The self-forgiveness concept is perhaps something many of us aren’t accustomed to because our socialisation and relationships are more focused on others than the self.
However, psychology as a discipline illuminates the self and provides us with an opportunity to tap into the deeper parts of ourselves as we explore the self through introspection and talk therapy. Our ultimate existence as human beings and overall development takes place at different stages – we move from infancy through to various
phases of adulthood throughout our lifespan. Simultaneously, as we are growing we are presented with different life experiences at every phase of our development. It occurs that at some stages we are able to make our own decision based on the choices presented but in other stages, decisions were and are being made on our behalf especially, during our childhood.
Right now some of us are entering adolescents, while others are emerging young adults and others are approaching various stages of adulthood. During this journey irrespective of where we are in life, we may question certain things about ourselves and find ourselves not entirely happy or satisfied with our life choices irrespective of how it
happened. The main point is that our choices influence the course of our lives and ultimately our mental health, and only when we can extend self-forgiveness we can truly live authentic lives and be content.
Each of us depending on our life experiences will have different experiences that we need to forgive ourselves. But perhaps these following guidelines are common reasons
for self-forgiveness according to Dr. Caroline Leaf a neuroscientist.
- for the times you disappoint yourself
- for the times you were in the wrong
- for the times you feel like you weren’t enough
- for the things you said out of anger
- for the past mistakes you’ve made
- for the times you could have been more empathetic
- for the times you’ve realised you were the toxic one
- for the lessons a little too late
-for the times you didn’t stand up for yourself
To be self-forgiving is to have the ability to accept your behaviours, accept what has happened and willingly move past and move on with your life without being stuck on the past events which aren’t going to change; while being kind and compassionate in the
process to the self. Additionally, you need to take responsibility for your actions – for example, if you’ve been justifying or rationalising your actions for too long it’s time to hold yourself accountable for causing hurt to the self or others as this will help reduce feelings of guilt or excessive regret that you may feel. Get into the habit of expressing
remorse because it normalises the unpleasant feelings you feel because of your actions but it simultaneously, highlights that you’re accepting that your actions were unkind.
Make amendments where it’s possible and rectify your wrongdoings through either apologising or exploring alternative healthier ways you could have managed the situation better. And focus on growth – learning from your mistakes and growing from your experiences is crucial to your personal development. Otherwise, you will remain in
the self-loathing phase which is detrimental to your self-esteem. Self-loathing indicates that we are not worthy or deserving even of forgiveness and this ultimately will affect your mental health.
Life is about lived experiences, in some instances we have choices and in others not.
Make mistakes, learn from them and grow but don’t allow yesterday mistakes to ruin your now and your tomorrow.