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Last Updated on February 1, 2019

How to Forgive Yourself and Move Forward for a Happier Life

How to Forgive Yourself and Move Forward for a Happier Life

When we talk about forgiveness, it’s often in regard to others — forgiving your elementary school bully or the coworker who took credit for your work idea. Unfortunately, we often forget about one very important person who is also worthy of forgiveness: ourselves.

Forgiveness is difficult in its own right. However, when we have to face the reality of forgiving ourselves, it can quickly become a (seemingly) impossible feat. With that being said, learning to forgive yourself and move forward from trauma, regret, or remorse can help contribute to a healthier, happier life.

So how to forgive yourself? Here are some helpful reminders and thoughts to use on your journey towards inner peace and happiness:

Fighting Through Obstacles (Even When It Seems Impossible)

Moving on from a debilitating life event such as a car accident or escaping a toxic relationship is not only physically draining, but mentally as well. It’s also fair to say that we feel these effects long after said trauma or event is over, making it even more difficult to move forward. Moreover, it’s important to recognize that sometimes there are other barriers to treatment, besides ourselves.

As Duquesne Nursing points out, many patients who are seeking mental health treatment end up facing a variety of obstacles when trying to receive proper treatment.[1] Some of these include:

  • Too costly or no health insurance coverage
  • Lack of awareness of the severity of the disorder
  • Feeling hopeless about treatment prospects
  • Concerns about confidentiality
  • Social stigma

It’s also worth noting that these factors can be especially difficult or prevalent if you happen to live in a rural community due to the lack of available resources and medical professionals in smaller populated areas. However, with that being said, it’s important to recognize that there are still mental health options you can (and should) utilize — despite these barriers.[2]

Forgiveness is a battle that doesn’t have to be taken on alone, no matter where you live. Moreover, many people find healing through numerous methods such as reading, talking, or writing. Ultimately, your path towards a happier life can be paved with whatever works best for you.

If you do happen to find yourself in a position that prevents you from visiting a mental health professional, consider these options in the meantime:

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Group Therapy

While group therapy is not as anonymous as a private session, checking your local community center for support groups can at the very least provide you with a connection to others dealing with similar difficulties as you. You also might find that you flourish in a group setting.

Local University Hospitals

As Dr. Fran Walfish, a psychotherapist, tells NBC News,[3]

“Most qualified training hospitals have a department of psychiatry and outpatient psychology program that offers low-fee sliding scale psychotherapy.”

It’s worth visiting one nearby, if anything to see exactly what they can offer you and if it’s right for you.

Develop Self-Care Strategies

Forgiveness itself is self-care, but it’s also an ongoing battle. Developing useful strategies to recenter your mind, body, and spirit can help you get through some of those tough moments. Whether it’s learning how to meditate, working to be more mindful, or developing a relaxing nighttime routine, these practices can help ease your pain and help you refocus after an especially rough day.

Forgiveness and the subsequent journey towards happiness is definitely an emotional roller coaster. Professional help should always be your first priority, but again, it isn’t necessarily available. While it can make you feel hopeless at times, know that there are always alternatives that can help you, no matter what curve balls get thrown your way.

The Pressures (And Regrets) Within the Workplace

Once you are able to find help on your forgiveness journey, the next challenge will be working towards applying what you’ve learned about yourself, your pain, and how you’re going to grow from it. Work can be one of the more triggering factors in your life. A lot of regret or trauma often stems from a toxic work environment, perhaps a failed project, or the general feeling of making the wrong decision at the last second.

Furthermore, regret and remorse can happen within any career, at any level. From office jobs to those in the medical field, learning how to forgive yourself has a unique set of challenges — it’s different for everyone.

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Our forgiveness (or lack thereof) can be the result of various incidents, meaning it’s difficult to explain your feelings, anxieties, and pain with others. For doctors, it might be the struggle to reconcile with a “never event”, or an error made during surgery.[4] For veterans, it can be the trauma of losing fellow soldiers and friends while on active duty. For those in offices, it could be dealing with the fallout (gossip, isolation, bullying) after filing a sexual harassment case. The list goes on…

There is also the very likely circumstance that you just no longer enjoy your job or career, meaning there’s a chance it’s simply not meant for you — but that doesn’t make you a failure, it just means you’re destined for something else. And furthermore, holding yourself back from that something else could be the thing standing in your way of a happier life, inside and outside of work.

As USC Applied Psychology aptly explains,[5]

“Passion not only drives you to enjoy your work, but helps in overcoming obstacles in the workplace as well. Anytime you hit a bump in the road or begin to doubt your abilities, remember the positive effects of the work you are doing.”

