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How to Practice Self Forgiveness and Move on with Joy

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How to Practice Self Forgiveness and Move on with Joy

Self-forgiveness is about learning how to forgive yourself for mistakes you made or choices you made, at great costs. Often we wonder, how it is possible we messed up so much, how did we come to this?

Things may not always add up. Our actions do not always reflect us. The actions of other people do not always reflect them either, or sometimes they do. We find it easier though to forgive others, than to forgive ourselves. The scrutiny we place upon ourselves can be unrelenting.

“To heal, you have to get to the root of the wound and kiss it all the way up” — Rupi Kaur

Why Is Self-Forgiveness Important?

According to Kendra Cherry, MS, Author and Educational Consultant, with statements reviewed by Steven Gans, MD, Assistant Professor of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, forgiveness can reduce stress, which in turn increases immunity, eases mental health issues such as depression and anxiety, and increases physical health due to a reduction in anger and an increase in heart health.[1]

So, as well as aiding in such widespread issues as anxiety and depression, when we practice self-forgiveness, our overall health increases.

If we do not find the key to forgiveness, for ourselves and others, we continue to worry and punish ourselves into a mess.

There are seasons of our life where we can certainly use painful lessons for good, and to learn from. But when it comes to how we treat ourselves, until then, we hurt.

We simply hurt ourselves. It doesn’t have to be in any big way. It can be in the way that we don’t let go of a mistake. It may not have even been an unconscious mistake. We may have known why we did what we did, and made a decision to do it anyway, and that makes it harder.

Self-forgiveness can have many benefits, while self-loathing is not productive at all. The first question to ask yourself is, “Why did I do wrong?”

Making a mistake, making a blunder, has nothing to do with who you are or who you have the potential to become. It is not a reflection of your self-worth.

We are all human; we all make mistakes. We all do things for different reasons; the key is finding your reason. When you discover your why, you will unlock your truth. You will know how you got to this point and make the important decision to decide for yourself whether or not to go down that path again.

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Meaning In the Mess

Sometimes, we break down and reveal more vulnerability to the people we love when we acknowledge our own mess. This can lead to greater revelations about ourselves and our life. When we acknowledge that we are not perfect, others can relate to us and find greater strength too.

In simply saying, “I’m sorry,” doors of accountability open and refuge can be found in relating our struggle to our strength. “I’m sorry, but I can try to make this up to you,” is also great for a new start. It doesn’t mean everything will be perfect. But it does mean you can start to salvage the situation.

Finding meaning out of the mess means that you’re done pretending, to yourself and others, that everything is perfect. It means that you will stand up for yourself, for others, and what you believe in. It means that you will start to heal.

The end goal? To finally be able to let go.

Letting go means to forgive yourself for what you didn’t know and what you thought you had to do (or not do). It means to forgive yourself for your shortcomings and your mistakes. But that doesn’t mean excusing yourself from accountability.

Identifying a mistake, deciding not to repeat it, and owning the damage you caused is part of the journey. Don’t keep beating yourself up over it. It’s a hard balance to find at times, but it’s worth it to be able to reap the health benefits, and move on with your life.

YOU are worth it.

Sometimes, self-forgiveness is about finding joy in life instead of sorrow. Once you let go, you learn to live. Remorse does account for some sorrow, but it does not mean you live in sorrow and regret for the rest of your life.

Maybe you didn’t have to forgive yourself for doing something wrong. Maybe you had to forgive yourself for doing something right.

Maybe it was because you knew it would come with a cost. But you were willing to pay it to do that right thing (or maybe simply not do that wrong thing).

How to Practice Self Forgiveness and Move on with Joy

So how do we get there? How do we get to self-forgiveness?

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Try compassion.

Self-Compassion — A Prerequisite for Self-Forgiveness

Self-Compassion is learning to put empathy in your self-talk; the words you say to yourself, about yourself. It’s part of developing Self-Love, a prerequisite for almost anything.

Megan Hale, therapist and life coach, puts it this way: [2]

“If we can learn to think of ourselves as our best friend, to speak to ourselves with love and kindness, and put ourselves as a priority, it reaffirms that we believe we are worth it.”

You only need to talk to yourself more kindly, with empathy and compassion. We are often nicer to others than we are to ourselves. If your self-talk is beating you up over something, ask yourself, “What would I think about this, say to someone else, if they found themselves in this same situation?” Practice the same compassion on yourself, that you practice on others.

