How to Forgive Yourself: 6 Tips for Forgiving Yourself
Forgiveness can be a loaded word that means different things to different people. In general, forgiveness is letting go of resentments or grudges, either toward yourself or others. Often in recovery, forgiveness is key.
In active addiction, you may have caused harm or done things you aren't proud of, and as a result, intense feelings of guilt and shame may rise to the surface. It's crucial for your recovery to let go of these emotions through inner work, therapy, working with a sponsor, prayer, or other means. If you can find forgiveness for your past, release feelings of guilt, and see experiences as growth and learning opportunities, then you may just find a pathway to peace.
So, how do you forgive yourself for doing something bad? Although forgiving yourself is easier said than done, we're sharing six tips that might make it easier to find forgiveness.
Forgiveness is more for yourself than for others
Ultimately, forgiveness allows you to release pent-up feelings from your past that can block you from moving forward. Once you let go of anger, grievances, and negative emotions, you can truly embrace a new future.
For example, perhaps you have repeated the same mistake more than once. You may get down on yourself and lose faith. Fear not -- if you see this situation as an opportunity to do things differently next time, the mistake turns into a valuable lesson.
Forgiveness also has an impact on your health and well-being. Health benefits of forgiveness can include¹:
- Stronger relationships
- Improved mental health
- Reduced stress and anxiety levels
- Lower blood pressure
- Decreased depression
- Improved immunity
- Strengthened heart health
- Improved confidence and self-esteem
Acceptance Is Key
When you accept a situation for what it is, you allow yourself to make peace and heal. Accepting yourself and your circumstances helps you come into the present moment, moving beyond the past and any ill feelings.
To forgive yourself and others, you must accept things exactly as they are. That does not mean you disregard what has happened, but instead, you learn from previous experiences and evolve. Acceptance is often the starting point in recovery because it allows you to get deeply in touch with reality, and from there, you can start to make changes in your life for the better.
Cultivate Compassion with Forgiveness
Compassion is parallel to forgiveness. Cultivating a sense of compassion for oneself and others can be challenging, especially if someone has wronged you or you have harmed yourself by acting out of integrity. Compassion can be difficult, but it's not impossible.
Perhaps you feel someone has wronged you, which has caused feelings of anger or resentment. By taking a few steps back and realizing that maybe they lacked the awareness needed to handle the situation appropriately, or they did the best they could at the time, you can find compassion in the situation. Being caring toward others enables us to move through life with creativity and resilience. After all, if we really look in the mirror, we may find our own behaviors stemmed from a bigger issue and that we needed compassion ourselves at one point or another.
Often in active addiction, we make choices while intoxicated. Instead of judging others, it's essential to take stock of our own lives to find areas where we can improve. In recovery, we take responsibility by acknowledging that had we been more aware, perhaps our choices would have been different. This realization can free us from self-judgment.
Regardless, finding compassion for ourselves and others, letting go of the past, and taking responsibility paves the way for a clean slate.
If something has happened in your life that causes unease, first analyze the situation and look for the part you may have played in it. You can only control yourself and your actions; if you act out of alignment with your values, it's empowering to accept those mistakes as areas for improvement.
Experiences are opportunities to grow or stay stuck. It's up to us to steer our life in the right direction, and being able to acknowledge our faults is a sign of maturity.
Instead of placing blame elsewhere, taking responsibility puts the power back in your hands and equips you to handle situations differently next time. It's humbling to own up to our own mistakes and then rectify them, where appropriate. In recovery, this is often the amends process: apologizing for our wrong-doings and balancing the scales. This virtue coincides with forgiveness.
An expectation is a strong belief that something will happen how you want it to happen. How often have you been caught off guard when your expectations or the expectations we place on others fail us?
You may envision a particular outcome in your mind, and when you don't get what you want, resentments occur. When we place unrealistic expectations on others or ourselves, we set ourselves up to get hurt.
The truth is, we may not know the big picture or why things didn't work out a certain way -- there could be a plethora of reasons. When you drop your expectations of how people should behave, you can prevent yourself from harboring grudges. This brings you one step closer to forgiveness.
See Yourself in Others
Ultimately, we are all on a human journey dealing with similar life experiences. We all experience hurt and pain during our lifetime; suffering is part of the human experience just as much as joy. However, we can find forgiveness and healing by seeing our similarities rather than our differences.
Whether you experience heartbreak or the loss of a loved one, pain is pain, and no one is exempt. If someone has wronged you, there is a chance that they have been wronged by someone else; as the saying goes, "Hurt people, hurt people." Conversely, "Healed people, heal people."
If you're struggling to forgive someone, the first step is to heal yourself and the pain you are carrying. You don't want to transfer those emotions onto your next relationship or next opportunity, so it's important to give yourself some space to grow from the experience. Vulnerability can help us open our hearts, and with time, we can find forgiveness and the ability to love freely once again.
Find Support for Forgiveness
As Alexander Pope once said, "To err is human, to forgive divine." ² Forgiveness involves taking the higher road, and it can ultimately work for your benefit.
It is often difficult to know what transgressions or old triggers can perpetuate anger and resentments. Forgiveness is a preventive measure that requires you to develop a profound relationship with yourself and your internal compass. Life's experiences can be like a rollercoaster of emotions – one minute, you are on top of the world, and the next, you are hopeless. Accepting life on life's terms and taking responsibility for our recovery and our life leads to maturity and growth.
Although it may be difficult to forgive when we experience deep pain, it is also gratifying to let go of our past and open up to new opportunities and experiences. At All Points North Lodge, we can support you with top-notch therapy to help you forgive yourself and others, find closure, and heal. If you're ready to get started with your healing journey, please reach one of our caring representatives by phone at 855.235.9792 or via LiveChat. Everyone deserves an opportunity to grow and change. We'll help you find your way forward.
- Mayo Clinic. (2020). Forgiveness: Letting go of grudges and bitterness. Retrieved on November 14, 2021 from https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/adult-health/in-depth/forgiveness/art-20047692
- Pope, Alexander, 1688-1744. An essay on criticism: Written by Mr. Pope. The second edition. London). Retrieved on November 15, 2021 from https://www.eighteenthcenturypoetry.org/works/o3675-w0010.shtml
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