Forgiving someone can be hard to do sometimes. Especially if you've felt they've sincerely betrayed your trust in them, when they ask you for forgiveness, it's not always the easiest thing to do, and it's actually in our human nature why. Psychologically, we've evolved to try and avoid being exploited by those around us. Forgiveness is a concept that turns that on its head, instead choosing to let someone exploiting us get away without any repercussions. I won't lie, I struggle with this myself sometimes, and not just with forgiving others. Forgiving yourself is just as hard of a task as forgiving someone else, if not more so when it's something you did to harm someone else or yourself. You've recognized a fault and that's the first step, but the next is being willing to forgive yourself. If you've ever been like me and had difficulty doing so, I want to reassure you it's normal to feel that way, and that you can learn how to make forgiving yourself easier. In this article by Patia Braithwaite, she covers some important things to keep in mind when trying to forgive yourself that I thought would be really helpful to share.
The first thing that Patia recommends is "approaching yourself like you would a best friend," and I think this is a really good reminder to share. We are our own best friend because we are inseparable; learning to approach yourself like you would your other best friends will help you be more compassionate towards yourself. If a friend of yours has ever talked down about themselves, you don't want them to feel that way, right? You want to remind them to be kind to themselves and show themselves compassion, and with forgiving yourself, you want to do exactly the same. Be compassionate to yourself and address yourself as if you are talking to your best friend, reassuring them that things will be okay and that things happen sometimes.
Another recommendation Patia shares is writing down what happened; more specifically, all the facts of the situation. When something happens that we felt we did wrong, we can easily become overwhelmed thinking about all the emotions of the situation, which will prevent us from looking at the situation in an objective light. Writing down what happened will allow you to acknowledge what objectively happened and understand what impact it had on yourself or others who were affected, helping you begin to forgive yourself from a fact-based start instead of an emotional one.
The next reminder I thought was really important is encouraging readers to try to make amends with themselves. Amends are not meant to be punishments but instead the next step to forgiveness. A perfect example of this might be cleaning and putting away dirty dishes that you have. It's easy to get angry at yourself for not doing the chore you said you'd do, but instead of punishing yourself for not completing it, take the time to think of a more realistic way to achieve your goal of finishing the chore. The goal of making amends is taking accountibility for your actions and showing commitment to doing it differently in the future. If you commit to doing the dishes immediately after you eat instead of saving them for later in the night, and follow through with your commitment, you're making amends with yourself to do better in the future.
From there, Patia shares that forgiveness is a process, and reminds us that it requires more than simply saying the phrase "I forgive you/myself." It takes time, effort and patience to truly forgive yourself for something you feel guilty for, and we all know that because we've all held grudges before! This process is best accompanied by talking to someone you truly trust, such as a trusted friend, family member or therapist. Being able to have a conversation with someone about what you've been feeling guilty of will give you an outlet to breath and talk about what's been affecting you. If you're looking for a therapist, I recommend checking out AirapyConcierge, which is designed to help you connect with therapists virtually and, once the social distancing restrictions are removed, in-person too.
By the end of this article, I hope that you can walk away with a better understanding of what the self-forgiveness process can look like. No one can tell you how to forgive yourself because that process is something that's special between only you and yourself. Rather, I hope that the four points above that I shared from Braithwaite's article help inspire you to treat yourself with more kindness when you find you need to forgive yourself. We're all human, and we all makes mistakes, so it's necessary for us to be willing and able to forgive ourself for our missteps. Learn from them and plan to do better, and you'll be on your way to truly forgiving yourself.