Forgiving ourselves and others comes as a challenge for most people. People often mistakes forgiving with condoning the action.
In reality, forgiveness is a selfish act. It means that you are no longer willing to carry round the pain caused to you. In some occasions, the person you find most difficult to forgive is yourself. The reason is that forgiving others allow us to get rid of negative feelings such as bitterness and anger. In addition, we think that it is better to forgive because we don’t want to face our own bad thoughts or negative emotions. At this stage it is essential to do the hard and deep emotional work that will enable you to release unexpressed feelings.
Follow these three steps to self-forgiveness
Firstly, feel any emotions that arise and find a safe space and manner to express them. You could write a letter to yourself, speak to a counsellor, do a ritual or any other activity that allows you to confront your emotions.
Our nervous system “does not forgive”. When we have done something we consider “wrong”, we register it in our nervous system. If we injure someone else, we may feel guilt. If we make a mistake that is costly (financially or emotionally) we feel sadness.
This is the reason why we must release the underlying emotions or beliefs we have attached to the events, otherwise the forgiveness will not work. No matter how hard we try to forgive, we will continue beating ourselves up for what happened (just because your nervous system tells you to).
Secondly, identify the limiting belief or negative emotion you have attached to it. In addition, you could identify where you felt these before. For example, if you feel that you are a “bad person” for not cooking dinner for your family, try to remember other times when you have felt the same.
Thirdly, release the emotions. Our narrative considers our life story in a continuum that goes from our past, passes briefly through our present and projects into the future. Letting go of our own past can feel shaky and “wrong”. It is almost like letting go of a part of ourselves. It may help to remember that we all do the best we can in that moment with the information we have. If you had known the consequences of your actions, would you have reacted in the same way?
Retain what you have learned from the experience and release the rest.
It’s helpful to remember that mistakes, failures, and even incredibly stupid acts are part of being human. It’s how we learn and grow. Appreciate your missteps for what they are—a stepping stone on your path
Finally, try to look into the issue from a wider perspective and develop a loving relation with yourself. Do you need this experience to learn something? Is there a silver lining you can take from it? Are you treating yourself with love and compassion? Do you need to put up stronger boundaries?
A lot of us don’t have a loving, trusting relationship with ourselves. Many of us are much more critical of ourselves than we are of others. We’ll give other people the benefit of the doubt but won’t cut ourselves any slack at all.
When you’re dealing with a person you don’t trust or like, most often you can choose to forgive, release the hurt, and simply not maintain contact with them anymore. With yourself? It's not an option. You don’t get to quit, divorce or walk away from yourself. If you don’t love and appreciate yourself, somehow you have to get your relationship with you to be more positive.
“Forgiving yourself or others does not mean to accept or condone the behaviour”
“In order to forgive ourselves, we first have to admit to ourselves that we blew it.”