7 Steps to Self-Forgiveness
“If only I…” “I should have…” “It’s all my fault…”
The voices in our heads; self-recrimination, guilt, blame, shame. We’re often tougher on ourselves that we are on others. How often have you heard this phrase? It’s true!
In both my personal experience and with my clients, I’ve discovered that It’s difficult to forgive another person if you have not forgiven yourself. I believe that forgiving yourself is a necessity, not a luxury. It is shedding the old so that you can bring in the new.
Self-forgiveness is an act of self-love and compassion. It’s a gift to ourselves. Through it we become softer, more open and free. Whereas, self-blame and guilt are disempowering; they erode our confidence, sense of self and separate us from others.
I used to be a master at self-blame and recrimination – full of self-doubts and “I should haves.” It became a habit; one that started via my mother’s criticism when I was a kid and continued inside my head when I wasn’t careful.
This habit showed up particularly strong when my marriage deteriorated. Full of regret, I explored every aspect of my contribution to the breakdown of the relationship. I discovered all the ways that I came up short; may have sabotaged certain aspects of the relationship out of fear, or didn’t give enough when I could have. This in itself is a very healthy thing to do. I am a great believer in understanding your contribution in situations in order to make better choices in the future.
However, this self-recrimination latest for months even though I knew that both of us contributed to the situation. It affected my lightness, joy and mental clarity. Enough!
I wanted to heal and set free myself, so I created a self-forgiveness process that worked miracles!
Everyone makes mistakes and has regrets. If we could have done it differently, then we would have. Or if we knew better, and chose the behavior/action anyway, then it helps to dig deeper and ask “Why?” “What was driving the action (i.e. fear, lack of ability, wanting approval or love)?
We can learn from our mistakes and our remorse. They also show us issues that are still unresolved. What a glorious opportunity for healing and transformation.
It starts with forgiving oneself!
Vanessa transforms her marriage
Vanessa has been married for over 10 years. She came to me through one of my workshops having just served divorce papers. However, on the deepest level, she and her husband still loved each other.
She actually wanted to save her marriage even though she felt angry and resentful. The divorce papers were a wakeup call as they were both tired of their fighting.
In working with Vanessa, we uncovered several ways that she contributed to the issues in their relationship. She was filled with self-blame and regret for her behaviors and their effect on her husband.
I gave her practical tools for remain calm, de-escalating a situation, and for handling her triggers. I also taught her an excellent compassionate communication method. We often script conversations before she has them. Her husband now hears her and she has gained confidence in herself and her abilities. She says, “Even if he doesn’t agree with my point of view, I know that I have expressed myself eloquently and I feel really good about myself!”
As a result, she was finally able to forgive herself when she realized that she hadn’t known how to do things differently before.
Here are 7 steps for forgiving yourself, becoming free and letting yourself off the hook. These steps can apply to any relationship.
- Decide that you want to forgive yourself so that you can be free; more light, joyful and have mental clarity. Our Intentions influence our realties.
- Determine if the guilt that you feel is habitual (meaning you feel guilty about a lot of things, a lot of the time). Or, is it particular to this situation or relationship. If it’s a habit pattern, then get professional help to explore its roots and to learn different responses to situations.
Note: Guilt is different from simple negative self-criticism and remorse. It’s more deeply rooted as a pattern and carries a denser energy. It’s difficult to feel light and joyful, when burdened with guilt.
- Explore your contribution to the situation while realizing that it takes two people to create issues in a relationship.
- Make a list of everything that you would like to be forgiven for. You can do this whether you are in a current relationship or not. This list is for you, not necessarily to share with the other person, unless you want to.
- Create a self-forgiveness ritual. When I lead clients and groups through self-forgiveness rituals that tell me how free they feel afterward.
- Self-reflect. What did you discover about yourself? What tools do you need to learn so that you can do things differently in the future? Work with a professional to gain the skills.
- Contact me for a complementary 30-minute self-forgiveness strategy session.
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