Making peace and moving forward is often easier said than done. Believe me, I struggle with this big time. Being able to forgive yourself requires empathy, compassion, kindness, and understanding and for many people, these qualities are not items we have in our ruck packs.
It also requires you to accept that forgiveness is a choice, and it really is.All of us make mistakes at times and in some cases, they are as simple as making the wrong turn to go somewhere and as big as life changing events.
In my case, some of the mistakes I have been making are when it comes to gardening. I find that I am placing gardening beds in areas I later regret, planting things I then dislike, procrastinating on contacting agencies and follow thru that later causes me issues.
I have made some major mistakes that don’t include gardening, of course. At this point in my life, I have not really addressed them, but I think about them often. I am still working on this forgiveness for myself and my lack of awareness in these situations that have caused harm to others.
As painful and uncomfortable as it may feel, there are things in life that are worth enduring the pain for, to move forward and forgiving yourself is one of them. One of the first steps in learning how to forgive yourself is to focus on your emotions. I am an emotional person and the hardest thing for me is to access those emotions and not allow them to overcome me.
I have found myself in many situations that I am frustrated either at myself or even the situation has been frustrated and my emotions start to creep in. You know that feeling with you get those baby tears welling in your eyes and you choke them down. This happens to me so often and I hate it because I feel people tend to think this is weakness.
Oh, look at this poor woman crying because she is so sad and upset…no I am an emotional being that is about to rip your head off, but that is not what society tell us. It tells us that crying is weakness. And it is not.
Emotions are our thoughts in motion.
We need to allow ourselves permission to recognize and accept the feelings that have been triggered in ourselves and welcome them. I know, his is very hard to do.
Many of us compartmentalize our emotions so that we can function in our day to day lives. Compartmentalization is defined as a defense mechanism where someone suppresses their thoughts and emotions. It is not always done consciously but this can often justify or defend a person’s level of engagement in certain behaviors.
I cannot deal with most of my emotions when it comes to the Iraq war and the injuries I sustained while serving. I know this because often when I am in a position when I need to speak about it, the emotions come on me and shut me down intensely.
If you make a mistake and continue to struggle with letting it go, acknowledge out loud that you are struggling. Say “I am struggling with this mistake!” Think about what you learned from the mistake, as each “mistake” is a learning experience that holds the key to moving forward faster and more consistently in the future.
I know, when you are in it, this is hard to do. I often find myself in pity party mode often. But when you feel yourself in that state, acknowledge to yourself you’re in it and you want to stop that. Then you can work on the rest.
Reminding ourselves that we did the best we could with the tools and knowledge we had at the time, will help us forgive ourselves and move forward.
There are some tools that will work with helping your mind sort through that mistake and one can be journaling. Journaling can help you understand your inner critic and develop self-compassion. This can help you identify thought patterns that are sabotaging your ability to forgive yourself.
I personally struggle with unguided journaling because it becomes destructive quickly toward myself. I find prompts are helpful for myself when I write based off a question such as “How would you change a mistake you made?” Or “What would you change about a decision you recently made?”
We are our own worst critics, right? One important action tip is to notice when that harsh voice comes in and then write it down or at lease take notice of it. You might be surprised by what your inner critic says to you. Sometimes it can be difficult to recognize the thoughts that are getting in the way of forgiveness.
As an example, I hated the placement of my peony beds so much that after 1 year I dug them all up and replanted them somewhere else and I love the location on them now however, while I was digging them out, I started that internal dialog that I was so stupid, I don’t know what I am doing, and I should stop. But I did keep pushing forward and am happier now because they fit into my overall plan.
One thing I really like is when I have a campfire in my backyard, I like to bring out a notebook and write in big black words things that are bothering me and throw the paper in the fire. As example, I will write on the piece of paper, grief. I will reflect on the things I am struggling with regarding grief and as I crumple the paper and throw it into the fire I say, I release you.
I may still feel sad for a little time, but I can continue to visualize the words on the paper and watch it in the fire burning. Nothing but ash and smoke left. And I can do this for any emotion or feeling I have anytime I have a fire.
Failing to forgive, or unforgiveness, is the practice of engaging in ruminative thoughts of anger, vengeance, hate, and resentment that have unproductive outcomes for the ruminator, such as increased anxiety, depression, elevated blood pressure, vascular resistance, decreased immune response, and worse outcomes in coronary artery disease.
I know that is not the life I want to live. I want a life of love, happiness, contentment, and peace. I will not or try not to allow unforgiveness to beat me.
We cannot change the past. Mistakes happen and as a result sometimes it only affects you or in other times, mistakes can affect those closest to us, but we must remember that we can learn from them. We can make the decision to be better from the choices we make and if those choices are wrong and the mistake is what’s left, we can forgive and learn and be better.