Self-forgiveness is definitely an uncomfortable process because it involves accepting uneasy thoughts and feelings. Most people have trouble forgiving themselves because they feel like their mistakes define them as an individual or make them unworthy of love and respect from others. It is normal as humans to make errors but it's important not to get stuck in feelings of guilt and shame. Holding on to these thoughts and emotions can be devastating for mental and emotional health. Forgiveness enables one to let go of unproductive thoughts and feelings, and stay in a growth mindset instead of anchoring oneself in the past.
So, we reached out to Dr. Chandni Tugnait, Psychotherapist and the Founder of Gateway of Healing, and asked her to share her insights on what self-forgiveness looks like and how we can practice it consistently. Dr. Chandni says,
Being able to forgive yourself can be extremely beneficial as it will allow you to move on from the negative feelings associated with the mistake. The one person that needs to forgive you is you. You don't need anyone else's approval or permission for this. In some cases, self-forgiveness may involve asking for help or getting further support from a person who was affected by the incident.
The good news is that forgiving yourself, although difficult at first, gets easier with practice. Self-forgiveness may mean different things to different people. One way to practice self-forgiveness is by being mindful about your actions and asking if they reflect who you think you are as a person. Read on to know some other ways one can practice self-forgiveness, as shared by Dr. Chandni.
1. Brain Dumping
Grab a pen and paper and write down the mistake that seems overwhelming along with all the associated thoughts and feelings. Also list down all the positive and negative effects of that mistake on you and others. In case, that event triggered some past memories for you, jot them down too. Once your mind is blank, burn or tear the paper to release the stuck energy. This can surprisingly be very therapeutic.
2. Acknowledge And Apologise
Once you process your feelings, take the next step of taking the onus of what happened without blaming or giving excuses. Better yet, apologise to the person concerned (even if it is yourself). Authentic communication can solve the biggest hassles. Keep all judgment aside and extend a heartfelt apology.
3. Shift The Focus To The Lesson
Replaying the event in your head is only going to induce more anger, guilt, blame, shame or anxiety. Make a conscious attempt to shift the focus to the lesson learnt from the incident to ensure you make different choices in the future. Instead of going through it, grow through it.
4. Repair The Damage
Make amends and fix your mistake in whichever way you can. The key here is to not fall into the trap of self-pitying thoughts, as those won't do any good but make things worse.
5. Practice Self-Compassion
Do not wreck yourself by distorting your self-perception. Practice compassion towards self and don't let your mistakes define you. Treat yourself like you would treat your best friend.
6. Seek Professional Help
In case you are dealing with intense emotions and are unable to process them, seek help from an expert immediately. They will help you form healthy coping strategies for self-forgiveness. Forgiving doesn't mean forgetting, and help is always available.
Dr. Chandni says,
Remember, choosing to forgive yourself is not a sign of weakness. It takes courage to accept your mistake, forgive yourself, process the downward spiral of thoughts and emotions, and then move on with the lessons and learning.