I can’t believe you did that. You idiot. You can’t be trusted. You’re terrible. And I’ll never forgive you.
These words can be devastating to someone who is asking for forgiveness. But when these are the words you say quietly to yourself, they can be crippling. Some of the harshest words you may ever hear are the words you say in your heart: “I’ll never forgive myself.”
Forgiving yourself can be hard work, but it’s worth it. Here are some tips to consider when you can’t forgive yourself:
Decide to let it go
In the process of forgiving, the first barrier you have to remove is within your own mind. You must make the decision: I will not dwell on this incident. That decision doesn’t guarantee you’ll stop the mental video, but it draws a line in the sand that you have that goal. It’s a starting point.
Look at what you’ve done…objectively
A big obstacle to forgiving yourself is the inability to see things objectively. Perhaps, what you did was a big deal. Or maybe, it just feels like it was. Pretend it was someone else that you love who did what you did. Ask yourself how you would view them.
Own it, but don’t be owned by It
Taking responsibility for what you did is important. But one bad choice doesn’t have to define you. You can’t control how others define you, but you can control how you define yourself.
Grieve your loss
If a tragedy was averted in your situation, focus on the good of that, and be thankful. If, however, a tragic loss occurred know it’s okay to grieve the pain. Beating yourself up constantly is not a requirement of grief.
Seek forgiveness from others
Forgiveness from others can free you up to forgive yourself. If you haven’t yet, seek forgiveness from the person you hurt.
Focus on what you can learn
Everyone fails. Everyone hurts others eventually. It’s part of the human experience and condition. But not everyone will learn from what they do. Be someone who is willing to learn from your past to benefit your future.
Record your reflections
Sometimes capturing a record of your thoughts and feelings can help you face them honestly. Do some light journaling for a few days. Focus on what you are struggling to let go of and what you would do if you could be free of the burden of guilt you feel.