"Have you ever made a mistake you thought was so bad that you simply couldn’t forgive yourself? So bad that you sunk into a depression and were unable to move on? Why are we so hard on ourselves? Why can’t we forgive ourselves for our mistakes? How long must you flog yourself before you are worthy of forgiveness?
I was working with a client recently who was very upset because she was going to have to declare bankruptcy due to the failure of a start up business. She had quit her job a year prior, taken all the money she and her husband had in savings, and started a business making and selling jewellry online. She made beautiful jewellry, but lacked the business acumen and experience to get enough sales.
After a year of sinking into debt, she and her husband had to admit defeat and were preparing to declare bankruptcy. The weight of the guilt crushing her spirit was overwhelming her. She simply could not forgive herself for “ruining her family’s financial lives.” She had become depressed, withdrawn, and forlorn. She had even considered suicide because she couldn’t bear her shame and the disappointment she read on the faces of her husband and children. She felt like a complete and utter failure.
She wanted to know what she could do to make the situation right. She was hoping her spirit guides would give her a new business plan or a quick way to earn money so they wouldn’t have to declare bankruptcy. But that’s not what her guides offered her. They offered her the gift of self-forgiveness. At first, it may not seem like much of a gift, but knowing how to forgive yourself and how to move on after tragedy strikes is a skill you would benefit from developing. How did they do it? They told me to ask her this question… “If your best friend came to you with this problem, what would you tell her?”
“Oh I would tell her that she shouldn’t be so hard on herself, everyone makes mistakes. I would tell her that she is resourceful and intelligent and can recover from this setback. I would tell her not to give up, but to dig in, make better choices, learn from her mistakes, and move on.” So then I said, “And why can’t you say this to yourself? Why doesn’t this apply to you?” She was stunned for a moment, speechless. Then she said, “But I don’t deserve to be forgiven.” So I said, “How come your friend deserves forgiveness but you don’t?”
She didn’t answer. “Forgiving yourself doesn’t mean you are free from the consequences of your actions. Yes, there will be consequences, but those consequences don’t have to include feeling guilt, shame and depression. Guilt, shame, and depression aren’t going to make you resourceful or stronger, in fact, they will weaken you and make it harder for you to recover.
Don’t you owe it to your family to keep your vibration high so that you can help navigate out of this situation in the fastest and best way possible?
”She replied, “Yeah, I suppose I do owe them that. But if I forgive myself and act all happy again won’t people think I’m not taking my failure seriously?”
“Do you think your family wants you to sit in the corner and cry and blame yourself? Or do you think they’d prefer it if you were resourceful and working daily to improve your situation? Don’t you think they know you’re sorry?
She started to cry. “I am. I am soooo sorry I did this. I can’t believe I hurt my family so badly.”“You didn’t hurt them. You’re disappointed in yourself and you’re disappointed in the outcome of your actions. But neither of those are permanent.
It doesn’t matter if you fall. Everyone falls. It only matters how quickly you get back up and continue the race. Your family is counting on you. What’s the very best thing you could do to help them right now?”
“I could get a job.”“And you will, but the first thing you need to do is forgive yourself. Give yourself the same compassion and understanding you’d give one of your children if they made a decision that had a negative consequence. You want your children to learn from their mistakes right?”
Of course. I want them to know they should never give up. I don’t want them to end up depressed, crying in the corner, like you said.” “Well show them how to fall and get back up. You have an opportunity to model for them what true success is, which is learning how to recover after a setback. Unite as a family, come up with a solid plan for recovery, work your plan, and keep moving forward.
Being happy and resourceful after a setback doesn’t mean you’re denying responsibility for your actions. It just means you’re acknowledging the situation and being committed to doing something to improve it.”By the time our conversation was over she was feeling much better than when the call started. She adopted a new belief about her situation. Instead of thinking of herself as a failure, she started thinking of herself as a “success in progress.”
She was committed to spending her time and energy on improving her situation instead of beating herself up over it. And she finally accepted the forgiveness her family had offered but which she couldn’t take before. She started treating herself the way she would treat others in the same situation. The secret to forgiving yourself is to take responsibility for your actions, but not to let your perceived failure bury you. When you fail, when you make a mistake, learn from it and move on. don’t beat yourself up. Raise your vibration, become more resourceful, and ask for help when you need it. Give yourself the forgiveness you so willingly give to others. You are worthy of forgiveness.
Everyone messes up. Me, you, the neighbours, Mother Teresa, Mahatma Gandhi, King David, the Buddha, everybody.It’s important to acknowledge mistakes, feel appropriate remorse and learn from them so they don’t happen again. But most people keep beating themselves up way past the point of usefulness: They’re unfairly self-critical.
