We’re imperfect beings. It’s hard enough to forgive someone else when they hurt you, but how are you doing with forgiving yourself?
Many of us are terrible at letting go of all our self hatred. We replay our regrets so often they become constant reminders of our perceived failures. We become our own worst enemy by dragging ourselves down in a cycle of self-criticism.
It’s defeating; it’s unhealthy; it leads to relapse.
Break the Cycle
So, how can you avoid this dangerous cycle of self recrimination? Here’s some advice to help you learn how to forgive yourself.
- Tip # 1 – Throw Away the Rule Book
Have you created a set of rules for yourself that are impossible to follow? This list might include “I need to succeed at everything I try,” “I should be perfect,” “I must be the most attractive person in the room at all times,” or “I should be more interesting.”
Toss this book. In fact, burn this book. Get rid of these unrealistic expectations. Replace those with some healthy affirmations: “It’s okay to make a mistake.” “It’s okay to be boring sometimes.” “It’s okay not to be the best at everything.” Cut yourself a little slack. We’re not talking about rationalizing bad decisions. It’s a simple acceptance that you, like everyone else, are imperfect – and that’s okay.
- Tip #2 – Think of Life as a Learning Experience
Hindsight is 20/20. Sure, you can look back now and see all of the terrible choices you made in a certain situation. But, you didn’t know then what you know now. Accept you messed up – and learn from it. Realize no one knows it all up front. We all have to learn from experience, and life is one big learning experience. An education that might be painful at times. Don’t make it more painful by expecting to have the entire lesson mastered already.
- Tip #3 – Make it Right
Is there something you can do in retribution for your mistake? Do you need to apologize to someone? Repay money? If your regrets are based on actual events rather than unrealistic expectations, consider taking action to make amends. Keep in mind, you can’t control anyone else. If you sincerely apologize, and they don’t forgive you, that’s their choice. Once you’ve done your part, you have to let it go.
- Tip #4 – Do a Flip
Try to focus on your strengths rather than your slip-ups. Find something that went right today and write it down. Give yourself credit for daily accomplishments. It doesn’t matter how small. Did you exercise today? Did you resist a trigger? Did you complete a work shift? Apply for a job? When you flip your focus to your strengths and accomplishments, you’re more likely to continue doing these positive things. Make moving forward the goal, rather than looking back at past mistakes.
Additional Reading: Amazing Grace – How Unconditional Forgiveness Assists Recovery
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