of the past.
This involves learning from your experiences and making adjustments to your behavior and decision-making process.
It also involves revisiting your values, attitudes, and perception to see where you may be lacking.
Then, you need to commit to sticking to your new and improved values and ensuring that you won’t make the same mistakes again.
For example, if you indulged in too much alcohol consumption in the past, you need to learn that doing so only harms your body and mind. Then you need to reaffirm that such behavior is not in line with your principles.
This will help you resist the temptation to start overindulging in alcohol again.
7) Nurture Compassion
After all the above steps, it is time to nurture compassion.
This is where you start to recognize yourself as a human being who has inherent flaws.
Once you truly understand this, you will be able to build good feelings about yourself. It will be much easier for you to be self-compassionate.
If you have a difficult time doing this, imagine how you would talk to a friend who made mistakes and is now trying to forgive themself.
You would probably tell them to be kind to themselves.
You would probably tell them that it’s okay and not to repeat the same mistakes again.
The point is, you wouldn’t be angry at them. You would be loving, caring, and understanding.
That’s what you need to do with your own self.
Yes, you made mistakes.
But now, you have realized them and have taken steps to mend things.
This is all a human can really do, isn’t it?
8) Let Go
Finally, you need to learn to let go.
Once you have learned the lesson, felt regret, and taken steps to improve yourself, the only remaining thing you can do is let go of any negativity from the past.
This is because such negativity has no productive use.
It will only bring you down and make the process of self-forgiveness harder.
It will keep you from being kind to yourself and the cycle of self-punishment will continue.
On the contrary, when you let go, you can set your gaze toward the future. You can be a much-improved person with a huge weight removed from your shoulder.
You can enjoy the stronger relationships you have with people whom you might have hurt in the past. And there will be so much positivity in your life!
11 Other Tips To Forgive Yourself
Now that we have taken a look at the eight steps involved in the journey of self-forgiveness, here are some more tips that might help you along the way.
Of course, different people work differently and so, all these tips might not be helpful to you.
In that case, just select the ones that do work for you and follow them diligently.
1) Use Positive Affirmations
Affirmations have become really powerful these days.
This is because more and more people have realized the power of these positive statements. If you don’t already know about them, it’s time you do.
Positive affirmations are short statements about yourself or some aspect of your life that you want to improve. Then, you repeat these affirmations over and over again for as many days as possible.
Doing so reprograms your subconscious mind depending on the content of your affirmation.
For example, if you say, “I am loved,” again and again, your mind will start to believe this after a certain amount of time. It works on your subconscious. I know it sounds a bit silly for some but the truth is it works….. ( if you do it on a regular basis…)
You can use this in your self-forgiveness journey as well. Here are some great affirmations that you can use:
- I am a human and it’s natural for me to make mistakes.
- Making mistakes doesn’t make me a bad person.
- One mistake or incident doesn’t define me.
- I am worthy of forgiveness.
- My mistakes only make me stronger.
- I love myself and know that I am doing my best.
- I forgive myself for my past mistakes.
- I deserve to move ahead with my life without the baggage.
- I am letting go of regrets and shame.
- I accept myself with all my flaws.
- I vow to do better in the future.
- I am worthy of other people’s love and affection.
- Forgiveness is a strength.
2) Try Self-Forgiveness Meditations
Meditation is a one-stop shop for all your life problems.
Well, not all, but many.
And you can definitely use it to forgive yourself. You can either do this by yourself or take the help of guided meditations.
If you’re doing it by yourself, you need to find a comfortable place and select a time during the day when you won’t be disturbed.
Then, close your eyes and try to bring your attention to the present moment for 5- 10 minutes to begin with. Focus on your heart and know that you are deeply loved. Tell yourself that you are trying to do your best. Tell yourself that it is okay to falter at times if the same will help you become wiser. Then when you are ready, open your eyes with a smile on your face. do that every day for one week or more… and notice the results.
If you want to go the guided meditation route, that’s okay too.
There are many such meditations available for free online.
