NEW YORK – Forgiving yourself can be much harder than forgiving someone else. When you’re carrying around a sense of blame for something that has happened in the past, this bundle of negativity burrowing deep into yourself can cause a never-ending, pervasive sense of unhappiness.
1. Understand that your mistakes do not define you…
No human born to this earth has lived and died without screwing up something or, in some cases, themselves. Mistakes are natural. They are a character flaw we all survive with. Mistakes show themselves in small cracks and fissures, in holes and caverns, in eruptions and catastrophe. They are, more often than not, hideous stains on the tapestry of our day-to-day lives. But as stains, they fade over time — losing value and meaning as each day passes. We were not born perfect, and if we fool ourselves into believing that we ever will be, we are already setting ourselves up for the fall. Mistakes are meant to teach us to embrace our stains, cracks and fissures and learn from them. We can never be perfect but we can strive to be the best versions of ourselves — whatever that self may be.
2. …And neither do your failures.
Mistake and failure share a strong bond in that failure, too, is inevitable. We could easily list all of the amazing individuals around this world who have conquered, triumphed and beat the odds after failing but what does that mean for us — the everyday people? It means that we don’t need to try to be the next Mandela, Jobs or Edison. We don’t need to be or do anything marvelous to make something of our failures. We don’t need to do anything out of the ordinary to be extraordinary. We just have to want to be something more than what we’ve been. The key to knowing that we are not our failures is knowing that there’s more to come. We may fail again, perhaps another hundred times in our lives, but just getting up the courage to keep trying and keep going is enough to be just as incredible as those in our history books.
3. Let people in.
When we mess up or do something “wrong,” we have a reaction similar to “fight or flight.” We either run from our friends and family or we flock to them. Running away from them can, sometimes, be the best option. But that can only be an option if it’s temporary. Alienating ourselves when our wounds are still fresh usually leads to scars that reach deep down to the bone. They become irreparable and we start to harbor resentment or forget what our relationships really meant. We need to have people to rely on — friends and family, in whatever sense of those words that we interpret them. We need to have shoulders, ears, minds and hearts to lean on, listen, understand and care. We come into this world alone but we don’t have to — and we shouldn’t have to — leave it that way. We must take solace in those around us because they will help us muster the strength to put ourselves back together when we can’t muster it on our own.
4. Don’t dwell.
Falling into a pit of self-inflicted despair when we take a misstep is common. We treat our mistakes, failures, breakups and shortcomings like deaths. We cry and scream and get angry because we think that it’s all we can do. We have this misguided sense of ourselves post-personal injury and we let it consume us. We spend more time worrying than mending, more time toying with things we can’t change than the things we can. Being proactive is the only way to fix this common dweller-syndrome. We need to actively tell ourselves to be positive — even if we don’t feel it — because if we say it enough, it becomes true. We may have to read self help books or blogs or vent to a friend or sibling along the way, but eventually, when we give up on feeling sorry for ourselves, we start to heal. Things will suddenly feel better and moving on becomes something real.
5. Don’t be afraid to start over.
Forgiving yourself means more than just learning to live with what has happened. Sometimes, it means you have to rebuild, start from scratch, pull up the old foundations and lay new ones. This can be the hardest part. This can be harder than learning to not dwell because this could mean saying goodbye to certain people, places or things. But as hard as it will be, it will also be refreshing and cathartic. Like a quarter or mid-life baptism, starting over can be more than making amends for your previous sins — it can be the stage for a whole new life of beautiful possibilities.