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Published on June 24, 2019

How to Practice Self Forgiveness and Move on with Joy

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 who promotes the end of stigma for mental health.

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Last Updated on March 30, 2020

What Does Self-Conscious Mean? (And How to Stop Being It)

What Does Self-Conscious Mean? (And How to Stop Being It)

Have you ever walked into a room and felt like your nerves simply couldn’t handle it? Your heart beats fast, you start to sweat, and you feel like all eyes are on you (even if they’re really not). This is just one of the many ways that being self-conscious can rear its ugly head.

You may not even realize you’re self-conscious, and you may be wondering, “What does self-conscious mean?” That’s a good place to start.

This article will define self-consciousness, show how practically everyone has faced it at one point or another, and give you tips to avoid it.

What Does Self-Conscious Mean?

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, self-conscious is defined as “conscious of one’s own acts or states as belonging to or originating in oneself.”[1]

Not so bad, right? There’s another definition, though — one that speaks more to what you’re going through: “feeling uncomfortably conscious of oneself as an object of the observation of others.” For those of us who regularly deal with extreme self-consciousness, that second definition sounds about right.

There are many different ways self-consciousness can spring up. You may feel self-conscious around people you know, like your family members or closest friends. You may feel self-conscious at work, even though you spend hours every week around your co-workers. Or you may feel self-conscious when out in public and surrounded by strangers. However, you probably don’t feel self-conscious when you’re home alone.

How to Stop Being Too Self-Conscious

When you’re in the throes of self-consciousness, it’s nearly impossible to remember how to stop feeling that way. That’s why it’s so important to prepare ahead of time, when you’re feeling ready to tackle the problem instead of succumbing to it.

Here are a variety of ways to feel better about yourself and stop thinking about how others see you.

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1. Ask Yourself, “So What?”

One way to banish negative, self-conscious thoughts is to do just that: banish them.

The next time you walk into a room and feel your face getting red, think to yourself, “So what?” How much does it really matter if people don’t like how you look or act? What’s the worst that could happen?

Most of the time, you’ll find that you don’t have a good answer to this question. Then, you can immediately start assigning such thoughts less importance. With self-awareness, you can acknowledge that your negative thoughts are present and realize that you don’t agree with them.[2] They’re just thoughts, after all.

2. Be Honest

A lie that self-consciousness might tell is that there’s one way to act or feel. Honestly, though, everyone else is just figuring life out as well. There isn’t a preferred way to show up to an event, gathering, or public place. What you can do is be honest with your feelings and thoughts.[3]

If you feel offended by something someone says, you don’t have to smile to be polite or laugh to fit in with the crowd. Instead, you can politely say why you disagree or excuse yourself and find a group of people who you relate to better. If you’re nervous, don’t overcompensate by trying to look relaxed and casual — it’ll be obvious you’re putting on a front. Instead, nothing is more endearing than saying, “I’m a little nervous!” to a room of people who probably feel the exact same way.

On the same note, if you don’t understand why someone wants you to do something, question it. You can do this at work, at home, or even with people you don’t know well. Nobody should force you to do something you don’t want to do.

Also, even if you’re willing to do what’s asked of you, there’s nothing wrong with asking for more clarification. People will realize that you’re not a person to be bossed around.

3. Understand Why You’re Struggling at Work

Being self-conscious at work can get in the way of your daily responsibilities, your relationships with co-workers, and even your career as a whole. If you’re facing some sort of conflict but you’re too nervous to speak up, you may be at the whim of what happens to you instead of taking some control.

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If you’re usually confident at work, you may be wondering where this new self-consciousness is coming from. It’s possible that you’re dealing with burnout.[4] Common signs are anxiety, fatigue and distraction, all of which can leave you feeling under-confident.

4. Succeed at Something

When you create success in your life, it’s easier to feel confident[5] and less self-conscious. If you feel self-conscious at work, finish the project that’s been looming over your head. If you feel self-conscious in the gym, complete an advanced workout class.

Exposing yourself to what you’re scared of and then succeeding at it in some way (even just by finishing it) can do wonders for your self-esteem. The more confidence you build, the more likely you are to have more success in the future, which will create a cycle of confidence-building.

5. Treat All of You — Not Just Your Self-Consciousness

Trying to solve your self-consciousness alone may not treat the root of the problem. Instead, take a well-rounded approach to lower your self-consciousness and build confidence in areas where you may struggle.

