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Self-Forgiveness: 5 Steps to Free Yourself from Past Mistakes

“Forgive yourself. The supreme act of forgiveness is when you can forgive yourself for all the wounds you’ve created in your own life. Forgiveness is an act of self-love. When you forgive yourself, self-acceptance begins and self-love grows.” ~ Don Miguel

Understanding what is self-forgiveness:

In this plane of human existence each one of us has made mistakes. A parable comes to mind of Jesus asking those who have not sinned to cast the first stone at the sinner, ultimately only the sinner was standing and the crowd disappeared.

What I’m getting at is, do not feel that mistakes and wrongdoings are only limited to you, some of us may have cheated, stolen, unintentionally hurt someone or done things that are worse. Self-forgiveness is by no means an excuse for what has been done, but to open up a doorway for healing once you have held yourself responsible for your mistakes.

We can’t change the past, so instead of drowning in sorrow or guilt that our behaviour has caused, it’s time to shift our perspective by forgiving ourselves and letting go of the baggage that comes with it.

“I have learned, that the person I have to ask for forgiveness from the most is: myself. You must love yourself. You have to forgive yourself, everyday, whenever you remember a shortcoming, a flaw, you have to tell yourself “That’s just fine”. You have to forgive yourself so much, until you don’t even see those things anymore. Because that’s what love is like.” ~ C. JoyBell C.

Why is self-forgiveness important

Self-forgiveness is the way we can move out of the clasp that guilt has over you because of the past. As Alfred Korzybski said, “God may forgive your sins, but your nervous system won’t.”

Dr. Fred Luskin, the Forgiveness Project at Stanford University, in his book, Forgive for Good: A Proven Prescription for Health and Happiness, being unforgiving increases our stress levels and takes a toll on our well-being.

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) and depression can be caused by guilt, where you have recurring thoughts and actions that are uncontrollable. Replaying past mistakes actually enforces this behaviour and are detrimental to our wellbeing. Instead, we need to learn skills such as positive reinforcement and thinking to get past the guilt.

Those who have shame buried deep within them usually feel that they’re not good enough and this leads us to either become more competitive or completely isolated. One also tends to assign themselves negative labels and thinks of others as more dynamic, outgoing and likeable.

According to research those who forgive themselves have a more positive outlook on life and healthier relationships. While self-compassion brings about higher success levels and productivity.

“Forgive yourself for not knowing better at the time. Forgive yourself for giving away your power. Forgive yourself for past behaviors. Forgive yourself for the survival patterns and traits you picked up while enduring trauma. Forgive yourself for being who you needed to be.” ~ Audrey Kitching

Here are 4 steps one can take to get on the path to self-forgiveness

1. Acknowledging your mistakes

“The most important thing in self-help is self-forgiveness: it’s when we relax into the vulnerability of our humanity and find compassion for our own internal struggles.” ~ Debbie Ford

Self-forgiveness cannot begin until the realization occurs that a mistake has been made. If one does not acknowledge that a mistake has been committed the process of healing cannot begin, the mistake may also recur when one shifts the blame onto others and does not take onus for their own wrong doing.

Every one makes mistakes, as a matter of fact making mistakes is a way that each of us grow, gain new perspective and skills to better ourselves. When one acknowledges that they have made a mistake, the next step would be best to apologize to the person who has been hurt by that mistake.

The consequences of the mistake has to accepted and faced. One has to understand what was the driving force behind that mistake.

“Turning our attention to the part of the self which chose to act in the way that led to the present situation, we ask ourselves, “When I behaved in the way which I now regret, what need of mine was I trying to meet?” I believe that human beings are always acting in the service of needs and values. This is true whether the action does or does not meet the need, or whether it’s one we end up celebrating or regretting.” ~ Marshall B. Rosenberg

Acknowledging your mistake nips the problem in the bud, it stops issues from getting bigger. When one apologises it helps mend relationships and brings people closer together.

Not only does one learn from mistakes it helps people grow into better and more pleasant human beings. Once this step is complete we can move onto a ritual of your choice to assist with the process of self-forgiveness.

self-forgiveness

2. Letting go rituals to aid self-forgiveness

“Take a walk through the garden of forgiveness and pick a flower of forgiveness for everything you have ever done. When you get to that time that is now, make a full and total forgiveness of your entire life and smile at the bouquet in your hands because it truly is beautiful.” ~ Stephen Richards

Sometimes the simplest acts can help us let go of our guilt or shame that has been a burden we have been carrying through life. It’s now time to let go of the baggage, to stop the guilt and shame from beating yourself up. Here are a few of the letting go rituals that you can use to help forgive yourself.

  • Burning to let go

Take some pieces of paper and write down everything you want to get to let go off. Place these papers in a bowl and burn them. As they burn visualize that you are losing these patterns or habits / parts / memories of yourself and once burnt you can put these ashes to fertilize a plant to symbolize the feeding of your own growth.

  • Blowing to let go

Depending on where you are and the season you’re bound to find some cotton silk pods on trees or dandelions growing. Make the process of finding these itself an act where walking becomes the path of introspective realization. When you have gathered enough dandelions and have found all emotions, guilt and shame you need to realize. Pull out a dandelion and blow watching the breeze carry your troubles away.

  • Breathing to let go

This method isn’t dependent on anything apart from you which makes it easily accessible. Start with slow long breaths just to centre yourself, then with each slow long breath in let your mind ponder on everything that has been holding you down.

With each long breath out visualize letting go of it, as the air comes out of your body the negative is being released. The process of conscious breathing itself is so relaxing and calming and using it to help affirm the process makes it a powerful tool in the kitty.

  • Bathing to let go

When you take a shower or even a bucket bath, each mug you pour on yourself or when the water flows from your head to toe remember that water is cleansing. Visualize it washing away everything that needs to be let go of, baths are refreshing and the ones where you totally give in to the purity of water, are just magical.

To be honest, you can come up with your own ritual that will fit in with your lifestyle. You can consciously hold the intent which you desire to achieve, and let the healing begin. Good luck!

4. Practicing self-love

“Turn down the volume of your negative inner voice and create a nurturing inner voice to take it’s place. When you make a mistake, forgive yourself, learn from it, and move on instead of obsessing about it. Equally important, don’t allow anyone else to dwell on your mistakes or shortcomings or to expect perfection from you.” ~ Beverly Engel

Perhaps the most important step in the part of self-forgiveness is self-love, without loving oneself it will be impossible to forgive oneself and let go of the shame completely.

It’s not that self-love is difficult, its just that most of us don’t end up making the time to love ourselves. No matter how compassionate and kind we are to others, we need to take the time to refill our cup.

There are many ways to practice self-love, but nothing works better that doing what you enjoy consciously – gardening, dancing, meditation, exercise and so on, it’s up to you how you show yourself love.

5. A guided meditation for self-forgiveness

This guided meditation will help bring self-forgiveness for past mistakes. Many people feel regret and guilt for events from their past. Their lives can be weighed down or even dictated by it. Now is the time to let go and be free of these burdens.

“To forgive is to set a prisoner free and realize that prisoner was you.” ~ Lewis B. Smedes

Resources:

Signs of Guilt
The Benefits of Self-forgiveness
Fred Luskin Explains How to Forgive

Image Sources:

Forgiveness by Mario Sánchez Nevado
Photo by leo abdelnaby

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