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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 April 6, 2020

10 Powerful Ways to Influence People Positively

10 Powerful Ways to Influence People Positively

Most discussions on positively influencing others eventually touch on Dale Carnegie’s seminal work, How to Win Friends and Influence People. Written more than 83 years ago, the book touches on a core component of human interaction, building strong relationships. It is no wonder why.

Everything that we do hinges on our ability to connect with others and formulate deep relationships. You cannot sell a house, buy a house, advance in most careers, sell a product, pitch a story, teach a course, etc. without building healthy relationships. Managers get the best results from their teams, not through brute force, but to careful appeals to their sensibilities, occasional withdrawals from the reservoir of respect they’ve built. Using these tactics, they can influence others to excellence, to productivity, and to success.

Carnegie’s book is great. Of course, there are other resources too. Most of us have someone in our lives who positively influences us. The truth is positively influencing people is about centering the humanity of others. Chances are, you know someone who is really good at making others feel like stars. They can get you to do things that the average person cannot. Where the requests of others sound like fingernails on a chalkboard, the request from this special person sounds like music to your ears. You’re delighted to not only listen but also to oblige.

So how to influence people in a positive way? Read on for tips.

1. Be Authentic

To influence people in a positive way, be authentic. Rather than being a carbon copy of someone else’s version of authenticity, uncover what it is that makes you unique.

Discover your unique take on an issue and then live up to and honor that. Once of the reasons social media influencers are so powerful is that they have carved out a niche for themselves or taken a common issue and approached it from a novel or uncommon way. People instinctually appreciate people whose public persona matches their private values.

Contradictions bother us because we crave stability. When someone professes to be one way, but lives contrary to that profession, it signals that they are confused or untrustworthy and thereby, inauthentic. Neither of these combinations bode well for positively influencing others.

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2. Listen

Growing up, my father would tell me to listen to what others said. He told me if I listened carefully, I would know all I needed to know about a person’s character, desires and needs.

To positively influence others, you must listen to what is spoken and what is left unsaid. Therein lies the explanation for what people need in order to feel validated, supported and seen. If a person feels they are invisible, and unseen by their superiors, they are less likely to be positively influenced by that person.

Listening meets a person’s primary need of validation and acceptance.

Take a look at this guide on how to be a better listener: How to Practice Active Listening (A Step-By-Step Guide)

3. Become an Expert

Most people are predisposed to listen to, if not respect, authority. If you want to positively influence others, become an authority in the area in which you seek to lead others. Research and read everything you can about the given topic, and then look for opportunities to put your education into practice.

You can argue over opinions. You cannot argue, or it is unwise to argue, over facts and experts come with facts.

4. Lead with Story

From years of working in the public relations space, I know that personal narratives, testimonials and impact stories are incredibly powerful. But I never cease to be amazed with how effective a well-timed and told story can be.

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If you want to influence people, learn to tell stories. Your stories should be related to the issue or concept you are discussing. They should be an analogy or metaphor that explains your topic in ordinary terms and in vivid detail. To learn more about how to tell powerful stories, and the ethics of storytelling, take a look at this article: How To Tell An Interesting Story In 4 Simple Steps

5. Lead by Example

It is incredibly inspiring to watch passionate, talented people at work or play. One of the reasons a person who is not an athlete can be in awe of athletic prowess is because human nature appreciates the extraordinary. When we watch the Olympics, Olympic trials, gymnastic competitions, ice skating, and other competitive sports, we can recognize the effort of people who day in and day out give their all. C

ase in point: Simone Biles. The gymnast extraordinaire won her 6TH all-around title at the U.S. Gymnastics Championships after doing a triple double. She was the first woman to do so. Watching her gave me chills. Even non-gymnasts and non-competitive athletes can appreciate the talent required to pull off such a remarkable feat.

We celebrate remarkable accomplishments and believe that their example is proof that we too can accomplish something great, even if it isn’t qualifying for the Olympics. To influence people in a positive way, we must lead by example, lead with intention and execute with excellence.

6. Catch People Doing Good

A powerful way to influence people in a positive way is to catch people doing good. Instead of looking for problems, look for successes. Look for often overlooked, but critically important things that your peers, subordinates and managers do that make the work more effective and more enjoyable.

Once you catch people doing good, name and notice their contributions.

7. Be Effusive with Praise

It did not take me long to notice a remarkable trait of a former boss. He not only began and ended meetings with praise, but he peppered praise throughout the entire meeting. He found a way to celebrate the unique attributes and skills of his team members. He was able to quickly and accurately assess what people were doing well and then let them and their colleagues know.

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Meetings were not just an occasion to go through a “To Do” list, they were opportunities to celebrate accomplishments, no matter how small they are.

8. Be Kind Rather Than Right

I am going to level with you; this one is tough. It is easy to get caught up in a cycle of proving oneself. For people who lack confidence, or people who prioritize the opinions of others, being right is important. The validation that comes with being perceived as “right” feeds one’s ego. But in the quest to be “right,” we can hurt other people. Once we’ve hurt someone by being unkind, it is much harder to get them to listen to what we’re trying to influence them to do.

The antidote to influencing others via bullying is to prioritize kindness above rightness. You can be kind and still stand firm in your position. For instance, many people think that they need others to validate their experience. If a person does not see the situation you experienced in the way you see it, you get upset. But your experience is your experience.

If you and your friends go out to eat and you get food poisoning, you do not need your friends to agree that the food served at the restaurant was problematic for you. Your own experience of getting food poisoning is all the validation you need. Therefore, taking time to be right is essentially wasted and, if you were unkind in seeking validation for your food-poison experience, now you’ve really lost points.

9. Understand a Person’s Logical, Emotional and Cooperative Needs

The Center for Creative Leadership has argued that the best way to influence others is to appeal to their logical, emotional and cooperative needs. Their logical need is their rational and educational need. Their emotional need is the information that touches them in a deeply personal manner. The cooperative need is understanding the level of cooperation various individuals need and then appropriately offering it.

The trick with this system is to understand that different people need different things. For some people, a strong emotional appeal will outweigh logical explanations. For others, having an opportunity to collaborate will override emotional connection.

If you know your audience, you will know what they need in order to be positively influenced. If you have limited information about the people whom you are attempting to influence, you will be ineffective.

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10. Understand Your Lane

If you want to positively influence others, operate from your sphere of influence. Operate from your place of expertise. Leave everything else to others. Gone are the days when being a jack of all trades is celebrated.

Most people appreciate brands that understand their target audience and then deliver on what that audience wants. When you focus on what you are uniquely gifted and qualified to do, and then offer that gift to the people who need it, you are likely more effective. This effectiveness is attractive.

You cannot positively influence others if you are more preoccupied by what others do well versus what you do well.

Final Thoughts

Influencing people is about centering your humanity. If you want to influence others positively, focus on the way you communicate and improve the relationship with yourself first.

It’s hard to influence others if you’re still trying to figure out how to communicate with yourself.

More Tips About Making Influence

Featured photo credit: Wonderlane via unsplash.com

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