Updated: Jun 18, 2021
Self-forgiveness is an internal shift where guilt, shame, and anger are released. Maybe you hurt someone knowingly or unknowingly, maybe you have thoughts that you are uncomfortable with, or maybe you are disappointed with certain aspects of how you have lived your life. People experience self-blame for many reasons. It can be hard to live fully when we are berating ourselves consciously or unconsciously.
The first step, in learning to forgive ourselves, is to bring these shameful, angry feelings and thoughts into consciousness. This can be done with a therapist or you can spend some time in thoughtful reflection about areas of your life that you feel self-condemning. Create a safe and compassionate space for yourself and make a list. If you do not feel comfortable writing some of these behaviors, thoughts, or events in words you can draw a picture or a symbol that represents what happened. Bringing these areas of shame into the light can be painful but helpful in the long-run.
As you create your list, I want you to maintain an attitude of love and compassion for yourself. If you find yourself having angry, self-loathing thoughts or feelings, notice them mindfully and let them go, like clouds floating by in the sky. If you can, notice where these negative feelings manifest in your body. Do you feel like there’s a heavy pit in your stomach? Does your heart feel heavy? Does your head feel light? Put your hands on your body where you feel the burden and say out loud to yourself “Even though I [whatever you are forgiving yourself about] I deeply love and forgive myself”. Repeat this several times until you feel energy moving or a sense of release.
For example, a client of mine had a lot of guilt around the death of her mother. I asked her where she felt this guilt in her body and after scanning her body with her mind she discovered that she had, what she described as, a “hard, cold, stuck feeling” in her stomach. I instructed her to put her hands over her stomach and intend to send forgiveness and love to that area while saying out loud “Even though I was not with my mother at her death I deeply love and forgive myself”. After a few minutes she began to cry and felt a huge release. She felt a lightness that she had not felt for years.
Sometimes people think that forgiving means forgetting or condoning and that if we forgive ourselves we are at risk of doing something we regret. In my experience, forgiving ourselves does the opposite. When we are able to forgive ourselves we are able to be more fully present and conscious which helps us to be in alignment with our true values.
In my experience, forgiving ourselves does the opposite. When we are able to forgive ourselves we are able to be more fully present and conscious which helps us to be in allignment with our true values.