I have found in my lifetime that the most difficult person to forgive, by far, is myself! If I had a dime for every time I’ve berated, belittled, or beat myself up I’d be the wealthiest person in the world. And, here’s the thing, I know I’m not alone!!! I’ve spent my lifetime surrounded by women who struggle to forgive themselves too! They just feel like they CAN’T! They can’t forgive themselves for eating cookies, or for their bodies being “too big”. Or forgive themselves for being in the “wrong place at the wrong time”. They can’t forgive themselves for the family and career choices they’ve made. You know, they yell at their kids too much or they don’t feel they work hard enough at a dead-end job to get a promotion or raise.
I’ve watched and listened to these women talk about how they know they aren’t smart enough, strong enough, determined enough, or just plain anything enough. Enough for what you may ask. Enough to simply trust themselves, to follow their inner voice, to live their dreams, or even just to be supported and treated well by those around them. Even typing this brings tears to my eyes and breaks my heart. And when I realized how deeply and truly I wanted the other women in my life to forgive themselves I realized they probably wanted the same for me. I realized that someone needed to figure out how and announce it to the world. So, I set out to do just that and here’s what I found works.
Of course, this one hits the top of the list! I actually have a friend who’s told me “I completely understand why my mom withheld love from me as a 3 yr old. I was a terror”. Uhmmm, YOU WERE 3!!! Let me tell you, 3-year olds aren’t the most pleasant bunch to be around!
Think about this, and I mean really take a moment to think! Have you changed your perspective to consider that of your younger, more naïve self? I did all sorts of things when I was younger that I wouldn’t do now. That’s because I know better. AND part of why I know better is BECAUSE I made those mistakes!
If you change your perspective, it’s an entirely different story! See things from the point of view of the younger you! The less experienced you! And keep in mind that you 5 minutes ago isn’t you now! You know better now. Consider being grateful for ALL the choices you’ve made, even the crap ones, because you’ve learned and grown from them!
So, in the example of my friend above you probably wanted to place blame on her mother. I get that! I did too! There are few things more painful than having someone you love think or speak so negatively about themselves! Here’s the thing though… with a little more perspective you can see that her mother has some serious issues and hang ups. Those came from somewhere! Oftentimes in our inability to forgive ourselves we find it easier to place blame on others. You know that song and dance. I can’t handle admitting that I was wrong because then I won’t be able to forgive myself, so I’ll just blame the other person.
Placing blame is a trap! There is no need for it! Who really cares who’s responsible or who messed up? At the end of the day, you want to be happy, not right or wrong, simply happy! Happiness is not found in carrying angsty feelings around whether they are directed at yourself or someone else! Again, go back to what you can learn. And remember, not forgiving is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die! So even if you have VERY good and clear reason to blame the other person, such as abuse or assault, not forgiving them or yourself will eat away at you, your life, and your happiness!
Make Amends & Seek Forgiveness
Allow others to forgive you (or not) and move forward! If you know you’ve hurt or wronged someone else apologize to them. This will pave the way for you to forgive yourself!
Oftentimes we don’t admit our wrongdoing or apologize because we are afraid of the reaction we’ll get. Here’s the thing though, you can’t control the reactions of others you can only control yourself. And when you have a chance to do the right thing, do it, no matter how hard or scary it might be! You might be thinking “but what if they don’t love me anymore” or “what if they can’t forgive me” or even “but, maybe they didn’t even notice! So, let’s break it down!
What if They Don’t Love Me Anymore
So, how many people in your life think you are perfect and infallible? I’m going to guess… NONE! They love you despite and possibly because of your flaws! Admitting that you’ve hurt or wronged someone isn’t going to make them stop loving you. But you might find out they didn’t love you to begin with. Maybe they loved some idealized version of you, but not YOU! It’s always better to find that out sooner rather than later. And, guess what… that says A LOT more about them than it does about you! Perhaps they struggle with forgiveness or are so hard on themselves that they can’t face anyone ever doing anything wrong. Some people do prefer to keep their heads in the sand and might see this as upsetting the apple cart!
Rest assured though, people who truly love you still will! They’ll be grateful for your apology and see it as an opportunity to repair the relationship and grow closer to you.
What if They Can’t Forgive Me
This does happen sometimes but if you never apologize, they don’t even have the opportunity to forgive you! So, just do it!
If you have truly hurt or harmed someone, they might need some time to build trust with you. That isn’t the same as not forgiving you! Learn the difference! If for example you told everyone your best friend’s deepest secret, you need to apologize! Do it BEFORE she finds out about it (if possible). And be prepared, she might not tell you anymore secrets for a while. It takes time to trust again. This doesn’t mean she doesn’t forgive you. It means she’s healing. Give her time and keep showing up as the amazing friend you’ve been to her in the past!
Maybe They Didn’t Notice
Uhmmmm, yeah, this sounds like a cop out to me! Of course, they noticed! And let’s just say for the sake of argument that they didn’t. Well, you did! You know that you did something that requires an apology so give it! That way you can be unburdened!
How to Apologize to Others
You’re likely to have better resolution if you know how to apologize. Not just to others but also to yourself! Gary Chapman (the guy who wrote “The 5 Love Languages”) also co-authored a book with Jennifer Thomas called “When Sorry Isn’t Enough”. If you have relationships with other people, I HIGHLY recommend it! In the book he posits that there are basically 5 types of “I’m sorry” and different people receive different apologies (like the love languages)! Without giving too much away, they are expressing regret, accepting responsibility, making restitution, genuinely repenting, and requesting forgiveness.