The shame you feel is part of your healing. It brings awareness to what needs to be done better in the future, or helps you accept outcomes when you make hard decisions. But you don’t have to live in shame or fear in order to make powerful changes; and in fact, you can’t.

Leaving Guilt Behind

Rather than helping us to make a situation right, or improve ourselves, guilt breaks our spirits. For a moment, it may help to feel guilt after some self-reflection, but ultimately, you are human and in need of compassion.

Guilt is an okay place to visit, to help us identify changes we need to make, but it is not a good place to stay.

Guilt may make you feel like you are not enough, or worthy of forgiveness or love. But it prevents you from moving on with your life, and becoming the best person you can be.

When you choose love, you need to choose love for yourself too. You need to consider yourself worthy even when you’re broken, especially when you’re broken, because everyone is worthy of love, and you are too.

Don’t let guilt smother your goodness. Don’t let guilt eat your energy and enthusiasm for life. Don’t let guilt destroy your joy.

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Let go.

Give Back

Use your scars as reasons and reminders to do more good, even if you can’t make everything right. Let them be the lessons you hold onto as you move forward.

You can self-forgive and help others at the same time. It’s not just about charity. It’s about choices. You can make better choices when you’ve had time to reflect on your own situation.

Shine a light on those in need. Volunteer where help is needed. Walk with someone who feels like they are alone. Listen to another human being’s troubles. You’ll find yourself helping them to do what you also are trying to do: Self-forgive.

You’ll find that in helping someone else through an uncomfortable or bad situation, you’ll find your way through yours too. It’s a funny fact that we often give to others in the ways we should give to ourselves. We give the mercy, the love, the attention, the comfort, the compassion to others upon listening to their faults and failures, more than we would ever give to ourselves.

So we know what to do, and how to do it, we just have to apply the same kind of kindness and mercy we apply to others, to ourselves.

To get back your own life, give back to others. It’s almost as though we find the path for ourselves, by showing it to others. You’ll find it makes everything easier.

Open Up

To bring yourself some peace, share your vulnerabilities with others. Share the flaws and insights from your story that actually make your story significant. Like something from an Alcoholics Anonymous Meeting where one says to the rest of the people there,

“My name is____ and I’m an alcoholic.”

In your own case, you fill in the blanks. What do you really want people to know about you? This will help them understand you and it will help you to understand yourself. And with that understanding, you learn to release your inner demons and realize your inner strengths.

You don’t have to shout it from the rooftops. Instead, have a few people in your life know what is going on and how you feel. Opening up takes courage and strength, and while it may not fix everything, accountability reveals it is a start. Others can also point out to us the flaws in our thinking. Maybe the self-blame was necessary, maybe it was not, but either way we cannot continue to live productively there.

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According to Beverly Engel, psychotherapist,[3]

“You can resolve your behavior and forgive yourself at the same time.”

This means that you can change your actions, your state of being, your handling of others and more, while practicing self-forgiveness.

This is huge! It means you can be accountable and still move forward.

In moving forward, you will find that others may not always move with you. They may not be ready to, but as you continue to make amends, you can choose a better way to be. You can even, dare I say, choose joy.

Final Thoughts — Just Joy

Moving onward requires strength, as does all things, but it is worth it not to wallow in one’s pain. You can move on with joy by looking within and realizing you are still worth it.

At the end of this, you’ll still have moments of darkness and doubt, but the more you let yourself love yourself, you will find yourself in moments of joy. You will catch yourself laughing. You will catch yourself allowing the light to touch your wounds. The light of love. You will find peace in surrendering. You will find that love, even in the loss.

You find yourself in self-forgiveness when you realize you are human, and that in itself makes you whole, makes you more than your deeds or actions, makes you enough.

More About Forgiveness & Happiness

Featured photo credit: Andre Hunter via unsplash.com

Reference

More by this author

Sarah Browne

Sarah is a speaker, writer and activist

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Last Updated on July 20, 2021

How to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking (A Step-by-Step Guide)

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How to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking (A Step-by-Step Guide)

You’re standing behind the curtain, just about to make your way on stage to face the many faces half-shrouded in darkness in front of you. As you move towards the spotlight, your body starts to feel heavier with each step. A familiar thump echoes throughout your body – your heartbeat has gone off the charts.

