The Art of Self-forgiveness
The self-healing process often begins with self-forgiveness and will only be possible if you’re able to fill yourself up with a stronger Sense of Self. And over the years, we’ve noticed there’s definitely an art to self-forgiveness. It all starts with becoming aware of who you are and why you behave the way you do.
When you have a healthy sense of self-awareness, you reduce your risk of falling into the dreaded “Black Hole.” (This is the void that exists in the psyche of a person who hasn’t yet developed a Healthy Sense of Self . . . and therefore isn’t able to experience living as an independent, true Self.)
In this article, we provide some depth and clarity when it comes to learning how to forgive yourself for lying, cheating, stealing . . . or inadvertently making a fool of yourself.
Self-forgiveness starts by acknowledging what happened and taking responsibility for your actions.
Acknowledging your mistake and taking responsibility may be the hardest step. It seems almost instinctual to want to place blame elsewhere, but this only furthers the suffering. We’re all human, and we all make mistakes . . . the important thing is how we respond, right?
Once you take responsibility for your part in any given outcome, you have the power to do something about it.
When there’s another person involved, taking responsibility will most likely result in them wanting to resolve the matter. If you defend yourself, you’re liable to keep getting blamed and accosted for what “you did” to them.
But once you own up to your mistake and take responsibility, you can move on to the next step. This may mean taking actions to make amends or having a dialogue about how to prevent the mistake in the future. Remember your compassionate communication skills and be open to discussing the deeper issues as well.
It’s super important to get clear on what is and is not your responsibility. For instance, you’re not responsible for the emotions or reactions (or overreactions) of anyone in response to your behavior.
Feel any feelings of guilt, shame, and regret that arise.
According to Psychology Today, it is possible to eliminate shame and guilt through the practice of self-forgiveness.
The important thing to think about when it comes to self-forgiveness is the journey you go through . . . rather than the time it takes to accept your mistakes.
Here’s another spot many people get stuck. Feeling the emotions that arise can be challenging. But if you try to hold back a feeling, it gets stuck in your heart, mind, and body instead of flowing in and out like a wave . . .
Repressed emotions are more dangerous than expressing a present emotion.
The best time to experience an emotion is at the moment you start to notice it. Saving it for when it’s more convenient or you can express privately can lead to pent up emotions.
A healthy sense of self-awareness will have you live authentically, even when it gets uncomfortable.
There are many ways to tap into your emotional intelligence. Here are a few we recommend:
- breathe deeply . . . and feel the emotion (guilt, shame, sadness, etc.) in your body;
- have a good cry;
- make art (poetry, painting, music); and
- do a solo physical activity you enjoy (dance, swim, hike, walk, run).
Choose any activity that gets you 100% in touch with you, your body, your emotions, and your thoughts (and doesn’t cause any harm to you or another).
Make sure you’re choosing an activity that helps you feel the emotional experience, not drown it out. For instance, watching a sad movie to cry, or using sugar or drugs to help you “wallow” will not put you in touch with your true Self . . . those are just coping mechanisms for dealing with the pain.
Instead, choose an activity that allows your mind let go and be empty . . . giving you an opportunity to turn off your mind and feel with your heart and body.
Overcome the feelings of guilt and shame.
Now you’re ready to move through your emotions and come out on the other side. You’ll know when you get to this step because when you allow yourself to experience emotions fully, they tend to run their course and fade away.
If you’re not quite sure where you are emotionally, it’s an excellent time to practice self-care and develop strong self-awareness. When you’re ready to release and forgive yourself, it’s important to truly let go . . .
It may help you to do a visualization exercise where you imagine your guilt as a bird or a balloon flying away, high into the sky. Whatever you choose to do, be sure that you’re complete with feeling and dealing with the incident, habit, or relationship that you’re ready to forgive yourself for.
Why forgive yourself?
Your relationship with yourself is just like any other relationship. Sometimes it’s great; sometimes it’s troublesome . . . at times it’s necessary to take a hard look in the mirror, admit where you went wrong, and then confidently move forward with a little bit more wisdom.
Psychotherapist Beverly Engel says:
“Self-forgiveness opens the door to change by releasing resistance and deepening your connection to yourself.”
If you don’t practice the art of healthy self-forgiveness, you may end up generating an entire system of unhealthy psycho-emotional habits, beliefs, needs, desires, compulsions, addictions, and motives.
A few questions to ask yourself as you assess your Direct Relationship with Self are: What do I fear most? Is it Fear of Annihilation? Rejection? Failure? Anything else that’s ego based and that doesn’t make me “feel good about myself.”
When you develop your Direct Relationship with Self, you have access to your authentic feelings, beliefs, needs, desires, preferences, and motives. They can no longer hide or mislead you or anyone else . . .
It’s necessary to forgive yourself, rather than storing pent up emotions, fear, or resentment. Any time you neglect to forgive yourself or others, you’re holding on to the negativity that isn’t self-serving in a positive, healthy way.
When you love and respect yourself, you have a greater capacity to love and respect others. Treat yourself with compassion, and you’re one step closer to a natural sense of Self. To find out more about your direct relationship with yourself, take our Healthy Sense of Self Quiz today.