Forgiveness is definitely a process and I learnt this the hard way by holding onto mistakes and destructive behaviours for years. The longer I held onto them the greater the burden they became. If you are struggling to forgive yourself for something right now I want to give you hope, because everyone can do this although the process will be different for us all.
For years I held onto bitterness and anger, which had built up over the years towards close relationships and only by forgiving myself was I able to experience such incredible freedom from these burdens. I would love for you to let go of the burden you might be carrying around with you so you can forgive yourself and start to experience some freedom in your life.
Here are some of the things that helped me to forgive myself even in my darkest moments.
One of my first realisations was that I was attaching emotions to the things that I had regretted doing; I was actually connecting my mistakes to me limiting beliefs. So is it any wonder I couldn’t forgive myself for my action because it was really the underlying emotion that needed to be addressed. For example, if I ‘screamed’ at my mother I would feel very guilty afterwards and so trying to forgive myself for the screaming was ineffective as I needed to look at the guilt it caused me.
The past is the past
The past really is the past and when we can leave it there we become more open to acceptance, which is a very healing experience in itself where you stop trying to change situations. We find it hard to let go of the past because we feel it is really part of us but remind yourself that at that very moment you did the very best you could with the tools you had at the time. Keep what you have learned from the event and let go of everything else.
Your relationship with yourself
Take a look at the relationship you have with yourself – you can forgive those around you who you love dearly far more easily. So by loving yourself and being less critical, less harsh and giving yourself the benefit of the doubt will allow you to appreciate yourself that bit more. Putting yourself first, taking care of your needs, creating boundaries and practicing self-care will give you a new positive perspective on yourself.
Visualise the way forward
Why not ‘re-write the event’? This is a great learning experience to write down how you would do it differently next time; this affirms to your subconscious mind that you have learnt from the situation and if you had the tools you have now back then, things wouldn’t have worked out as they did. You can then create a clear visualisation in your mind of your new creation. This is how we learn not to repeat mistakes.
You don’t need to look at every past mistake and regret, just look at the main ones to forgive yourself. You will identify a pattern and once you can see the behavior developing you can focus on changing that and not just the ‘one off’ events.
We are brought up NOT to make mistakes and if we do we should be punished. So naturally we will try and hide from them. When you can admit to yourself that have taken ownership of that mistake you realise that you are human and its how you grow and learn. If you’re making mistakes you’re stepping out of your comfort zone, well done.
Share your feelings
Don’t deal with this alone; start sharing your feelings with someone you trust. You will soon realise that sharing your thoughts will actually stop you from sliding down a path of denial and repression.
Say you’re sorry
If you’re struggling to forgive yourself for something you have done to someone else the best way is to say ‘Sorry’ to that person. Face to face if possible, but if you can’t do that perhaps send a message or an email. Don’t expect a response; just know that you have said, ‘Sorry’.
Make up for it!
Make it right from this day on. I can’t go back and change how I behaved towards my family – yelling with such anger at my Mum, being known as the ‘Fun Police’ towards my children but what I can do is to be a better parent and daughter right now. I can’t ‘make up’ for what I did but I can learn from the past and create a new future. I know this is possible because this year alone I have been on holiday with my entire family and we’ve all loved every minute of being together.
Before you close your eyes at bedtime reflect back over the day and remind yourself of all the things you have been able to do and made a difference however small – the smile you gave to a stranger, the rubbish you picked up in the park, the dinner you made for your husband, the person let in front of you in the supermarket queue and hold onto these thoughts as you drop off to sleep. Why? Because you really have become one amazing person.
Forgiveness is the very best tool that allows us to face what we have done in the past, acknowledge our mistakes, learn from them, leave them behind and move on. It does not mean that we excuse what has happened, and it doesn’t mean we forget what has happened – it means we have learnt and moved on in a better way.
You are so worth it – don’t let your past mistakes define your future; forgiveness is not a destination do it regularly.
Written by British mum, Louise Armstrong. Would you like to write for British Mums? If so, we’d love to hear from you. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org