Don’t worry, you’re not the only one with glossophobia(also known as speech anxiety or the fear of speaking to large crowds). Sometimes, the anxiety happens long before you even stand on stage.

Your body’s defence mechanism responds by causing a part of your brain to release adrenaline into your blood – the same chemical that gets released as if you were being chased by a lion.

Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you overcome your fear of public speaking:

1. Prepare yourself mentally and physically

According to experts, we’re built to display anxiety and to recognize it in others. If your body and mind are anxious, your audience will notice. Hence, it’s important to prepare yourself before the big show so that you arrive on stage confident, collected and ready.

“Your outside world is a reflection of your inside world. What goes on in the inside, shows on the outside.” – Bob Proctor

Exercising lightly before a presentation helps get your blood circulating and sends oxygen to the brain. Mental exercises, on the other hand, can help calm the mind and nerves. Here are some useful ways to calm your racing heart when you start to feel the butterflies in your stomach:

Warming up

If you’re nervous, chances are your body will feel the same way. Your body gets tense, your muscles feel tight or you’re breaking in cold sweat. The audience will notice you are nervous.

If you observe that this is exactly what is happening to you minutes before a speech, do a couple of stretches to loosen and relax your body. It’s better to warm up before every speech as it helps to increase the functional potential of the body as a whole. Not only that, it increases muscle efficiency, improves reaction time and your movements.

Here are some exercises to loosen up your body before show time:

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  1. Neck and shoulder rolls – This helps relieve upper body muscle tension and pressure as the rolls focus on rotating the head and shoulders, loosening the muscle. Stress and anxiety can make us rigid within this area which can make you feel agitated, especially when standing.
  2. Arm stretches – We often use this part of our muscles during a speech or presentation through our hand gestures and movements. Stretching these muscles can reduce arm fatigue, loosen you up and improve your body language range.
  3. Waist twists – Place your hands on your hips and rotate your waist in a circular motion. This exercise focuses on loosening the abdominal and lower back regions which is essential as it can cause discomfort and pain, further amplifying any anxieties you may experience.

Stay hydrated

Ever felt parched seconds before speaking? And then coming up on stage sounding raspy and scratchy in front of the audience? This happens because the adrenaline from stage fright causes your mouth to feel dried out.

To prevent all that, it’s essential we stay adequately hydrated before a speech. A sip of water will do the trick. However, do drink in moderation so that you won’t need to go to the bathroom constantly.

Try to avoid sugary beverages and caffeine, since it’s a diuretic – meaning you’ll feel thirstier. It will also amplify your anxiety which prevents you from speaking smoothly.

Meditate

Meditation is well-known as a powerful tool to calm the mind. ABC’s Dan Harris, co-anchor of Nightline and Good Morning America weekend and author of the book titled10% Happier , recommends that meditation can help individuals to feel significantly calmer, faster.

Meditation is like a workout for your mind. It gives you the strength and focus to filter out the negativity and distractions with words of encouragement, confidence and strength.

Mindfulness meditation, in particular, is a popular method to calm yourself before going up on the big stage. The practice involves sitting comfortably, focusing on your breathing and then bringing your mind’s attention to the present without drifting into concerns about the past or future – which likely includes floundering on stage.

Here’s a nice example of guided meditation before public speaking:

2. Focus on your goal

One thing people with a fear of public speaking have in common is focusing too much on themselves and the possibility of failure.

Do I look funny? What if I can’t remember what to say? Do I look stupid? Will people listen to me? Does anyone care about what I’m talking about?’

Instead of thinking this way, shift your attention to your one true purpose – contributing something of value to your audience.

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Decide on the progress you’d like your audience to make after your presentation. Notice their movements and expressions to adapt your speech to ensure that they are having a good time to leave the room as better people.

If your own focus isn’t beneficial and what it should be when you’re speaking, then shift it to what does. This is also key to establishing trust during your presentation as the audience can clearly see that you have their interests at heart.[1]

3. Convert negativity to positivity

There are two sides constantly battling inside of us – one is filled with strength and courage while the other is doubt and insecurities. Which one will you feed?

‘What if I mess up this speech? What if I’m not funny enough? What if I forget what to say?’