For your particular need, it’s better if you practice “self-compassion” or “letting go” meditations.
They can help you become more aware of your thoughts and feelings and be at peace with yourself.
3) Seek Professional Help
If you feel like you can’t do it all by yourself, you can consult a professional.
Many people turn to therapy to heal themselves systematically.
And that’s completely fine!
In fact, a professional can advise several research-backed tools and techniques that you can use to start forgiving yourself.
Plus, they will keep a track of your progress and adjust the treatment accordingly.
If you happen to be in quite a bit of pain, they can even prescribe medication.
But more importantly, you will have a sense of satisfaction that you are in good hands.
So, do some research online or talk to one of your friends or family who has been in therapy.
Getting a good therapist is crucial for your journey of healing.
4) Talk To Your Loved Ones
It is often said that happiness gets multiplied when you share it with other people, while sadness gets decreased.
I couldn’t agree with this more.
When you share something that’s troubling you with your friends or family, you feel much lighter just by doing so.
Even if no solution comes out of the conversation, you still feel much better about yourself. This is because talking to other people (especially loved ones) reaffirms to you that you are not alone.
So, approach one of your loved ones and ask for some time together.
Tell them that you need to talk about something important.
Then, open up about your past mistakes and how you’re feeling right now. T
ell them that you want to forgive yourself and are trying to figure all of this out.
Don’t hesitate in telling them about your mistakes. Don’t fear judgment. After all, they love you and care for you.
By telling them, you would only strengthen your bond with them. Heck, they could tell you about their mistakes too! And this would make you realize that you are not the only one that falters.
5) Watch Your Internal Monologue
Your internal monologue says a lot about you.
Have you ever observed this?
If you really want to know who you are at the core of your being and the types of attitudes and values you have, you just need to pay attention to that inner voice that keeps yapping all day long!
This becomes even more important when you are trying to practice self-forgiveness.
When you are consistently monitoring your internal monologue, you can step in when it starts steering to the negative side of things.
For example, when your inner voice says something like, “I was so stupid and incompetent and that’s why I made that mistake,” you need to step in and reframe that thought by saying something like, “I tried to do my best in that situation with the knowledge and wisdom I had.”
After enough interventions, your monologue will start to change and become more positive.
6) Recognize Unrealistic Expectations
We all have unconscious rules about how we expect ourselves to behave and act in different situations.
For example, you might expect yourself to be kind and helpful no matter the person or situation. But ask yourself, is this a realistic expectation?
Surely, there are going to be times when you’re highly frustrated and you might not be kind to others in those moments.
Also, you might be burdened with a lot of work at times and might not be able to help someone who approaches you.
So, having unrealistic expectations might become a reason you feel bad about your past actions and behavior.
Even if it was not your fault, you may beat yourself up about it.
Also, if you set unrealistic expectations for your journey of self-forgiveness, that will make things difficult.
I mean, you can’t expect to have forgiven yourself for all your past blunders by a set date and time. That’s not how it works. What you need to do is go with the flow.
Allow things to happen naturally. And focus on clearing out your emotional baggage.
7) Be Patient With Yourself
This is kind of an extension of the previous point.
Every significant journey in your life will take time and effort.
Consider this a rule of thumb in life.
As the famous saying goes, “Anything worth having costs blood, sweat, and tears.”
In a world where everyone seeks instant gratification, that might be hard to digest at times. But it surely doesn’t change the fact.
So, when you are moving from one step to the next in your self-forgiveness journey, know in your heart that it is not about the destination.
Be patient with yourself.
At times, you will feel like you are moving a few steps backward.
Do not be hard on yourself. Know that you are trying your best. And do not pressure yourself with a fixed timeline.
8) Practice PERT
This is an interesting technique that you can apply anywhere and at any time.
PERT stands for Positive Emotion Refocusing Technique.
This is especially useful in times of stress, anxiety, or negative self-talk. During your journey, this technique can play a crucial role in helping you stay on course.
So, what is it and how does it work?
Well, it’s a breathing technique mixed with vsualization that helps you relax and calm down. You can use this whenever you start to go hard on yourself for your past mistakes.
