Is it Possible to Forgive Yourself?

14 February, 2020
Forgiving yourself is one of the best gifts you can give yourself. It’ll provide you peace and contribute greatly to your emotional balance. In this article, we'll tell you how to forgive yourself.

Forgiving yourself isn’t easy. It requires humility, patience, deep compassion, and feeling unconditional love towards yourself. However, it’s essential that you learn to forgive yourself if you want to be at peace with yourself and with others.

Most people have made mistakes throughout their lives because mistakes are a part of life. It’s common to wish you would have acted differently and think that, if you had a new opportunity, you’d do things in another way. Not knowing how to set work or relationship boundaries, being overly submissive or aggressive, acting selfishly, or doing something that harms others are examples of situations that can make you feel a lot of discomfort in the form of guilt or resentment.

Is it appropriate to feel guilty?

Guilt is a basic mechanism of action in the learning process. It guides your conscience and imposes limits that show you if your motives and behaviors are appropriate or not. According to the theorist of personality, Erik Erickson, humans typically develop a feeling of healthy guilt when they’re three years old.

Failure to develop it and not internalizing a moral and ethical code can make you have a hard time interacting with others. In fact, the absence of guilt is one of the main characteristics of psychopaths.

Thus, feeling guilty when you do something wrong is a good indicator of psychological health. It means that you’re aware of what you did. Meanwhile, this emotion can lead you to fix the situation, either by apologizing or performing another action to resolve your discomfort.

The problem lies when you feel guilty for past actions or decisions and let something that already happened torment you, again and again, entering a vicious cycle. This vicious cycle often won’t allow you to live in the present and binds you to an unresolved past.

You should also read: How to Forgive Yourself for Past Mistakes

What does it mean to forgive yourself?

Forgiving yourself doesn’t mean justifying inappropriate behaviors or not feeling remorse. It means that you have to recognize the negative emotions it creates in you and decide not to let them affect your present.

Forgiving is a progressive process, as it doesn’t happen in the blink of an eye. Thus, it’s a complex process. It may take some people years to fully heal their wounds, while it’ll be easier for others. Forgiving yourself also means overcoming resistance to change, since, in many cases, it often feels easier to feel guilty than dare leave behind the self-criticism and pain.

To forgive yourself, it’s necessary to change your perception of your experience. Therefore, you must give yourself permission to move on and overcome what happened to you to live the present in peace and look forward to a pain-free future.

 

A woman in emotional pain.

Stages of forgiveness

Forgiving yourself is a process that consists of the following stages:

  1. Recognize the truth. You must be honest with yourself. If you did something wrong, it’s best not to delude yourself.
  2. Take responsibility for what happened. All actions have consequences, so it’s much better to be brave and face them.
  3. Come into contact with the deepest feelings that motivated your behavior. Knowing what led you to act in a certain way is a good step to avoid repeating the same mistake in the future.
  4. Open yourself to feel without judgment. Accepting your imperfections is key. Likewise, accepting what happened is the foundation for the capacity to heal.
  5. Heal your emotional wounds. For you to be able to do this, it’ll be necessary for you to open yourself up to compassion instead of self-criticism.
  6. Love yourself unconditionally. This means accepting yourself completely, including your gifts and virtues as well as your flaws and mistakes. In this last stage, loving and forgiving yourself go hand in hand.

This article may also interest you: Overcome Your Pride and Ask for Forgiveness

Strategies to help you forgive yourself

For practical purposes, there are certain actions can help you forgive yourself faster. Here are some examples:

  • Say you’re sorry. Apologizing is a big step forward in case you hurt someone, whether consciously or unconsciously. However, remember that it should be a heartfelt apology. Also, you should apologize without expectations, because asking for forgiveness doesn’t necessarily mean that the other person will forgive you immediately. Nevertheless, this facilitates your healing process, as well as the other person’s.
  • Share the experience. Explaining your mistakes to someone can help you free yourself from guilt. For example, you can tell a friend that makes you feel emotionally safe and accepts you for who you are. Another possible solution is to go to therapy with a specialist that can help you manage your emotions.
  • Write. Another very valid option is explaining everything you want to tell the other person in a letter. This will allow you to organize your thoughts and emotions and vent your pain. Depending on the situation, you can decide if you’re going to give the person the letter of if it’s only part of your healing process.
  • Heal your inner child. Meditation is a very powerful tool that can facilitate forgiveness. Entering a state of relaxation and communication with your wounded inner child, while giving yourself all the security and unconditional love you need, can help you reconcile yourself with your past. However, note that this can also be done with the help of a professional therapist.
A woman who decided to forgive herself.

Final thoughts

As in other types of forgiveness, forgiving yourself is a process. It’s a path that consists of leaving your pain behind to open yourself to living a suffering-free present and future.

You must learn to accept that you act in each of life’s stages according to your level of consciousness. If you didn’t act properly in the past, perhaps it was because you didn’t know any better. It’s during the healing process when you realize that you’re no longer at that stage of your life and that you were able to evolve thanks to that mistake. This should allow you to move on and be more compassionate with yourself to achieve peace.

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  • Armero, M. (2018). Aprendiendo a vivir. Uno Editorial.
  • Borysenko, J. (1990). Guilt is the teacher, Love is the lesson. Hachette Book Group.
  • Casarjian, R. (2005). Perdonar: Una decisión valiente que nos traerá la paz interior. Ediciones Urano.