It’s no wonder why many of us are uncomfortable giving a presentation. All we do is bring ourselves down before we got a chance to prove ourselves. This is also known as a self-fulfilling prophecy – a belief that comes true because we are acting as if it already is. If you think you’re incompetent, then it will eventually become true.

Motivational coaches tout that positive mantras and affirmations tend to boost your confidents for the moments that matter most. Say to yourself: “I’ll ace this speech and I can do it!”

Take advantage of your adrenaline rush to encourage positive outcome rather than thinking of the negative ‘what ifs’.

Here’s a video of Psychologist Kelly McGonigal who encourages her audience to turn stress into something positive as well as provide methods on how to cope with it:

4. Understand your content

Knowing your content at your fingertips helps reduce your anxiety because there is one less thing to worry about. One way to get there is to practice numerous times before your actual speech.

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However, memorizing your script word-for-word is not encouraged. You can end up freezing should you forget something. You’ll also risk sounding unnatural and less approachable.

“No amount of reading or memorizing will make you successful in life. It is the understanding and the application of wise thought that counts.” – Bob Proctor

Many people unconsciously make the mistake of reading from their slides or memorizing their script word-for-word without understanding their content – a definite way to stress themselves out.

Understanding your speech flow and content makes it easier for you to convert ideas and concepts into your own words which you can then clearly explain to others in a conversational manner. Designing your slides to include text prompts is also an easy hack to ensure you get to quickly recall your flow when your mind goes blank.[2]

One way to understand is to memorize the over-arching concepts or ideas in your pitch. It helps you speak more naturally and let your personality shine through. It’s almost like taking your audience on a journey with a few key milestones.

5. Practice makes perfect

Like most people, many of us are not naturally attuned to public speaking. Rarely do individuals walk up to a large audience and present flawlessly without any research and preparation.

In fact, some of the top presenters make it look easy during showtime because they have spent countless hours behind-the-scenes in deep practice. Even great speakers like the late John F. Kennedy would spend months preparing his speech beforehand.

Public speaking, like any other skill, requires practice – whether it be practicing your speech countless of times in front of a mirror or making notes. As the saying goes, practice makes perfect!

6. Be authentic

There’s nothing wrong with feeling stressed before going up to speak in front of an audience.

Many people fear public speaking because they fear others will judge them for showing their true, vulnerable self. However, vulnerability can sometimes help you come across as more authentic and relatable as a speaker.

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Drop the pretence of trying to act or speak like someone else and you’ll find that it’s worth the risk. You become more genuine, flexible and spontaneous, which makes it easier to handle unpredictable situations – whether it’s getting tough questions from the crowd or experiencing an unexpected technical difficulty.

To find out your authentic style of speaking is easy. Just pick a topic or issue you are passionate about and discuss this like you normally would with a close family or friend. It is like having a conversation with someone in a personal one-to-one setting. A great way to do this on stage is to select a random audience member(with a hopefully calming face) and speak to a single person at a time during your speech. You’ll find that it’s easier trying to connect to one person at a time than a whole room.

With that said, being comfortable enough to be yourself in front of others may take a little time and some experience, depending how comfortable you are with being yourself in front of others. But once you embrace it, stage fright will not be as intimidating as you initially thought.

Presenters like Barack Obama are a prime example of a genuine and passionate speaker:

7. Post speech evaluation

Last but not the least, if you’ve done public speaking and have been scarred from a bad experience, try seeing it as a lesson learned to improve yourself as a speaker.

Don’t beat yourself up after a presentation

We are the hardest on ourselves and it’s good to be. But when you finish delivering your speech or presentation, give yourself some recognition and a pat on the back.

You managed to finish whatever you had to do and did not give up. You did not let your fears and insecurities get to you. Take a little more pride in your work and believe in yourself.

Improve your next speech

As mentioned before, practice does make perfect. If you want to improve your public speaking skills, try asking someone to film you during a speech or presentation. Afterwards, watch and observe what you can do to improve yourself next time.

Here are some questions you can ask yourself after every speech:

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  • How did I do?
  • Are there any areas for improvement?
  • Did I sound or look stressed?
  • Did I stumble on my words? Why?
  • Was I saying “um” too often?
  • How was the flow of the speech?

Write everything you observed down and keep practicing and improving. In time, you’ll be able to better manage your fears of public speaking and appear more confident when it counts.

If you want even more tips about public speaking or delivering a great presentation, check out these articles too:

Reference

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