It’s very unlikely that the person you’re apologizing to is going to know or tell you their apology language so… here’s the statement that covers them all…
“I’m sorry for _______(expressing regret). I know that I was wrong (accepting responsibility). I want to change (genuinely repenting). How can I make this right for you or between us (making restitution). Can you find it in your heart to forgive me (requesting forgiveness)? Oftentimes you’ll find that the person you’re talking to will latch onto one of these statements and that will give you a pretty good idea what their apology language is for later. Yes, there will probably be a later, you’re human and likely to make another mistake!
How to Apologize to Yourself
Most of us need to formally apologize to ourselves so we can acknowledge where we’re stuck and move forward in forgiveness. If this is you (or you think it might be)… consider what apology language most touched your heart. Then if you need to, look in the mirror and do it! Tell yourself that you are sorry. Discover what you learned from your mistake and commit to making restitution (ie changing your behavior). Then ask for your forgiveness and grant it graciously! And, I mean, more graciously than you would to your very best friend who accidentally crossed a line! Because you ARE your best friend! You deserve your own forgiveness!
So, I often say “would you treat your bestie this way” or when someone is beating themselves up in my presence “would you ever say that to me”. This usually snaps people right back into their clear mind! When you are in a cycle of unforgiveness toward yourself you’ll often find that negative thoughts permeate your mind. You’re your own bully, your own worst enemy and so incredibly cruel and torturous! You would NEVER say those things to another person! Not even internet trolls are as mean as you are to yourself!
Express compassion toward yourself! Give yourself the benefit of the doubt. How would you react if your child or someone else you love told you this? I’m betting you wouldn’t shout “you’re stupid and worthless” like you may to yourself. You would likely be encouraging and supportive. Even if it were a big mistake. What would you say? Now, if you need to, write that on a few post-its and stick them everywhere. Remind yourself that compassion creates change not berating!
Ready to go deep? Hear me out on this one! Have you ever tried looking at your mistakes through the lens of gratitude? If you can turn your “bad choices” into a life lesson, why wouldn’t you be grateful? Consider that ever popular quote from Thomas Edison “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” Did he wallow in dismay and decide that he wasn’t smart enough because he made 10,000 mistakes on ONE project he was working on? Nope! And thank goodness because I love electric light bulbs!
Likewise, when we make mistakes, we need to be grateful. Thinking to ourselves “I didn’t just waste 10 years of my life in that marriage / career. I learned 10 years of lessons and discovered more about myself.” Is this true? YEP! When you go through something that is challenging, you learn! When you make mistakes, you learn! As they say, growth only exists outside of our comfort zone! Forgive yourself for getting out there and not doing it perfectly. Focus instead on the big picture! Concentrate your energy on learning from your mistake so you can grow and become a better you! Be grateful for your imperfections! You wouldn’t be who you are without all those amazing lessons!
This sounds silly when you think about it and I REALLY struggled with it! But it made all the difference in my life and in my ability to forgive myself. In many ways, self-forgiveness is connected to self-love and confidence! When you love yourself and are confident in yourself it’s much easier to let it go and forgive yourself. You even become more resilient to other’s wronging you, and to rejection and failure. So, the best way to overcome the burdens of shame, guilt and anger that’s directed at ourselves is affirmation!
When you tell yourself that you are amazing and can do anything over and over and over again your brain actually starts to believe it! And not only that it makes a plan to get you to amazing and accomplishing all the things! It might feel silly at first but in only a week you’ll see your confidence levels change. You’ll become more resilient and you’ll find more peace, self-love and forgiveness!
You, YES YOU, deserve excellent self-care!!! Once you start doing your affirmations, you’ll be 110% certain of this. But for the sake of argument, let’s say you didn’t stop reading mid post, so you haven’t started doing them yet (haha).
Self-care helps you to develop compassion for yourself and it forces you to take the time you need to care for yourself. Many of us are so busy and surrounded by so much noise and chaos that we have no idea the burdens we’re carrying. When you take the time to nurture yourself you have the opportunity to dig deep and discover what’s lingering that you aren’t forgiving yourself for. And, you have the time to be gentle, kind and patient with yourself. To reflect, to find the lesson and the gratitude and to move forward.
Plus, self-care just feels good. It reminds us that we deserve to be pampered, to be treated well. It teaches us to respect ourselves. This paves the way for increased resilience. Don’t skip self-care! It’s a vitally important part of building you up and tearing down negativity in your life!
It’s Not Just About You
I couldn’t have written about this topic 5 years ago! I was too busy & burdened carrying around 40+ years of unforgiveness toward myself. And like so many other women I was profoundly lacking confidence and self-love. I felt I had lost myself and was acting like a doormat.
Now I know that someone out there, maybe you, needs to read this. Someone needs to receive this message so they can get on their feet and get their life together! That means I HAD TO get over myself and forgive myself. It would be selfish of me to wallow away in self doubt and unforgiveness! I have an incredible gift to give the world (yes, one of my affirmations). And I can’t give it if it’s buried under a bunch of past nonsense and I’m dwelling on mistakes I made 40+ years ago.
You Can & MUST Forgive Yourself!
I encourage you to forgive yourself. If you must start by reminding yourself that unforgiveness is an indulgence you aren’t going to tolerate anymore, do it! If you must push yourself to set a better example for your kids, friends or loved ones, do it! I KNOW that you have an incredible gift to give the world too. I know because I’ve been surrounded by amazing, incredible women my whole life and low and behold EVERY SINGLE ONE OF THEM has something amazing and unique within them that the world needs! Watching them begin to strip off their heavy burdens and step into their greatness would be such a powerful and impactful thing to witness! And who knows, it might have made it easier for me to forgive myself if I’d had that example. So, set down your burdens, forgive yourself and step into your greatness NOW!
Where do you get stuck and what tip do you think will help you most? This is another “those who care share” post! You can’t possibly know how much those around you struggle with self-forgiveness so, please share this and encourage others to live freely and fully too!