You may be wondering how to forgive yourself for something – or many things.
If you don’t know how to forgive yourself – if you can’t let go and move on – you may be focusing on the wrong part of self-forgiveness.
So many of us say: I can’t forgive myself. I’m not able to let go. I can’t do it. Show me how to forgive myself because I’m stuck. I totally lack self-forgiveness!
You’re focused on not forgiving yourself. Forgiving is what you aren’t doing. What ARE you doing?
Think about it. Do you criticize yourself over and over for making mistakes? Do you keep yourself from doing good things as a punishment for what you’ve done in the past? Do you tell yourself you don’t deserve to be happy?
You may call the above “not forgiving,” but there is no such thing as a “not.” Not forgiving yourself is doing something else instead. You’d be more accurate calling your lack of forgiveness self-punishment.
You’re self-punishing for past mistakes. This is something clear and concrete you do instead of forgiving yourself.
If you want to start the process of forgiving yourself, begin by knowing where you are. You’re at self-punishment. If you don’t recognize what you’re doing, how can you stop? Focusing on “not knowing how to forgive yourself” won’t help.
Parents punish children in one of three ways:
1. A verbal scolding
3. Physical punishment (I don’t advocate physical punishment. This is a mere statement of fact. Many parents use it.)
Not forgiving yourself manifests in the same three ways:
1. Self-criticism (scolding)
2. Denying yourself fun or opportunity (restriction)
3. Self-harm (physical punishment)
How to Forgive Yourself by Ending Self-Punishment
Only you can decide when you’ve punished yourself enough. The key is to understand which decision you’re making. For now, it’s a decision to continue “not forgiving yourself” by punishing yourself.
Try an experiment in self-forgiving:
For a few days, whenever you wonder how to forgive yourself, tell yourself the following:
I am punishing myself for _______________. I punish myself by ________________.
Follow this “truth statement” with:
To forgive myself, I must decide to stop punishing myself. How much punishment do I want? How much do I need? What would happen if I stopped right now?
You may decide that you’ve punished yourself enough. You might be afraid to stop punishing yourself. You could be thinking that self-punishment is the only thing keeping you in line. It isn’t true, but you might believe it. You could even be punishing someone else by punishing yourself! Thanks to my friend Laura Coe for the reminder that self-punishment is often other punishment.
Ultimately if you can’t stop punishing yourself, you should realize that self-punishment is self-sabotage. This free and enlightening self-sabotage video explains how self-sabotage works and how to stop doing it.
If you like this article, like my Facebook Page to keep up with all my writing.