To use this technique, first, think about your pain, your mistake. You will probably feel your body tense up, get frustrated etc…
Then just close your eyes and take a long breath. Watch as your lungs and tummy expand.
Then, exhale slowly and watch your belly contract and relax.
Take another breath and do the same thing.
On the third breath, visualize a beautiful place in nature or a person you love. It could be a beach, the mountains, a park, a flower garden, or any other place. It could also be a loved one like your partner, siblings, parents, friends, etc. As you inhale this third breath, just imagine being in that beautiful place of your choice or with the person you love. As you exhale, observe how that makes you feel and allow these feelings to center around your heart.
Now ask your heart filled with your warm energy a way to forgive yourself or to be more at peace…
Then get back to the breathing and start again the cycle of 3 breaths ( this time without the vizualization for the 3rd breath) and open your eyes.
Do this complete cycle ( 6 breaths) once or twice a day for 7 days and see where it leads you.
Most of the time, you will feel more serene and will eventually find a way to forgive yourself…..
9) Think About All The Good That You’ve Done
This is an important thing that most people forget about when they are trying to forgive themselves.
No matter who you are, you have done both good and bad things in your life.
For every mistake, you might have done a few things that are absolutely awesome.
But since the mind likes to focus more on the negatives of life, you might have become limited to thinking about only your mistakes.
So, now that you are practicing self-forgiveness, it is the best time to remind yourself of all the good you have done.
To make it more interesting, you could sit down with your diary and literally list down all your good deeds.
It might have been a small act like helping someone cross the road. Or it could have been something bigger like helping a friend financially.
Doing so will immediately make you feel better about yourself. You will realize that you are indeed worthy of being forgiven.
10) Help People Out
A lot of the regret that you might have right now could be because you couldn’t do the right thing for people in the past.
Maybe someone came to you asking for help and you refused for whatever reason.
Maybe you could have helped a charity out but always kept pushing it off into the future.
Whatever the case may be, you could always start afresh and help people out.
You could contribute to a local cause, volunteer your time at a shelter, feed homeless people, help a friend in need, walk your neighbor’s dog, or do anything else to make a difference, no matter how small it may be.
This will make you feel better about yourself. Your conscience will also start getting clearer because you will know in your heart that you are now compensating for not having done your part in the past.
11) Focus On What You Want In Life
This is an effective technique to help you take self-forgiveness more seriously.
Focusing on your dreams and goals is a forward-looking action.
When you decide what you want your life to look like, you are essentially setting your gaze forward.
Now, here’s where it gets interesting.
You can only focus on your dreams and goals when you are free from the past and its burden.
Sure, you can still do it without being free, but that would be a hellish ride.
And instead of running forward on your path, you would only be able to crawl forward. And you obviously don’t want to do that.
So, by developing effective dreams and goals, you can motivate yourself to first deal with your past mistakes.
And that can only happen through self-forgiveness. In your heart, you will know that only by truly forgiving yourself for your past mistakes can you truly start building the life of your dreams.
The Best Books You Can Read About Self-Forgiveness
In addition to following the steps and tips mentioned above, you can also read several awesome books on this topic.
Here are the five best ones you can check out:
1) Moving Forward: Six Steps to Forgiving Yourself and Breaking Free From the Past – Everett Worthington Jr.
In this book, Everett Worthington Jr. takes a holistic view of forgiveness.
He talks about the six steps we can all take to be forgiven by others, by God, and by the self. Worthington takes a religious view of forgiveness and says that we can free ourselves from the regrets and shame of the past by embracing God’s eternal love and acceptance. Check it on amazon HERE.
2) The Self-Forgiveness Handbook – Thom Rutledge
Thom Rutledge is not just an author.
He is also a therapist who specializes in self-forgiveness.
As such, this book is a highly credible source for all the tips and techniques you might have been looking for in your journey of self-forgiveness.
