After all, you are human. And they say to err is human. As humans, we do make mistakes. Not just the simple, silly ones. Big-time ones as well.
Call it a brain fade or error or judgment. Mistakes do happen even when our intentions are good.
Your mistakes can affect only yourself or the lives of others. When your actions adversely affect another person, they may be magnanimous enough to take a lenient view of the situation and forgive you. Of course, others may refuse to forgive you and even use it to discredit you or take advantage of your vulnerable position.
However, the question here is, can you forgive yourself irrespective of who is suffering from your mistake?
You can’t undo what you did or reverse the damage. You can’t repair strained relationships. The guilt weighs heavily on you. You feel bogged down. You want to forgive yourself but find yourself unable to.
Does this sound familiar? Don’t worry, you are not alone. You are just being human.
This article details the importance of forgiving oneself even when the mistakes are huge. You will find here steps you can take to initiate the process of forgiving yourself.
Why should you forgive yourself?
So, you did something wrong; something really serious. You want to wish it away, turn the clock back, or just want to disappear from the face of the earth. Unfortunately, none of these are real possibilities.
Forgiving yourself is the first step in the healing process. Any constructive step towards making things right involves letting go and forgiveness. Without this, your self-esteem, confidence, ego, and self-belief may take a dive.
Negative feelings don’t need any encouragement to exist or thrive in your mind. It takes a monumental effort to rid yourself of them and allow positive emotions to enter your mind again. This is what you can achieve through the act of forgiveness.
Here are some more valid reasons to practice self-forgiveness.
- Forgiveness requires strength of character. It is not a sign of a weak mind.
- You will have peace of mind.
- Through forgiveness, you are acknowledging your action. Owning up is the least you can do.
- You can put the past behind you and live life to the fullest.
- Through forgiveness, you can acknowledge your limitations of being human. That you are imperfect and it is okay to make mistakes.
- Forgiveness is the gift you can give yourself.
How to forgive yourself and move on?
When you do something really bad, you will naturally feel the guilt and the pressure to forgive. Whether it is for cheating someone or hurting someone you love, when you forgive yourself for past mistakes can lighten your mind and help you live in peace.
Every time the thoughts about forgiving yourself pop up in your mind, you brush them aside or ignore them saying, “What good it will do now? Will I get back what I lost?”
True that the act of forgiving yourself doesn’t assure any outcome, or turn the clock back, or resolve the issues. It may not even eliminate the guilt, shame, resentment, or the need for accountability completely.
To forgive yourself is the best action you can take towards rectifying the mistake. And, so, forgive you must.
Here are some steps you may find helpful to move towards forgiving yourself.
1. Acknowledge and accept that you are human.
As humans, you are prone to mistakes. You may find it easier to accept others’ mistakes than yours. Again, that is how you are wired. You can do nothing about any of these. However, you can make a difference with what you do later on.
Remember that by forgiving yourself, you are not letting yourself off the hook. You still need to accept responsibility for what you did. The act of self-forgiveness lies somewhere between “No big deal” and “I’m doomed forever”.
2. Take a look at the episode with all honesty.
You may be able to fool others by shirking responsibility but not yourself. You can try to hide behind a facade of excuses. This will only help in prolonging the agony for you. Better face it and get it over with.
Stop fooling yourself about what transpired and take an honest look at it. Instead of evading responsibility, try owning up.
3. Take steps to mitigate the damage.
Damage control is a positive step towards alleviating the aftereffects of your mistake. Often when the mistake is huge, it can leave you shell-shocked and paralyzed. When you come to the senses, you find yourself deluged in a sense of guilt and shame. This may prevent you from taking any constructive steps.
This is important especially if another person is affected. You can make an effort at setting things right for them. When you display an unrepentant or unapologetic attitude, it can aggravate the situation. Make a sincere effort to make it right. It may even help in repairing the ties with the person affected by your misdeed.
If you are the only person affected by your terrible action, you can still take the same approach.
4. Do some soul searching
Look inwards and try to figure out what happened and where you went wrong. This can help in bringing down your guilt levels and avoiding the same mistake. The whole experience can make you feel better.
If you are finding it hard to manage this step by yourself, take help from a trusted person. An external seal of approval and vote of confidence can do you a world of good. Journaling is another approach that can help you with this. It can aid you in gaining insight and help you express the emotions and thoughts you had been holding up inside.
5. Choose to move forward
You need to realize that you are not doing yourself or anyone any favor by beating yourself up. It is easy to wallow in self-pity and continue living in the negative space. You need to realize that even the people you hurt don’t want to see you suffer this way. It is up to you to choose between living a dead life and a life full of possibilities.
Find out what you can do to get rid of your feelings of shame and guilt. Resolve the issue once and for all and get it behind you. Even if you cannot reverse the damage or set everything all right, do the best you can to satisfy your conscience. Make every effort to make amends and move forward.
There are three types of forgiveness in psychology – exoneration, forbearance, and release. In common parlance, exoneration is what we usually accept as forgiveness. Forbearance involves a mild accusation of being instigated to do the deed, mixed with an admission of guilt. The release is what happens when you absolve yourself of guilt without admitting it.
When you are trying to forgive yourself for something terrible, you may come up against numerous hurdles and roadblocks. Take it up as something you are doing for yourself.
Forgiveness is considered to be divine but by understanding how it works, you too can improve your ability to forgive others as well as yourself.