Inside the mind are many sub-personalities. For example, one part of me might set the alarm clock for 6 a.m. to get up and exercise ... and then when it goes off, another part of me could grumble: “Who set the darn clock?” More broadly, there is a kind of inner critic and inner protector inside each of us. For most people, that inner critic is continually yammering away, looking for something, anything, to find fault with. It magnifies small failings into big ones, punishes you over and over for things long past, ignores the larger context and doesn’t credit for your efforts to make amends.
Therefore, you really need your inner protector to stick up for you: to put your weaknesses and misdeeds in perspective, to highlight your many good qualities surrounding your lapses, to encourage you to keep getting back on the high road even if you’ve gone down the low one, and frankly, to tell that inner critic to shut up.
With the support of your inner protector, you can see your faults clearly without fear that will drag you into a pit of feeling awful — clean up whatever mess you’ve made as best you can and move on. The only wholesome purpose of guilt, shame or remorse is learning — not punishment — so that you don’t mess up in that way again. Anything past the point of learning is just needless suffering and excessive guilt. This actually gets in the way of you contributing to others and helping make this world a better place, by undermining your energy, mood, confidence and sense of worth.
Seeing faults clearly, taking responsibility for them with remorse, making amends and then coming to peace about them; this is what I mean by forgiving yourself. How?
Start by picking something relatively small that you’re still being hard on yourself about, and then try one or more of the methods below. I’ve spelled them out in detail since that’s often useful, but you could do the gist of these methods in a few minutes or less.
Then if you like, work up to more significant issues.
Here we go:1. Start by getting in touch, as best you can, with the feeling of being cared about by some being: a friend or mate, spiritual being, pet or person from your childhood. Open to the sense that aspects of this being, including the caring for you, have been taken into your own mind as parts of your inner protector.2. Staying with feeling cared about, list some of your many good qualities. You could ask the protector what it knows about you. These are facts, not flattery, and you don’t need a halo to have good qualities like patience, determination, fairness or kindness.3. If you yelled at a child, lied at work, partied too hard, let a friend down, cheated on a partner or were secretly glad about someone’s downfall, whatever it was, acknowledge the facts: what happened, what was in your mind at the time, the relevant context and history and the results for yourself and others.4. Notice any facts that are hard to face — like the look in a child’s eyes when you yelled at her — and be especially open to them; they’re the ones that are keeping you stuck. It is always the truth that sets us free.5. Sort what happened into three piles: moral faults, unskillfulness and everything else. Moral faults deserve proportionate guilt, remorse or shame, but unskillfulness calls for correction, no more. (This point is very important.)You could ask others what they think about this sorting (and about other points below); include those you may have wronged, but you alone get to decide what’s right. For example, if you gossiped about someone and embellished a mistake he made, you might decide that the lie in your exaggeration is a moral fault deserving a wince of remorse, but that casual gossip (which most of us do, at one time or another) is simply unskillful and should be corrected (i.e. never done again) without self-flagellation.6. In an honest way, take responsibility for your moral fault(s) and unskillfulness. Say in your mind or out loud (or write): I am responsible for ______ , _______ and _______ . Let yourself feel it.Then add to yourself: But I am not responsible for ______ , _______ and _______ . For example, you are not responsible for the misinterpretations or over-reactions of others. Let the relief of what you are not responsible for sink in.7. Acknowledge what you have already done to learn from this experience, and to repair things and make amends. Let this sink in. Appreciate yourself.Next, decide what, if anything, remains to be done — inside your own heart or out there in the world — and then do it. Let it sink in that you’re doing it, and appreciate yourself for this too.8. Now check in with your inner protector: Is there anything else you should face or do? Listen to that “still quiet voice of conscience,” so different from the pounding scorn of the critic. If you truly know that something remains, then take care of it. But otherwise, know in your heart that what needed learning has been learned, and that what needed doing has been done.9. And now actively forgive yourself. Say in your mind, out loud, in writing or to others statements like: I forgive myself for ______ , _______ and _______ . I have taken responsibility and done what I could to make things better. You could also ask the inner protector to forgive you, or others out in the world, including maybe the person you wronged.10. You may need to go through one or more the steps above again and again to truly forgive yourself, and that’s alright. Allow the experience of being forgiven to take some time to sink in. Help it sink in by opening up to it in your body and heart, and by reflecting on how it will help others for you to stop beating yourself up. May you be at peace.from