In life, we only get so many chances to follow our happiness, our dreams. Granted, we might lose sight of that goal at times, and that’s when those dark feelings can begin to creep in, but ultimately, our lives can only get better if we forgive our mistakes and learn from them.

Life is all about trial and error, and it’s okay if you don’t get it right the first, second, or third try. The most important thing is to never give up or stop trying because you’re afraid of regret or making a mistake. Growth comes in all forms, and that includes forgiveness.

Besides, it really is never too late to start over. Here’s the proof.

Finding Forgiveness Amidst Grief

When we lose a loved one — a parent, an ex-partner, even a pet — it can be tempting to put some blame on yourself. Part of the grieving process should include mourning the loss and moving forward, with them forever in your heart.

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However, when we fall into the trap of blame and regret, we end up robbing ourselves of the chance to appreciate our time, memories, and experiences we had with our loved ones who have passed. This makes the loss of them even harder to bare.

It’s a difficult cycle to break and can lead to some serious mental health issues, like depression and anxiety. Moreover, forgiving yourself in the face of death is without a doubt tough. It’s okay to be a work in process, especially considering that the loss of a loved one is an event that will stick with you forever.

Of course, that’s all the more reason to begin learning how to forgive yourself and move forward. Acknowledging and accepting your mistakes doesn’t make you unworthy forgiveness.

Losing a pet to a car accident or house fire doesn’t make you a bad person or a bad owner. Your dog or cat loved you dearly, and although their untimely death is unfortunate and heartbreaking, the best way to honor your pet is to own your mistake, learn from it, and forgive yourself.

When dealing with the loss of a loved one due to addiction or suicide, it’s important to remove yourself from the situation as a factor in their death. Sometimes, we simply cannot stop people from making their own choices, no matter how bad the consequences are. Furthermore, many of us desperately want our loved one(s) to get better, to seek help, but if they don’t that’s not on you.

While it might feel like you’re betraying those who have passed away by trying to forgive yourself and move on, you’re actually doing what’s necessary to take care of your mental and physical health. You deserve to be healthy and although it may take a while, you deserve to be happy as well.

Practicing important grief strategies is one way you can begin coping with death, and begin the forgiveness process. The American Psychological Association (APA) tell us,[6]

“Everyone reacts differently to death and employs personal coping mechanisms for grief. Research shows that most people can recover from a loss on their own through the passage of time if they have social support and healthy habits.”

They go on to list so methods worth implementing after a loss:

  • Talk about the death of your loved one. Instead of isolating yourself or denying the death outright, speak about your loss with your support system, this can help you process the loss and begin moving forward.
  • Accept your feelings. All of your feelings are valid and it’s okay to feel them. You aren’t weak or guilty because of your emotions.
  • Take care of yourself and your family. You can grieve for those who have passed while also making sure to take care of the living.
  • Reach out and help others dealing with the loss. Helping others has been shown to make us feel better and by sharing your stories you can form new, lasting bonds with others affected by loss.
  • Remember and celebrate the lives of your loved ones. APA recommends, “donating to a favorite charity of the deceased, framing photos of fun times, passing on a family name to a baby or planting a garden in memory. What you choose is up to you, as long as it allows you honor that unique relationship in a way that feels right to you.”

While the grieving process might be messy, complicated, and certainly frustrating at times, if you can learn to forgive yourself, you will only grow stronger. Remember good can come from even the darkest of times.

Final Thoughts

When we force ourselves to hold onto the past — past mistake, regrets, pain — we end up missing out on a lot of the positive things life has to offer. It’s important to keep in mind that you are not alone and it’s okay to hurt and reflect on certain aspects within your life. However, it isn’t worth losing valuable time, relationships, health, and emotional energy over.

Instead, in the midst of grief or remorse, as difficult as it might be, working towards inner peace will ultimately serve you much better.[7] Moreover, a person who is at peace with themselves will reap a number of benefits, such as:

  • Increased acceptance of yourself and self-actualization
  • Increased emotional maturity
  • The ability to live in and enjoy the present more
  • A deeper capacity for love (towards others and yourself)
  • A better sense of inner strength and power
  • More patience and compassion
  • Increased self-esteem
  • Freedom from stress and anxieties
  • A stronger sense of inner happiness
  • A better understanding of forgiveness

Achieving inner peace, especially in the face of difficulties and trauma, takes a lot of work and practice. However, the rewards are certainly worth the effort as you begin to grow as an individual, learn forgiveness towards others and yourself, and generally begin viewing life through a more positive lens.

You don’t need to forget your past experiences; rather, use them as a vehicle towards a greater, healthier life. You are worthy and your past doesn’t define you, it simply molds you.

