What Does Self-Forgiveness Actually Look Like?

Knowing how to forgive yourself can be one of the greatest gifts you offer yourself in this lifetime. However, it’s much easier said than done, especially if you struggle with your self-esteem or feel toxic shame over your past mistakes.

The good news is that you can learn to strengthen your self-forgiveness skills. The more you commit to practicing kindness and acceptance, the easier the process feels.

Defining and Understanding Self-Forgiveness

Self-forgiveness refers to the process of releasing negative emotions and untangling yourself from the shame and guilt of the past. Self-forgiveness is a conscious act of self-compassion. When you can forgive yourself, you

Step-By-Step Process Toward Genuine Self-Forgiveness

Feeling stuck in self-condemnation can erode your self-esteem and emotional well-being. Here is how you can learn to reconcile your feelings of guilt and start to truly forgive yourself.

Accept Responsibility for Your Part

You can’t achieve true self-forgiveness without fully identifying the mistake or issue. This means confronting the past, even if you’re used to denying or downplaying the truth.

Self-forgiveness does not mean sugarcoating the problem or simply erasing it from your existence. It also doesn’t mean blaming other internal or external circumstances. Acceptance can only be achieved when you truly own your part. This may be uncomfortable and initially trigger more guilt and shame. However, it’s so important to be honest with yourself, especially if you want to change certain behaviors moving forward.

Make Amends

After accepting responsibility, it’s important to consider making amends to anyone you hurt. Not all mistakes can be repaired, but many can. Express remorse, apologize genuinely, acknowledge how you wish you would have responded, and try to rectify the situation as much as possible.

The most important part of this step is avoiding defensiveness. Taking responsibility requires truly owning your behavior and recognizing your wrongdoing.

Remember that the other party involved may or may not forgive you. You can’t control their emotions or actions. However, you can still focus on doing your part to hold yourself accountable.

Practice Self-Compassion

If you’re struggling to forgive yourself, it may be helpful to imagine how you might treat a loved one in a similar situation. There’s a good chance that you might be more patient and understanding toward someone else.

The key to self-compassion is remembering that you are only human. You will make mistakes, and those mistakes can be painful. Self-kindness comes from acknowledging your imperfections and remembering that everyone wishes they could undo parts of their past.

Practicing self-compassion also means practicing self-care.

Aim to Challenge Negative Self-Talk

The past is the past. It’s important to reflect on what you’d like to do differently moving forward, but you can’t undo what already happened. At this point, negative thoughts may only serve to act as a form of deep self-punishment.

Try to note when you are being especially harsh on yourself. Does that come up when you’re comparing yourself to others? Do you find that you feel guilty when others talk or even joke about your mistake?

The first step is recognizing the negative thoughts when they arise. Some people focus on talking back to that voice in a more rational, calm manner. Others benefit from sharing their thoughts with their support system. In all cases, it is beneficial to remember that your thoughts do not inherently indicate your worth.

Focus On Making Positive Changes

Guilt can be an adaptive and powerful emotion because it means that you have a moral compass. You felt like you acted ‘wrong’ instead of ‘right.’ Knowing what makes you feel guilty can help you live a life that’s more congruent with your values and ethics.

But regardless of how you feel about your former self, you can change how you respond to certain issues in the future. People heal, change, and make remarkable transformations. It starts by identifying what needs to be improved.

You’re not a bad person because you made a mistake. However, if you want to focus on being a better person, start by identifying what you want to do differently. Maybe this means changing specific behavioral patterns or reacting to particular stressors in a new way.

How Therapy Can Help You Forgive Yourself

The sad reality is that many people spend their whole lives stuck in negative feelings about themselves. If you keep feeling guilty about past mistakes or if trauma is impacting your healing process, therapy can help.

Together, we can collaborate to help you develop self-compassion and forgiveness. It’s important to identify what might be maintaining guilty feelings or self-criticism. It’s also important to try to challenge your inner critic and learn how to embrace your imperfect self.

Guilt is a normal emotion, but if it’s ruling your life, you may not know how to move forward. I am here to support you in your growth process.

No matter where you are in accepting yourself, I welcome you to contact me today to learn more about how therapy can help you.

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Austin, TX 78759

(512) 988-3363

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