Rutledge provides a step-by-step guide to forgiving yourself, while at the same time being more compassionate toward yourself. He also includes several guided practices that can help you along the way. These practices are influenced by his years of extensive work in this subject.
3) Radical Self-Forgiveness: The Direct Path to True Self-Acceptance – Colin Tipping
If you are looking for tried and tested techniques to practice self-forgiveness and self-acceptance, this book is the one for you.
He draws from his experience hosting acclaimed self-forgiveness workshops and helps the reader take on this journey smoothly. You can use this book as your everyday manual and get free from the past.
4) How to Forgive Ourselves Totally – R. T. Kendall
In this book, Kendall talks about the idea of total forgiveness.
This includes forgiving other people who have hurt us and then forgiving ourselves for our past mistakes. She says that this is important to gain complete freedom.
She also provides insights into how you can practice self-forgiveness and all the tools you might need throughout your journey.
5) The Compassionate Mind – Paul Gilbert
This is an interesting book as it is based on experimental findings that illustrate the need and importance of compassion for your mental health.
He talks about several mind-training practices that the readers can use on their own. This, he says, can help them become more compassionate towards themselves.
Quotes That Will Inspire You To Forgive Yourself
Throughout history, many great people have said a lot of eye-opening things about self-forgiveness.
When you get to know about their perspectives through their quotes, you become even more inspired to embark upon this journey. With that in mind, let’s check out some amazing quotes on self-forgiveness.
1) “In order to heal, we must first forgive… and sometimes the person we must forgive is ourselves.” – Mila Bron
2) “To forgive is to refuse to contaminate the future with the errors of the past.” – Craig D. Lounsbrough
3) “No one can or will ever feel your pain as much as you. Forgive yourself for the past, seize the gift of the present moment.” – K.J. Kilton
4) “You cannot win your future if you cannot forgive your past.” – Ikechukwu Joseph
5) “Forgive yourself for what you think you’ve done or not done. At every moment, you had your reasons for all of your actions and decisions. You’ve always done the best that you could do. Forgive yourself.” – Doreen Virtue
6) “Having compassion starts and ends with having compassion for all those unwanted parts of ourselves.” – Pema Chodron
7) “Do as the heavens have done, forget your evil; With them forgive yourself.” – William Shakespeare
8) “You cannot travel back in time to fix your mistakes, but you can learn from them and forgive yourself for not knowing better.” – Leon Brown
9) “Love yourself, accept yourself, forgive yourself and be good to yourself, because without you the rest of us are without a source of many wonderful things.” – Leo F. Buscaglia
10) “Forgive yourself; you are not perfect. Show yourself grace; you are still learning. Show yourself patience; you are on a journey.” – Shannon Yvette Tanner
11) “Forgiveness is giving up the hope that the past could have been any different, it’s accepting the past for what it was, and using this moment and this time to help yourself move forward.” – Oprah Winfrey
12) “I have learned, that the person I have to ask for forgiveness from the most is: myself. You must love yourself. You have to forgive yourself, everyday, whenever you remember a shortcoming, a flaw, you have to tell yourself “That’s just fine”. You have to forgive yourself so much, until you don’t even see those things anymore. Because that’s what love is like.” – C. JoyBell C
13) “If I hadn’t forgiven myself, I wouldn’t be strong enough to love someone this much.” – Dawn Lanuza
14) “Remember that when you forgive, you empty yourself so that you may receive.” – Debasish Mridha
15) “Through one’s tears for the past, one’s future becomes blurred.” – Criss Jami
16) “There are times when all of us have been thoughtless, selfish or cruel. But no act is unforgivable; no person is beyond redemption.” – Desmond Tutu
17) “Our sorrows and wounds are only healed when we touch them with compassion.” – Buddha
18) “Forgiveness is simply about understanding that every one of us is both inherently good and inherently flawed.” – Desmond Tutu
19) “When you forgive, you in no way change the past – but you sure do change the future.” – Bernard Meltzer
20) “Everyone makes mistakes. The wise are not people who never make mistakes, but those who forgive themselves and learn from their mistakes.” – Ajahn Brahm