I Forgive You, Self: Steps to Self-Forgiveness

Marcelle Craig, 53944 on Apr 19, 2023 in Mood and Feelings

You messed up. I'm not sure if you did it on purpose (meaning that you knew you shouldn't have done it but chose to act poorly anyway) or if you learned that it was not a good choice along the way. Either way, it happened. And now you want to relieve yourself of the guilt. In all honesty, I'm glad because staying upset at yourself only gets you so far. So let's go over how to apologize to ourselves and others as well as how to practice self-forgiveness.

How to Apologize in General

I posted about this on Instagram, but in case you're not following me (*side eye of judgment but letting it go because at least we're friends now*), I'd like to recap how I view an apology.

Apologies have two parts: Accountability and Change.

The accountability part is what we know as the actual acknowledgment of what you did.

"I'm sorry I forgot to return your book."

"I apologize for being late and not making you feel that your time was valuable too." (Did I strike a nerve with this one? *wink*)

"I apologize for being afraid to send you my real photos and name." (Shout out to Nev, Max, and Kamie!)

The change is because apologies get old... Fast! So if you keep apologizing and taking accountability for your actions, the person is going to wonder when you're going to actually stop doing the action. You can set up a plan with them or even sometimes the person you're apologizing to can determine an effective plan for you two to regain trust and respect. But whether you create this on your own or in collaboration, this is an important step.

Ideally, I don't think either step should be skipped. Many will try to just go to the change without acknowledging the behavior, which leaves the other person wondering if you even realize what you did. And the other person also doesn't want to keep hearing you say you're sorry about the same things over and over. When you know better, you should work on doing better.

In regards to forgiveness from others, recognize that this may take time. "But Marcelle, I took accountability and even changed my behavior. What's the hold up?!" Well, it's easier for us to see what we've changed than for someone else to see it. They don't know all of the times we had to push ourselves from the old behavior into this new, improved us. Shoot, they may not even notice the new and improved us yet because it hasn't been long enough to see the behavior consistently. So just keep doing your best with consistency and people will start to notice. If they still don't notice though, they may be holding on to resentment, and that's another topic...

Now that I've summed up apologizing to others, let's talk about forgiving ourselves.

Self Apologies and Forgiveness

Working towards forgiving yourself starts with the same steps as an apology to another person: accountability and change. You may not be taking accountability out loud or in writing, but you should take a moment to reflect on the situation and what you wish you had not done. I assume if you're looking into how to forgive yourself, you've probably already been beating yourself up (which I'm definitely not encouraging)... so let's move it along.

You're at the change part, and this is a big factor of self-forgiveness. You feel bad about what you did and repeat that feeling. You want to make sure that you're not going to hurt those you care about or yourself again. And to move on from what happened, you'll need to know that you can trust yourself to make better decisions moving forward. Maybe that involves getting support from your circle or calling up a mental health professional for reinforcement. Maybe you journal about what you would do if ever in that situation again. And as soon as that voice comes back in your head to beat yourself up about what happened, you tell that bully that you made a mistake that you won't make again and reiterate your plan.

(This is you hugging yourself and showing a little more self-compassion.)

Please know that you might have some slip-ups. You're not perfect, and it can take time to break this behavior if you've been doing it for a while. So continue showing some self-compassion. What would you say to a friend if they expressed feeling the same way? We tend to be nicer to our friends than we are to ourselves. Ask yourself if you're doing your best. If not, what's holding you back? And if you are, then that's all you can do. Because that is the last part of forgiveness: time.

Be patient. Be compassionate. And be consistently working at your plan. I know it might sound like the beginning of The Help, but it's true. You deserve to give yourself another chance because you only get one you.

Marcelle Craig is a Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist in , CA.

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