Once you understand and can come to terms with that, the possibilities of happiness will open up and you can begin moving forward in life. It won’t be easy, but it will be worth it.

Featured photo credit: Havilah Galaxy via unsplash.com

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Reference

More by this author

Dan Matthews, CPRP

A Certified Psychosocial Rehabilitation Practitioner with an extensive background working with clients on community-based rehabilitation.

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Last Updated on October 16, 2019

5 Powerful Ways for Building Fulfilling Relationships

5 Powerful Ways for Building Fulfilling Relationships

We all have relationships. We have acquaintances, relatives, colleagues, neighbors and friends. However, for a large percentage of us, many of these relationships are not fulfilling.

They are unfulfilling because they lack real strength; and they lack real strength because they lack real depth.

Unfortunately, in today’s society, we tend to have shallow, superficial relationships with others, and it’s extremely hard for this kind of relationships to provide anything more than faint satisfaction.

I’d like to show you, based on my experience as a communication and confidence coach, how you can add a significant amount of depth, and thus strength, to your relationships and make your social life a whole lot more meaningful.

Here’re 5 simple yet powerful ways for meaningful relationships building:

1. Meet More People

This is an apparent paradox, but the quality of the people you meet has considerably to do with the quantity of people you meet.

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If you don’t know a lot of people and you barely meet one or two new people every season of the year, considering the variety of individuals out there, you won’t meet very often people who are a good match with you in terms of personality, interests and values.

And since this natural match plays a huge part in building strong relationships, you’ll just as seldom have the opportunity to develop strong relationships.

Conversely, if you go out a lot, you meet a lot of new people and you constantly expand your social circle, you’re much more likely to meet people you match up well with, and these people have a tremendous potential to become good friends, reliable partners, etc.

This is why it’s important to meet more people.

2. Talk about the Things That Matter To You

A relationship becomes the strongest when two people discover they believe in the same things and have similar interests. It’s these commonalities regarding values and interests that create the strongest emotional connection.

I’ve noticed that many people keep conversations shallow. They talk about trivial stuff such as the weather, what’s on TV, the lives of various movie stars, but they rarely talk about what really matters to them in life. This is a mistake from my perspective, because it’s the perfect method for a relationship to not develop.

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Talk about the things that truly matter to you and give others a chance to know what you care about and what you believe in. If they believe in the same things and they care about the same things, they’ll eagerly let you know. Thus you’ll find meaningful common ground and you’ll feel more connected.

3. Express Vulnerability

Many people try to come off as perfect. They don’t talk about their failures, they hide their shortcomings and they never say anything that could embarrass them.

This is all just a facade though. You may appear perfect to some, but you know you’re not perfect and they know that too. You’re only human and humans have flaws.

However, by hiding your flaws, what you do succeed in is appearing cold and impersonal. You seem like a marble statue rather than a real person. And this makes it very hard for anyone to connect with you emotionally.

Humans connect with other humans, not with ideals. Keep this in mind and don’t be afraid to let your vulnerability and your humanity show. This is what takes a relationship to the next level.

Take a look at this article and find out Why Showing Vulnerability Actually Proves Your Strength.

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4. Have Integrity

Integrity, as I see it, is the alignment between your thoughts, your words and your actions. When you say what you think and you do what you said you’ll do, you have integrity.

This is a crucial trait because if you have integrity, people can trust you. They can trust you to give them an honest feedback, even when it’s hard to shallow, and they can trust you to keep your promises.

This trust is one of the central pillars of a strong relationship, both in your personal and your professional life. So, as challenging as it can be sometimes, always try to have integrity.

Be honest with the people around you, even when this will initially hurt them. It’s more important for them to trust you than to not feel hurt. And always do what you promised. Even better, think twice before you promise anything, and only promise what you really can and you are willing to do.

5. Be There for Others

Another central pillar of strong relationships is support. Connections between people grow sturdy if they can rely on each other for support when it’s needed, whether that support means a few kind words or several massive actions.

Of course, you can’t be there for everybody, all the time. Your time, energy and other resources are limited. But what you can do is identify the genuinely important people in your life and then seek to be there as much as possible, at least for them.

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Your support will help them practically, and it will comfort them emotionally; which makes one hell of a difference in a relationship.

The Bottom Line

With the right mindset and the right behavior, you can strengthen a wide range of relationships in your life and advance them as far as they can be advanced.

And with strong relationships, not only that you feel more fulfilled, but you feel more connected to the entire world. You feel that your life has real value, you have more fun and you live in the moment. An entire world of opportunities opens up in front of you.

Then your task is to simply walk through the open doors.

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Featured photo credit: Proxyclick Visitor Management System via unsplash.com

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