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Self-Forgiveness

Stop focusing on your past mistakes. Don’t be ashamed of the things that you’ve done. We ALL have made mistakes. Don’t you see? All of those things helped shape you into the beautiful person you are today! Hold your head up high because you didn’t allow your past mistakes to consume you. You learned! You conquered! You became a better YOU. Be proud of who you are TODAY! ~ Stephanie Lahart

Last week’s blog discussed forgiveness, and how forgiving other people releases our judgment in order to allow ourselves to move forward. This week, we’ll take a look at self-forgiveness, an infinitely more difficult, involved, and yet potentially rewarding process.

How many of us beat ourselves up, over and over again, about – well – everything?! “I should have done this differently or better”, “I shouldn’t have done that at all”, “I shouldn’t have said what I did”, “I should have expressed what I really felt”. “If only I were a better person (mother, father, spouse, friend, coworker, boss) I’d have reacted differently”, “if only I had studied harder”, “if only I had cared more”, “if only I had cared less”. “Why didn’t I take a stand”, “why didn’t I reach out to a friend”? Should have, shouldn’t have, if only, why didn’t I…. you can fill in your own words here. However you phrase the thoughts that you castigate yourself with, it’s catabolic energy that keeps you stuck and holds you back.

We have an easier time forgiving other people than we do ourselves, because we don’t personalize other people’s actions as much. It’s often easier to feel compassion towards others, because we can rationalize that they were doing the best they could at the time (which is true!). But it’s more difficult to extend that compassion toward ourselves.

When our inner critics tell us that we’re not good enough and that we’ve done something wrong, many of us believe the words they speak to us. It’s tough to forgive yourself if, at your core, you believe you’re not good enough. Self-forgiveness begins when you allow yourself to understand that you are good enough and that in fact, you’re perfect. Bruce D Schneider, founder of the Institute for Professional Excellence in Coaching (iPEC) defines perfection as “unique unto itself.” So each of us is perfect, and although we sometimes do, say, or think things we wish we hadn’t, a key to self-forgiveness is not to judge ourselves because of that – to have compassion for ourselves. Instead, when we notice that something doesn’t really feel good, we can look at it as an opportunity to grow and say, “What is it that I’m doing here that doesn’t fit me? What’s not working here for me?” and then, to simply make an adjustment.

Highly conscious people see things that don’t work out and grow from their experiences. They don’t give heed to, and in fact, many don’t even hear, that inner critic. They listen instead to their inner genius. However, people with a lot of catabolic energy have their deepest fears reinforced when the inner critic talks and so they continue the cycle of self-blame. Isn’t it time to break the cycle? In the words of Saint Francis de Sales…

“Have patience with all things, but chiefly have patience with yourself. Do not lose courage in considering your own imperfections but instantly set about remedying them – every day begin the task anew.”

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