How to truly forgive yourself (2023)

We've all been through that. You forgot to send a wedding gift, revealed a secret you weren't allowed to share, or maybe even did something to intentionally hurt someone else. And now you feel like a total idiot. You have a lump in your stomach and can't stop repeating the situation in your head. Deep down you know you're better, but right now it feels like you're the worst person in the world. And you have no idea when -- or even if -- you'll ever be able to forgive yourself.

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However, stewing in regret is not a productive way to deal with it. As difficult as it may seem, letting go of guilt and shame is a necessary part of moving on from a mistake or embarrassment. While we can't change how someone else reacts to a situation, we can always change our own attitude. Here it is to finally forgive yourself — or at least try to.

Remember that it's okay to feel guilty.

"Every emotion we have serves a purpose," says Jenny Scott, LCSW. “Happiness tells us that something is going right and encourages us to connect with others. Sadness tells us that we have lost something. It's the same with guilt.”

Mistakes help us grow into better people.

When we learn to experience guilt in order to obtain information, we are already healing from our mistake. "The feeling of guilt lets us know that our actions or behavior are contrary to our values ​​and beliefs," says Scott. "It also helps us repair the damage that might be left behind as a result of our misconduct or accident."

But understand the difference between guilt and shame.

“Guilt serves a purpose. Don't be ashamed," says Scott. With guilt, you tend to understand exactly what you did wrong, why you made the mistake, and how to fix the situation. There's nothing left to do. Shame is a little trickier. Shame can make you feel like you're under a pile you can't climb out of, which isn't a helpful method of healing, she says.

(Video) How Self-Forgiveness Saved My Life | Josh Galarza | TEDxNewburgh

Admit you screwed up.

Everyone struggles to admit they've done something bad, but denial gets people into even more trouble. There are only a limited number of times you can blame the train delay or forget your mother-in-law's birthday because you were "so busy".

Own your mistakes.

"We often use denial as a way to protect ourselves from the negative emotions of shame and guilt," says Scott. "And while it's more convenient to think we haven't done anything wrong, it never helps the situation. Ignoring a problem doesn't make it go away.” At some point (soon) you will have to claim your flaws for what they are: not your proudest moments, but part of your evolution into becoming a better person.

Apologize to anyone you may have hurt.

Of course, your first impulse will likely be to repair relationships or trusts that have been broken. The only way to do this properly is to fully accept your guilt and admit mistakes.

"We sincerely apologize and do our best to correct any outstanding errors," says Dr. Ellen Hendriksen, clinical psychologist and author ofHow to be yourself: calm your inner critic and rise above social anxiety. Be sure to listen and be open to how this person is reacting, and don't immediately pressure them or demand their forgiveness. Or at all.

"You can't control when or if someone else forgives you," says Scott. "But if you've done what you can to make amends, then you can move on." Give that person space when they ask.

Make room for those you've wronged.

(Video) How to Forgive Yourself of the Past | Eckhart Tolle Teachings

Imagine what forgiveness would feel like.

Hendriksen offers an exercise in managing this complex emotion. “One thing we can do is imagine a scene where we are forgiven. how does your body feel What emotions come up? What action would you take? A vivid idea of ​​what forgiveness would feel like, both internally and externally, can help true self-forgiveness bear fruit.”

Write yourself an apology.

Describe how you have shown remorse to others and how you intend to make amends. Ask yourself what you will do differently next time, and then, if you wish, read aloud what you have written.

Know that this mistake does not define you.

Feel comfortable saying you've let yourself down, but find strength in knowing that this one mistake doesn't define you. Above all, remember to be kind. "Instead of brooding or feeling guilty, practice self-compassion, which means self-soothing and coaching like you would a good friend," says Hendriksen. Finally, according to Hendriksen, "You cannot heal in a punitive environment."

Learn from your mistake.

What's the point of feeling guilty if it doesn't change how you will react in the future? "When you think you're ready, ask yourself, 'Why did your action feel good in that moment?'" says Dr. Scott. "All of these questions have a lesson and can be an educational moment."

Take care, mentallyAndphysically.

