“Love yourself-accept yourself-forgive yourself-and be good to yourself, because without you the rest of us are without a source of many wonderful things.” ~ Leo Buscaglia
“The real difficulty is to overcome how you think about yourself. If we don’t have that we never grow, we never learn, and sure as heck we should never teach.” ~ Maya Angelou
“Forgiveness is really a gift to yourself – have the compassion to forgive others, and the courage to forgive yourself.” ~ Mary Anne Radmacher
“Forgive yourself first. Let go of past hurts and direct your spirit to goodness and hope by having gratitude.” ~ Janet Taylor Spence
“She was doing the best she could at the time.” “His drinking took over and he made some bad decisions.” We find ways to forgive others when they’ve harmed us. We want to extend the olive branch and repair the relationship.
Unless it’s us that needs the forgiveness. For some reason, we tend to torture ourselves with regret and shame, holding ourselves accountable over and over, instead of giving ourselves the benefit of the doubt.
So why do we tend to wallow in shame and guilt instead of forgiving ourselves and moving on? Psychologist Fred Luskin, PhD, director of the Stanford University Forgiveness Project, says this strange penance is one of the biggest obstacles to self-forgiveness. We get stuck in a pattern of beating up on ourselves as a form of penance for the hurt we caused. Unfortunately, this only causes more hurt.
“If you keep beating yourself up, then the person who tries to love you is going to get beat up, too,” Luskin explains. This self-criticism turns outward and affects everyone in your life.
So, how do you break this cycle? How do you stop the hurt, clean up the mess, and move forward? Use this G.R.A.C.E. method to discover self-forgiveness.
Get Out of Your Head
“You can sit there forever, lamenting about how bad you’ve been, feeling guilty until you die, and not one tiny slice of that guilt will do anything to change a single thing in the past. Forgive yourself, then MOVE ON!” ~ Wayne Dyer
“Articulate the specific wrong you committed and the harm it caused,” says Luskin. “Tell a couple of trusted people about what you did to get support, care, and advice.” Telling your story out loud helps derail the mental loop you play in your head. “We commonly think we’re alone and unique in our suffering, but this only makes healing more difficult,” he adds. By sharing with a trusted friend you face what you did, admit your mistake, and get support to begin the healing process.
Remain in the Now
“There is a fine balance between honoring the past and losing yourself in it. For example, you can acknowledge and learn from mistakes you made, and then move on and refocus on the now. It is called forgiving yourself.” ~ Eckhart Tolle
As you ruminate over and over about your past actions you drag past hurts into your present. You cause yourself to feel bad, your blood pressure to go up, and your stress level to spike over something that happened in the past.
Stop these thoughts by focusing on the now. Bring yourself back to the present moment and notice your surroundings. Feel your feet on the floor. Get physically and mentally in this moment and let the ruminating go.
“A stiff apology is a second insult…. The injured party does not want to be compensated because he has been wronged; he wants to be healed because he has been hurt.”~ G. K. Chesterton
When you torture yourself as a form of penance no one wins. You get emotionally stuck, the person you wronged isn’t addressed, and the pain keeps getting resurrected and spread to others in your life.
Get clear by discussing your actions with a supportive person. Take responsibility for the hurt you caused and apologize. Don’t try to explain or rationalize; just express remorse for all of your actions that created pain for the other person, and make amends.
“Forgiveness does not change the past, but it does enlarge the future.”~ Paul Boese
These patterns of self-flagellation run deep, and you will have to practice how to handle things differently over and over to create new ways of thinking. Dr. Luskin created a mindful practice to help shift you into a calm space so you can move forward.
His technique is called PERT, which is Positive Emotion Refocusing Technique. Simply close your eyes, draw in a long breath that gently pushes out your belly, and then slowly exhale, relaxing your belly. Repeat this a second time. On the third breath create a mental picture of someone you love or a place that is special to you: a lovely waterfall, a winding forest path, or a sunny beach.
Notice how you feel and center those warm feelings in the area around your heart. Now ask this peaceful part of you what you can do to help you feel better, and when you receive an answer, open your eyes and take action.
“I don’t know if I continue, even today, always liking myself. But what I learned to do many years ago was to forgive myself. It is very important for every human being to forgive herself or himself because if you live, you will make mistakes- it is inevitable. But once you do and you see the mistake, then you forgive yourself and say, ‘Well, if I’d known better I’d have done better,’ that’s all.” ~ Maya Angelou
Have you been so preoccupied with making yourself wrong for all the awful things you’ve done in life that you’ve dismissed all the good things you do? My guess is you are not a terrible person who enjoys hurting others. Yes, you’ve made mistakes. OK, you’re human. But you’ve also taken in a stray cat, helped out a friend who was sick, and visited your old neighbor in the nursing home.
Establish a mental balance; don’t make yourself a total villain and don’t make yourself a total superstar. Find a middle way and see yourself as someone who does the best you can at the time and strives to do better in the future.
This process works if you work it. Too often we run things around in our minds, creating mental ruts that keep us stuck and in pain. Stop the madness and clean up some of those old regrets. Let yourself and others off the hook by facing your mistakes, making a sincere apology, and creating some new mental patterns.