Forgiving yourself involves many things but mostly it has to do with letting go.
When you can forgive yourself, you are free of the cycle of beating yourself up.
When something we do hurts someone else or when we make a poor judgment, we can get stuck going round and round, thinking "if only."
We can be harder on ourselves and not be able to forgive ourselves when we think we've done something "wrong." We get stuck in shame, especially if we were shamed as children.
I asked a few people this week if they could forgive themselves.
Sometimes I was met with a puzzled look. Other times, an almost tearful look.
I got these answers:
"I think about it every day"
"I think it's hard"
"I don't know how to forgive myself"
"I never thought about it"
I realized most of us don't really know how to forgive ourselves.
I thought about this topic a lot and came up with a few things to think about:
1. It won't help you in any way to hold onto regret. It will only keep you stuck in remorse or hating yourself. We all know ruminating like this does absolutely nothing.
In fact, it harms your soul.
It's a form of suffering that won't make the pain go away.
2. Let yourself feel the sadness.
Maybe you made a choice that now you realize wasn't the right one for you. Maybe now you realize it was a mistake.
Or maybe the decision was made for you and there was nothing you could do.
Allow yourself to feel the helplessness of it.
Maybe there's anger at yourself...look underneath and see what feelings are actually there. Much of the time there's hurt or fear under the anger.
Whatever it is...feel it. To the very core of your being.
I always say to my clients when they're reticent about feelings...it's just a feeling.
You won't die from letting yourself feel your feelings. If you push those feelings away or stuff them down, I can almost guarantee you they'll resurface in some other nonhelpful way.
3. Imagine what it would be like if you could release the shame and the regret.
What would change? Who would you be? Would you be happier, relieved?
Would you feel free?
Close your eyes for a moment and see yourself without the guilt, the regret, the shame and the constant berating yourself.
See the person who is you without all the negative thoughts and feelings.
You are not your thoughts...You are you, a person like everyone else trying to get through this very complicated, messed-up life.
4. Consider a ritual. Do something that signifies letting go. Write out what it is that you want to let go of and then burn it.
Fire is cleansing.
What I do is I invite a friend or my spouse or a family member to do this ritual with me. We each say out loud what we're letting go of. Then we toss it into the fire.
To say this ritual is powerful is an understatement.
6. Acknowledge what you said or did. If you feel you did something that hurt someone else, write a letter to that person.
Acknowledge their pain and what you did that you might have caused them hurt. They may be accepting or they may not. Often the person who feels injured is in pain and to have their hurt acknowledged is a big start.
Ask if there's anything you can do now to make amends.
7. Focus on yourself. Do the things that will help you feel better. Things like taking time for yourself to go on a walk or a hike, nourish yourself with high density, healthy food. Meditate, journal, practice yoga...anything that helps you calm your nervous system and be able to let go.
Consider talking to a therapist or coach.
Therapy is one of the best ways you can journey through tough times and it's a gift you give yourself. I'm a big believer you don't have to go through hard times alone.
Having someone by your side who understands can help you not be so hard on yourself.
8. Listen to yourself on a deep level. Know that in these tough moments, that forgiving yourself is the only thing you really can control.
You may go through this process more than once. Just start. It's actually easier than you think.
9. Write yourself a letter. Let yourself know that you're not a mean, horrible person because you made a poor choice or you reacted and caused another person hurt. Talk to yourself as you would someone you dearly love. Have empathy and understanding with yourself.
10. Learn from your mistake. Examine what happened and how you might behave the next time. Embrace the learning from this experience.
There is always learning if we choose to see it.
Choose today how you will forgive yourself.
Take a baby step into this process. Share with someone you trust what you did. And then go outside, look up at the sky, and take a deep breath. You are okay just the way you are.
Fall is a time for us to slow down, to ground ourselves and to nourish our bodies. This retreat is designed to help you stop and listen to what it is you need right now. It's a fun and restorative weekend with mindfulness exercises, morning yoga, an online cooking class with the fabulous Chef Bai, healthy recipes to try at home, meditations and group calls to connect you with other women.