It’s undeniable–we all make mistakes. It’s in our nature as humans to fail, whether it’s in our work environment, our family life, or our relationships. We are all doomed to disappoint ourselves at some point, but that doesn’t mean we have to succumb to self-deprecation. Living with a mistake is difficult, and learning to forgive yourself afterwards is even harder, I know. However, if you continue to let your messes define instead of better you, then you’ll only be making your life more troublesome than it would be otherwise. Instead of sobbing into a carton of Ben & Jerry’s and hoping the spoonfuls of milky sugar will somehow take the pain of the past away, follow these guaranteed steps toward self-forgiveness and you’ll be on the right road to recovery in no time. Who knows, you might just find the motivation to close the ice cream lid in here too.
1. Reflect on why you did what you did.
There’s always a reason behind any conscious wrongdoing. Always. Often we get so caught up in our emotions following the incident that we forget to acknowledge the causes leading up to it. If you hit another car while driving, think about what you were doing in the moments before the accident. Were you flipping through radio stations? Were you checking your phone? If not, chances are something else distracted you or blocked your line of vision. Take time to really think about these things and write them down on a piece of paper. It helps to identify the small details before you start looking at the big picture again.
2. Spend some quality time with yourself.
The one thing I’ve found that continuously helps me cope with anything I’m experiencing is taking time to truly be alone, especially when I’m in the self-hatred phase. However, this doesn’t mean sit on your couch and binge-watch TV shows on Netflix. This means get out, go somewhere, and do something with yourself. Call it a “me date” if you must. I find taking runs or walks alone to be the best type of non-prescription medicine, but not everyone finds their therapy in nature. As long as you go spend time alone doing something you love, you can’t go wrong from there.
3. Talk to someone who has gone through something similar.
Don’t get me wrong, spending time alone is great. But it’s not the only thing you should do to deal with your troubles. You need to talk to someone who understands what you’re going through, or find a forum online discussing a related issue to yours. You can even go to a counselor! I promise you, it’s not going to help to keep your feelings to yourself. People are always there to lend you good advice. You just need to seek it out.
4. Be honest with yourself and those you may have hurt.
The most difficult task, besides self-forgiveness, is often the act of admitting the mistake. It’s so easy to come up with excuses or find ways to skirt around the subject. However, at the end of the day, honesty is the best policy and the one that will ultimately set you free. So be open with yourself and the people you may have pained along the way. Don’t be afraid to be vulnerable even if it means the very worst. This goes back to the biblical saying, “Do unto others as you would have others do unto you.” If someone wronged you, you’d want to know so why shouldn’t the same apply the other way around? Think about it. Karmic retribution is a thing.
5. Have some good ol’ fashioned fun.
So you’re feeling pretty down and probably guilty. You feel as though it’s only just that you take time to mope about the problem at hand, but the question is for how long? Yes, everyone is allowed to feel the way they’re feeling and act accordingly to their emotions. However, you can’t beat yourself up forever. At some point, you have to tell yourself that what’s past is past and nothing you do right now is going to change that. Instead of continuously reflecting on what could have been done to prevent the mistake, give yourself a break and go have some fun. Go to the movies, hang out with friends, take that exercise class you’ve been dying to try, and for a moment, focus on the present. After all, life is short. Why spend it unhappy?
6. Seek self-improvement.
The last and final step of the self-forgiveness process comes as a no-brainer, but one we all need to remind ourselves of. When we do something that conflicts with our values or ideals, we get so wrapped up in the temporary nuisance of it all that we forget to see the light at the end of the tunnel so to speak–that light being the result of our reparation. The only way to truly learn to forgive ourselves for mistakes we’ve made is to make amends as necessary. Take your faults as opportunities to seek betterment and work on them from there. It’s not easy, and no one ever said it would be, but learning from failure is what makes us all healthier and happier people in the end. I guarantee that if you start to see your mistakes for the positive change they inspire, you’re bound to find success later on.
Featured photo credit: Forgive./Tony Webster via flic.kr