Even professional counselors are embracing this holistic type of treatment[6] because they feel that the health of the mind and body are inextricably linked. This approach combines physical, spiritual, and psychological components. Common activities and treatments include meditation, yoga, massage, and healthy changes to diet and exercise.

If much of this is new to you, it will pay to give it a try. You never know how it will impact you.

If you’re feeling self-conscious about how your body looks, a massage that makes you feel great could boost your confidence. If you try a new workout, you could have something exciting to talk about the next time you’re in a group setting.

Putting yourself in a new situation and learning that you can get through it with grace can give you the confidence to get through all sorts of events and nerve-wracking moments.

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6. Make the Changes That Are Within Your Control

Let’s say you walk into a room and you’re self-conscious about how you look. However, you may have put a lot of time and effort into your outfit. Even though it may stand out, this is how you have chosen to express yourself.

You have to work on your internal confidence, not your external appearance. There’s nothing to change other than your outlook.

On the other hand, maybe there’s something that you don’t like about yourself that you can change. For example, maybe you hate how a birthmark on your face looks or have varicose veins that you think are unsightly. If you can do something about these things, do it! There’s nothing wrong with changing your appearance (or skills, education, etc.) if it’s going to make you more confident.

You don’t have to accept your current situation for acceptance’s sake. There’s no award for putting up with something you hate. Confidence is also required to make changes that are scary, even if they’re for the better. Plus, it may be an easier fix than you thought. For example, treating varicose veins doesn’t have to involve surgery — sometimes simple compression stockings will take care of the problem.[7]

7. Realize That Everyone Has Awkward Moments

Everyone has said something awkward to someone else and lived to tell the tale. We’ve all forgotten somebody’s name or said, “You too!” when the concession stand girl says to enjoy our movie. Not only are these things uber-common, but they’re not nearly as embarrassing as you feel they are.

Think about how you react when someone else does something awkward. Do you think, “Wow, that person’s such a loser!” or do you think, “What a relief, I’m not the only one who does that.” Chances are good that’s the same reaction others have to you when you stumble.

Remember, self-consciousness is a state of mind that you have control over. You don’t have to feel this way. Do what you need to in order to build your confidence, put your self-consciousness in perspective, and start exercising your “I feel awesome about myself” muscle. It’ll get easier with time.

When Is Being Self-Conscious a Good Thing?

Self-consciousness can sometimes be a good thing[8], but you have to take the awkwardness and nerves out of it.

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In this case, “self-aware” is a much better term. Knowing how you come off to people is an excellent trait; you’ll be able to read a room and understand how what you do and say affects others. These are fantastic skills for people work and personal relationships.

Self-awareness helps you dress appropriately for the occasion, tells you that you’re talking too loud or not loud enough, and guides a conversation so you don’t offend or bore anyone.

It’s not about being someone you’re not — that can actually have adverse effects, just like self-consciousness. Instead, it’s about turning up certain aspects of yourself to perform well in the situation.

Final Thoughts

When you’re self-conscious, you’re constantly battling with yourself in an effort to control how other people view you. You try to change yourself to suit what you think other people want to see.

The truth, though, is that you can’t actually control how other people view you — and you may not even be correct about how they view you in the first place.

Being confident doesn’t happen overnight. Instead, it happens in small steps as you slowly build your confidence and say “no” to your self-consciousness. It also requires accepting that you’re going to feel self-conscious sometimes, and that’s okay.

Sometimes worrying that there is a problem can be more stressful than the problem itself. Feeling bad for feeling self-conscious can be more troublesome than simply feeling it and getting on with the day.

Forgive yourself for being human and make the small changes that will lead to better confidence in the future.

More Tips for Improving Your Self-Esteem

Featured photo credit: Cata via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Merriam-Webster: Self-conscious
[2] Bustle: 7 Tips On How To Stop Feeling Self-Conscious
[3] Marc and Angel: 10 Things to Remember When You Feel Unsure of Yourself
[4] Bostitch: How to Protect Small Businesses From Burnout
[5] Psychology Today: Self-conscious? Get Over It
[6] Wake Forest University: Embracing Holistic Medicine
[7] Center for Vein Restoration: What Causes Venous Ulcers, and How Are They Treated?
[8] Scientific American: The Pros and Cons of Being Self-Aware

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