How to forgive yourself is a question we all find ourselves asking at some point in our life. I pray nothing of the sort happens to you but life is such. It is a relentless, unforgiving opponent that is ever looking for an opportunity to knock you down.
But life is a journey and not a sprint. The problems that we face are not here to stay. They too shall pass.
You cannot afford to carry the weight of all incidents and mistakes in your life.
Should you feel indifferent for what has happened? – NO, but you should not cry on it for long as well. The path to forgiveness is a difficult one but it is one we must take.
It is much more important to forgive yourself than it is to forgive others. If you keep burning yourself in the fire of guilt or shame, it would make you incapable of loving or forgiving others.
It is absolutely necessary that you keep yourself aware of the burden you carry on your shoulders otherwise it is very easy to slip into the zone where you become numb and indifferent to anything around you.
I am writing this from my personal experience. There was this incident in my life, not too far in the past which just paralyzed me mentally and to an extent physically.
Even though I was in no way involved or responsible for what had happened but just because I was close to a person, I had to go through the ordeal.
The effect of it was so strong that as soon as I would close my eyes, my mind would be flooded with the flashes of the incident.
I shivered whenever I recalled the pain, the agony, the hardships that it brought to me, my family and friends.
I tried to play mature and suppress my feelings. I had to act normal so that my friends and family could feel good about me. I learned to smile but it wasn’t enough.
I would like to share with you some of the ways which helped me come out of it and get back on my feet.
Identify the cause of your suffering
Understand the emotions that trigger the suffering.
The feelings can be broadly categorized into two types:
a. It could be because of an incident for which you have labeled yourself as a failure. It could be losing a job, broken relationship, financial debt, etc.
It basically means that some action or inaction over a period of time leads to a catastrophic change in your life.
b. Secondly, your action leads to an immediate outcome.
It could be an accident, financial loss to someone, troubles, and hardships caused to your loved ones.
It is very difficult to get past the pain and guilt but you must not give up. You should not be afraid to start afresh. You must do it not just for yourself but for your friends and family who still believes in you. You must honor their belief and love and fight against all odds to stand up.
It will not be easy but once you decide to show up in the arena, you will be blessed with the courage and strength that you need.
Incidents do not make or break you
Incidents contrary to the belief cannot make or break you.
As quoted by the article from Wikihow, failures do not make you a bad person. Bill Gates had said that “It is fine to celebrate success, but it is more important to heed the lessons of the past.”
There is no such thing as a failure but only feedback. The ability to learn from our mistakes is what makes us human. The meaning you derive out of the incident is more important than the incident itself.
History is full of people who refused to break when the adversity crashed upon them. Remember that you too carry the same strength.
If you have not yet read Viktor Frankl’s book, Man’s search for meaning, then do make a note to read the same. This book is about his time as a prisoner in Nazi’s concentration camp. In this book, he shares how a change in the meaning of the incident can change the effect of the same.
Faith: The light in the dark tunnel
I do not like to talk much about faith but I would make an exception for this topic.
The human spirit is very powerful and the power manifolds when you carry faith in your heart.
Faith connects you to a higher dimension.
You must have seen it in movies how doctors use defibrillator paddles (the machine in operation theatre to kickstart the heart in case it stops). We sometimes end up in situations where we need the extra surge of energy to bring us out of the pit.
Faith pumps in the energy that you need to get back on your feet.
You glow in the light that shines upon you and it is then you realize the power of your spirit.
Do not dwell in the past
Letting go of the past is the most important answer to how to forgive yourself.
If you keep recalling the past, you keep feeding energy to the memory until it grows so strong that it consumes you.
There is a small story in regards to this point and I would like to share it with you.
There was a professor at an English university who was known for his wits and wisdom. On one particular morning, he started his lecture with a funny incident that happened with him the day before. When he finished the story, the entire class burst into laughter.
He then repeated the incident, and again the students laughed. He repeated the story the third time. This time few students laughed. He now went ahead and repeated the story the fourth time. This time the class was silent. The professor started for the fifth time, then stopped.
He asked his students if they don’t like the joke anymore.
One of the students chuckled that a normal person cannot laugh at the same joke more than once.
The professor replied that this was the same point he was trying to make. If you cannot laugh at the same joke more than once then why cry and fret over the same issue again and again.
Do not dwell in the past. Be sensitive to the mistakes of the past and let the past guide you towards a better future.
To Err is human
Understand the fact that everyone makes mistakes. We are not perfect and are at times influenced by our circumstances and emotions.
If you wish to learn how to forgive yourself then you must accept your mistakes and derive your learning from the same.
I read in Valkyries by Paulo Coelho that if you have wronged a soul, take immediate action to correct the same. But if in the case for some reason, you are not able to reach out to them then make an effort to help other people in the same situation.
It is important that you come out of your guilt and clean your conscience.
Misery loves company
This article on Prevention highlights a very important point and that is misery loves company.
If we keep suffering from the guilt of the past, then we cause suffering to the people who are close to us.
If you are not conscious of your emotions, then you may end up wearing your guilt as a form of penance. Always remember, that your intention will not change anything but your action will.
So the straight answer to how to forgive yourself is to take action, so that you do not cause suffering to the people who are close to you.
Forgiveness is a process
Forgiveness is a process and just like any other process, it takes its own time. You cannot shut it down or delete the feelings like the apps in your mobile.
There is a very interesting point that is mentioned in this article on MindBodyGreen.
According to this article, we feel the guilt only when we act differently to the morals and values which we hold dear.
That is why some of us feel bad when we see a homeless guy on the street while some of us can walk right past him without noticing he existed.
Contemplate on your values. Stick to them. When you start acting in accordance to what you hold important, you begin to heal.
You cannot change the past but you sure can take control of your future.
How to forgive yourself: Practice Mindfulness and Meditation
Mindfulness helps you stay in the moment and prevents you from living in your head. You start to focus more on the present than being plagued by horrors of the past or anxiety about the future.
Meditation helps you take control of your thoughts and emotions. You become much more self-aware. When you reduce the inner noise, you can hear your inner voice. This voice will be your guide. You will discover better ways to how to forgive yourself.
More than anything else, practicing mindfulness and meditation will let your subconscious know that you have decided to move on. This act of self-love and self-care is in itself a big healing factor.
Read more about subconscious mind training
Always remember that you are much more than your mistakes. Do not judge or label yourself for the mistakes. Allow yourself to grow and give yourself another chance.
Hope you liked this article on how to forgive yourself. Do let me know what steps you took to let go of the past.