Please listen to someone who messes up A LOT. I am an expert in making a bad choice, and then kicking my own ass for days, months, even years. Finally after a lifetime of anguish over things I cannot change, I decided enough is enough. I cannot make anyone else forgive me if something I have done has caused them to feel hurt. However, I can fully, and sincerely apologize then FORGIVE MYSELF. Self-forgiveness is a must if you want to be happy.
As a person who over-analyzes and beats herself up worse than anyone I know, I had to learn to stop. Learn to accept my mistakes and flaws, and to move forward. This isn’t saying that you should continue to make the same errors over and over and over. That is just crazy so stop that. This is for those of you who have made, and still make, the wrong choices at times. The people who realize it, learn from it, and choose to grow from it. You cannot develop into a better person while loathing yourself for some of your pitfalls. Growth does not work that way. So lets agree that today we re going to cut ourselves some slack and start to forgive ourselves. Here is how:
Step 1 – Acknowledgement
The first step may be hard but you have to take it. It requires you to allow yourself to think about the problem (from this point forward, whatever it is you specifically are forgiving yourself for will be known as the “problem”). Think about it, but do not let it overwhelm you. Acknowledge whatever it is, no matter how big or small. It is real, it happened, but now it is done. You cannot take it back. Acknowledge that it is affecting your life in a negative way and you are ready to forgive yourself. Now you are ready to stop allowing a part of your history to control, or cast a negative shadow, on your future, the happiness you want to attain, or goals you hope to achieve. You are on your way to self-forgiveness.
Step 2 – Accountability
To learn from something you have to recognize your role in it. What part did you play? At which point did things start to go South? What actions/words are you regretting? What could you have said or don’t that wouldn’t be causing these feelings? Get all your over-analyzing and regret out now because this is it. After this you have no further time in your life to let it get you down! You learned your lesson and now it is time to move on. This is also the time to realize that if anyone else was involved in the problem situation you cannot force them to go through this process. They have to make the decision so either accept that or consider removing them from your circle. This is forgiveness for your role only.
Step 3 – Forgiveness
You have now done everything you can do with the problem. It has been acknowledged, along with the impact it has had on your life. You have taken responsibility for your role and hopefully learned from it. Now you have nothing left you can do but gain self-forgiveness for the misstep. Beating yourself up further is of no benefit to you or anyone else. It will only cause further despair and we have already decided we are DONE with all that. So do something symbolic if it will help. Maybe throw out something that is a nagging reminder. Or delete a song that makes you think of it from your phone. Anything that would help. Forgiveness is a choice and you must actively decide to fully forgive yourself. Don’t just go through the motions. Mean it.
Step 4 – Refocus
You are human and negative reminders and events will continue to pop in your head. It happens. Now it’s time to re-direct those thoughts and focus on something else. When the problem pops in your head, consciously refocus on something you are proud of. Every person has good and bad moments. No one makes the best choice every time. That is not real life. By choosing to direct your thoughts to your better choices though, you allow yourself to feel good about who you are. I know I am far more likely to make good choices and behave like my best self when I am feeling confident and secure in who I am.
If you are truly struggling to see the good in yourself, find a family member or a friend and ask them what makes them enjoy having you in their life. Make sure you choose a positive, happy person. Don’t ask someone you know will likely say something crappy to validate you wanting to feel bad. Been there, done that. Truly moving forward means the self-deprecating behaviors have to stop too. This should get easier with practice. The more you re-focus your thoughts then the less the negative will keep coming in. It is gradual, so please be patient.
Step 5 – Letting Go
Once you have refocused enough that the issue is rarely on your mind and you are feeling good about you and your past, it is time to Let. It. Go. When some asshole inevitably brings up the problem, you just roll your eyes and keep moving on. If you have successfully completed all the other steps then this last one is no problem. You cannot erase people’s memories, but you can show them how inconsequential the problem, and their opinion of it, is to you. If you are willing to let it go then most people will typically follow suit. No longer even let the problem register in your mind. You should be too busy thinking about the next chapter. A better chapter than ever before. Especially since you no longer let the past weigh you down.
Please take into account…
This post is only directed at the events that we can learn and grow from on or own. The things that may be a big issue to you, but probably not too big of a deal in the grand scheme of life. If there is something that is impacting your ability to see the positive in life, then consider reaching out to someone who can help you move forward with more specific information. A friend, a therapist, a family member, or all of the aforementioned. It’s always easier to get through with just a little help.
I do hope this helps someone out there get through a nagging, negative memory. I know this process has helped me in learning to focus on the great things I have now. It has helped me find self-forgiveness. I know I would not be experiencing these great things without the lessons from the past so all is well. Give it a try and let me know how it goes!