Because guilt is such a profound emotion, it can manifest in all sorts of painful ways. "Emotionally you can feel tight and have this urge to do things better even if you already have," warns Scott. "Having guilt and shame with us for too long can create distance in our relationships. Worn even longer, it can alter our perception of ourselves and significantly affect our confidence and sanity.” That's why it's important to apologize and forgive as soon as possible, and if you're having serious trouble moving forward, seek the help of a therapist.

(Video) How To Forgive Yourself

Physical guilt manifests itself in a similar way to anxiety, says Scott. Muscle tension, headaches, gastrointestinal issues, lack of focus and concentration are all symptoms. That's why it's important to move your body, breathe mindfully, and eat healthily, even though you may feel the urge to punish yourself.

Be patient.

This might be the hardest part. When we feel ashamed and guilty about our actions, we often want things to go back to normal (especially if we've hurt people). But you can't rush your own feelings, nor can you get someone else to deal with their emotions faster.

You can't rush your feelings. Or someone else.

"We're social animals — we need the company of others for belonging, community and just plain old love," says Hendriksen. “When we transgress, we acknowledge our mistake by feeling guilty. It's a way to show empathy, regret and understanding and ensure we are reintegrated into the group. But sometimes we overdo it and fight to a point out of proportion to our transgression.”

Instead of thinking about your mistake, try to accept that there is nothing else you can do to solve the problem and press pause on your concern. Of course, your feelings will still be there tomorrow, but at least they didn't ruin your whole day.

Don't try to change other people.

Even if you've apologized to the people you've hurt and started to forgive yourself, chances are you still feel ashamed of our actions — if only because you're still worried about what other people feel for you. But other people's opinions can only carry so much weight, and their opinions are rarely part of the solution.

Practice what you preach.

"Social media spreads this idea that we expect perfection and everything else should be shamed," says Scott. "Seeing that on a daily basis only reinforces the idea that we'd better not make a mistake, otherwise that could be us." But the truth is everyone makes mistakes — whether it's accidents or poor judgment. Learning to process guilt and avoid feelings of shame will keep us from reacting in ways we may regret or worse, continue to feel bad about something we cannot change.

(Video) Learn to Forgive Yourself

Pro tip: Practice doing this for others before you have a reason to do it for yourself. Do not shame those who have wronged you and, when warranted, truly grant them forgiveness when they ask for it.


What are the 4 R's of self-forgiveness? ›

Responsibility: Accept what has happened and show yourself compassion. Remorse: Use guilt and remorse as a gateway to positive behaviour change. Restoration: Make amends with whomever you're forgiving, even if it's yourself. Renewal: Learn from the experience and grow as a person.

How do I let go of guilt and forgive myself? ›

How to Forgive Yourself and Let go of Regrets
  1. Acceptance. Acknowledge that you are a human, and know that every human makes mistakes. ...
  2. Learn from mistakes. Try to learn from your mistakes. ...
  3. Take risks. Be willing to take risks. ...
  4. Visualize the future. Picture yourself free from guilt, regret, and self-condemnation.

How do I forgive myself for not being perfect? ›

State your self-forgiveness by simply saying, “I forgive myself.” You could also say, “I forgive myself for my errors, and allow myself to move forward today,” or “The past is done; I cannot change it. Still, I can be a steward of my life today.”

Why self-forgiveness is so hard? ›

The major pitfall of self-forgiveness is that it can sometimes reduce empathy for those who have been hurt by your actions. Although self-forgiveness often relieves feelings of guilt, there are times this inward focus may make it more difficult to identify with others.

Why can't I forgive myself for past mistakes? ›

Self-forgiveness can be hard because the feeling of having done something "wrong" registers in one's nervous system. Seeing oneself as flawed can feel vulnerable and even scary, making it hard for one to take ownership of a mistake. Lack of self-love can get in the way of self-forgiveness.


1. Dealing with Shame & Guilt || How To Forgive Yourself
(Dr. Michelle Daf)
(Lisa A. Romano Breakthrough Life Coach Inc.)
3. How To FORGIVE Yourself For Past Mistakes
(Improvement Pill)
4. Jordan Peterson -The Art of Forgiving Yourself
(Better Mindset)
(Motivational vibes)
6. How To Forgive Yourself For Hurting Someone You Love
(Ultimate Life Formula)


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