For most of us, we’re guilty of being our own worst critics. More often than not, we’re just way too hard on ourselves. This is not only a bummer unto itself, but it can lead to a lot of negative thoughts and self-blame — and these will only get worse when you’re trying to forgive yourself after hurting someone you care about. Let’s try something: Think about the last time somebody sincerely apologized to you. Did you forgive them? Chances are, you did! Now think about last time you hurt someone else. Have you forgiven yourself? Probably not.
The reality is: Forgiving yourself is much harder than forgiving someone else because you’re stuck with that negative little voice in your head…all the time!
But despite the level of difficulty, it’s not impossible to learn to forgive yourself. Denying yourself the freedom of forgiveness is like constantly picking at open wounds. The wound is already there — you can’t make it go away, but you can provide an environment that promotes healing.
So, how do you do it? Once you’ve decided you’re ready to forgive yourself, here are 8 ways to help get you started.
1Let some time pass…
After you’ve apologized, it’s imperative that you let some time pass before taking additional steps to squash the beef. This won’t be easy, especially if you’re someone who likes to fix things quickly and move on. But it’s necessary to make sure you’re not forcing forgiveness (which could sometimes bring future resentment). During this time, you should probably stay off the internet too — no subtweeting about the other person, and definitely no emotional Nickelback lyrics. (Unrelated but also worth noting, if you’re still listening to Nickelback in 2017, there might be bigger issues at play.)
2Think about what you did.
An important part of forgiving yourself is understanding where you went wrong with the person you’ve hurt or offended. You’ve done something wrong, you’ve done a terrible thing, but there is nothing wrong with you inherently, and you are not a terrible person. Understand what you did wrong, acknowledge it, and then try to separate who you are from the offensive action. Own it without allowing yourself to be owned by it.
3Accept that you did the best you could at the time.
The way we interact with others in each moment is based on a number of factors. For example, how we’ve been taught to deal with conflict, the frame of mind we’re in, and how we might be perceiving the present situation. Maybe you were blinded by anger and reacted without thought. Maybe your feelings were hurt before you did the bad thing you did, and your first instinct was to return fire. Whatever the factors, cut yourself some slack, and understand that you did the very best you could in that moment — even if your very best at the time was actually you at your worst.
4Focus on self-love!
You’ve probably been pretty hard on yourself, but it’s time to move away from all the “shoulda, woulda, coulda-s” and start moving towards self-love. As cliché as it sounds, think positive thoughts. Maybe take yourself on a date (or let a few new somebodies take you on many, many dates), or pick up a new hobby. Look in the mirror and tell yourself: “I am enough!” Because you are, and you are more than your past mistakes. Remind yourself how fucking amazing you are, we promise you, you are *so* worth it!
5Surround yourself with people who care about you.
Now, self-love is wonderful, but we can all use a little external affirmation from time to time. After all, “words of affirmation” is a love language all on its own. Surrounding yourself with the people who know you best and care deeply for you will help to remind you of your core goodness, and help you along the road to forgiving yourself. Talk about it. Drink about it. Dance it out! Do whatever you need to do, but do it with a friend who has your best interest at heart. A friend will often point out a reason why you deserve to forgive yourself that you probably wouldn’t have seen.
6Do the “friend test.”
Take a moment to imagine your best friend or someone you care about did the exact thing you did and then came to you for advice. What would you tell them? You’d probably comfort them and reassure them. You’d probably tell them that everyone makes mistakes, and they shouldn’t be so hard on themselves. You’d *definitely* tell them they deserve to be forgiven! So, why not tell yourself the same things? On the road to forgiving yourself, you’ll need to quiet that mean voice in your head and start treating yourself the same way you would your very best friend — with kindness and love and understanding and forgiveness.
7Learn from your mistake.
By learning from your mistake, you’ll not only take one step closer to forgiving yourself, but you’ll also be closer to becoming your very best self. Everything happens for a reason (yes, we know, more clichés!) and it’s possible there is a lesson to be learned behind this horrible experience. Ask yourself: How can I handle this better if the same situation were to happen again? And when you find your answer, you can move on knowing you are better for having made a mistake.
Allow yourself to grow from it. You can’t control if or when you’re forgiven by the person/people you’ve wronged, but you can control your own actions, so learn and grow. Because you definitely don’t want to be making the same mistakes over and over again.
8Allow the past to remain the past.
In order to forgive yourself, you’ll have to accept that the past has happened, and no matter what you do, you can’t change your past mistakes. The more you dwell on the past, the more you’re missing out on the NOW. The present is all you have, so use it wisely. Turn the page and accept those moments as a part of your story. Being grateful for those experiences allows you to move on and truly forgive yourself.
Listen, when it is all said and done, you’ve just gotta choose to forgive yourself! If not for you (which is most important) then for the people you love — because by hiding away in all that darkness and self-loathing, you are denying them your light and the most beautiful parts of yourself. And don’t forget, be gentle with yourself on your journey to forgiveness.