All of us make bad decisions or choices that hurt ourselves and others at times. We are humans, flawed and imperfect. We make mistakes and cause harm to another, intentionally or unintentionally. Sometimes we fail to meet our goals or keep up healthy relationships.
However, allowing remorse to wash over you is not a productive way to cope with guilt. The beauty of being a human is in your ability to heal and forgive. And to heal, you must first make peace with your experiences and learn to forgive yourself. Learning from your mistakes and letting go of guilt is a necessary part of forgiving yourself and moving on. Here are tips that can support the process of forgiving yourself and help you start loving yourself again.
1. Acknowledge and Process Your Emotions
The process of self-forgiveness starts with a focus on your emotions. Mindfully acknowledge your feelings of guilt, sadness, shame, anger, and any other emotions that you may be experiencing without self-judgment and self-criticism. This will help you switch from blaming to understanding yourself. The feeling of guilt lets you know that your behavior contradicts your beliefs and values. Being able to forgive yourself requires understanding, empathy, and self-compassion. Understanding that self-forgiveness is a choice will help you heal and come to terms with your guilt-provoking experiences.
2. Admit the Mistake and Take Responsibility
While admitting that you have done something wrong can be hard, denial will only make things worse. Accept your mistake for what it is and understand that, as a human, you are not perfect. Acknowledging your responsibility can help you learn from mistakes and make better choices in the future.
3. Understand the Difference Between Guilt and Shame
Guilt helps you understand your mistakes and wrong choices. It helps you learn how you can improve. On the other hand, shame provokes feelings of unworthiness and inadequacy. While guilt emerges as a result of your awareness that you have done something wrong, shame involves a harmful feeling that there is something is wrong with you. Consequently, guilt motivates you to change your behavior, while shame often causes anxiety, depression, and other forms of mental illness.
4. Quiet Your Inner Critic
Sometimes we tend to be our harshest critics. Use self-love and self-kindness to silent your inner critic and let go of self-judgmental thoughts. Acknowledge that you deserve kindness and compassion as much as anyone else. Approaches like cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) can help you recognize your negative thoughts and make strategies to correct them.
5. Practice Self-Compassion
Self-compassion means giving yourself kindness and empathy you would give someone you love. Self-compassion leads to inner peace and better resilience. It inspires personal growth and helps you understand that you are a part of the shared human experience of imperfection and faultiness. By reducing your negative self-talk and ruminations, self-compassion helps alleviate anxiety. Finally, self-compassion helps you let go of feelings of guilt, sadness, anger, shame, forgive yourself, and move on.
Once you identify what you’re feeling and why you’re feeling that way without self-judgment, you will be able to admit your mistakes, learn from them and forgive yourself.