If you’re learning how to forgive yourself and you keep getting stuck, let me be the first to forgive you for your challenges with self-compassion and compassion in relationships. If loving yourself and learning how to forgive yourself was easy, more people would do it. It’s ok to have a hard time with this gracious act, and it’s ok to be on a gentle path towards healing. So how do you forgive yourself? Well, take your time, be gracious with yourself, and work your way gently through these steps. You got this!
Why is forgiveness important?
Regular practices of forgiveness make for #relationshipgoals.
Hopefully, you know the benefits of forgiveness in relationships. Setting down an argument and moving forward is key to any long-term success when you’re in a relationship with someone, and it also promotes trust and compassion. Despite appearances, learning how to forgive yourself is normally a more significant part of the struggle than we think. When we don’t forgive ourselves, we are more likely to project our discomforts and hurt feelings onto others. If you haven’t learned how to forgive yourself, odds are you may be putting your partner in uncomfortable situations, sometimes without knowing you’re even doing it.
Loving others starts with loving ourselves.
While we can try our hardest, we can only love others as much as we know how to love ourselves. And if you’re stumped on forgiving yourself, you’ll be stumped on forgiving anyone else who comes into your life. Let the buck stop with you and learn to both take accountability for your actions AND let yourself off the hook. You may have wronged, but YOU are not wrong.
Know you came by it honestly.
Who you are, is never “wrong”.
The world is simply not a forgiving place just yet. Odds are your issues with forgiveness came from somewhere. From grade school, we’re told we’re “wrong”. And while our behaviors may hurt others, who we are as people isn’t “wrong”. If you ever felt shamed, called out, disregarded, or picked on- you know this feeling. These shameful feelings create a poor self-concept and self-worth. You may feel hopeless or anxious. They can really add up to some real problems.
Break the cycle.
And you’re not alone. Child-rearing practices have changed a lot in the last decades. As a society, we’ve seen the results of our actions. If you’re learning how to forgive yourself, you’re going to be an agent of change, and it may feel like you’re the odd man out. Rest assured, there are more people every day that are beginning their journeys of healing and self-forgiveness.
Practice it in small places.
If you’re learning to play basketball, you start with dribble practice before going to slam dunks. Like any new skill, baby steps are a key to long-term success. Getting comfortable working on how to forgive yourself in small situations will make it easier to work on the bigger ones. Check out this chart with some practical places you can make some small shifts in your self-compassion game.
Small Shortcomings and Forgiving Responses
Stubbed your toe
“I forgive myself for putting myself in harm’s way. I will help myself better next time by looking where I’m going.”
I ran a red light
“I forgive myself for running the light. It’s ok to make driving errors. I’ll work on stopping faster next time.”
Late for a meeting
“I forgive myself for being late. I’m grateful I got the time I needed. Next time I’m going to try and leave earlier.”
Broke your phone
“I forgive myself for breaking my phone. Technology isn’t more important than my self-concept. I’m going to try and hold it differently next time.”
Overeating a meal
“I forgive myself for eating more than I wanted to. I’m grateful I have this opportunity now to check in with my body. Next time I’ll check in a bit sooner, so I don’t feel uncomfortable.”
Find gratitude for your mistakes.
Be grateful for the lessons.
One of the ways we can learn how to forgive ourselves efficiently is to find gratitude in our errors. When we do something we don’t like, we simply learn something we don’t want to do anymore. Learning lessons isn’t a moral process. We wouldn’t continue shaming a child if they didn’t know how to tie their shoes. We’d encourage them to continue by celebrating the learning they’ve done already. Speak to yourself as kindly as you would speak to the ones you love.
Haven’t learned it yet?
If you’re stuck on finding gratitude for what you’ve learned, that’s ok too. If learning how to do new things was easy, we’d all be geniuses. It’s hard work. Sometimes the lesson you may be learning is simply the tenacity to keep trying to figure something out next time. No one learned astrophysics in a day, and no one learned to fix all their life’s problems in one moment either. Find gratitude for your learning journey, as many stops as it takes along the way.
Make it a proactive practice.
Integrate into the lessons you learn.
When you do learn something from your journey on how to forgive yourself, use that information. Do something different next time. Forgiving yourself opens doors to new experiences and second chances. Let yourself try again and integrate the new information into your practice. Walk slower around the corner next time, buckle your seat belt before you get in the car, don’t wear white and eat buffalo wings. Whatever lesson you’re learning, changing your behaviors can only come after you’ve learned how to forgive yourself.
Affirmations help create “self.”
The best lessons take practice. And while you can practice reactively when you make small errors, you can also work on it proactively before you do. If you’re struggling with how to forgive yourself frequently, you may also be struggling with poor self-concept. To help, try some affirmations. Regularly affirming who you are is a great way to learn about yourself. Practice in the morning while you’re in the shower. “I am healthy. I am kind. I am loving. I am ready for life’s challenges.” Your affirmations can sound any way that feels good to you.
Work up to big forgiveness goals.
Sure, forgiving yourself is a skill, but is it possible to forgive yourself for bigger things? Can you learn how to forgive yourself for cheating or other large indiscretions? Yes. You can. The same principles applied to forgiving yourself for the small stuff apply here:
1) Notice you did something you don’t want to do again.
“I cheated, and I don’t want to do that again. I don’t like how this makes my partner feel.”
2) Find gratitude for the lesson that you learned.
“I’m glad I learned from this how I don’t want to act in a relationship.”
3) Make plans to do something differently next time.
“I’m going to make sure I tell my partner what’s going on next time.”
4) Forgive yourself and move on.
“I forgive myself for cheating, and I’m ready to try again.”
How do you forgive yourself when your partner doesn’t?
Learning how to forgive yourself for cheating, how to rebuild trust after cheating, or other big stuff in relationships can be extra challenging if your partner isn’t ready to forgive you. But here’s the uncomfortable truth. If you don’t learn how to forgive yourself first, your partner’s job in forgiving you will be that much more challenging. Why is forgiveness important? Because when we don’t forgive one another, we can’t grow together in new ways. You and your partner both deserve compassion. Learning how to forgive yourself is a key first step in healing these larger relationship issues.