I am a perfectly imperfect human. I am flawed and I make mistakes. I I do my best to be compassionate, caring, and loving towards the people in my life. But, when I “mess up” and do or say something that doesn’t align with my values, it is really hard to forgive myself.
I’ve learned that it is so much easier to forgive others than it is to forgive ourselves. Forgiving the people we care about might be as easy as letting things go because we know their intentions are honest or pure. It might be recognizing that they are only human as well and might have said or done something out of anger or frustration.
If we can forgive others so easily, why is it that it’s so darned hard to forgive ourselves?
Because. We expect better from ourselves. We expect perfection. We expect that while others may fall down around us and not always live up to our potential, it’s our job to always, always, always be doing our best.
How realistic is that? Can you see how we set ourselves up for failure?
Regardless of how big or small our so-called “mistake” is or was, there is always room to practice a little self-love. In the yoga world we often talk about acceptance and being able to accept each moment; as it is.
Acceptance isn’t the same as complacency. It doesn’t give us permission to just sit back and let our lives happen around us without pursuing our goals, living in accordance with our values, or working harder. Cultivating acceptance can allow us to let go of our guilt-ridden thoughts and instead work on how we can learn and grow from our experiences.
It is through that learning and growing that we open ourselves up to live deeper and more fully. The journey through life’s ups and downs gives us great perspective and helps us to connect with others through a more empathetic lens.
Think about the last major life challenge you worked through for a moment. How did it help you to see the pain and suffering in others more readily? Did your experience give you greater perspective or open your eyes up to something you wouldn’t have otherwise seen?
As painful as our life experiences can be, at times, we know that there is light at the end of the darkness. People sometimes use the acronym for HOPE to stand for, “hold on, pain ends.” It’s through that knowledge and understanding that we can get through the most challenging of times.
Forgiving yourself is a process. It doesn’t happen overnight and it might not happen without a lot of instrospection. But the work is worth it. Holding on to our past only keeps us from fully embracing the beauty of the now and the beauty that the future might bring. Our past experiences will always influence us in our lives but it doesn’t need to define us and make us who we are today. We get to make that choice; each and every day.
Are you ready to let go of something from your past? Are you ready to forgive yourself?
Here are a few steps that might help as you make the transition through the dark and towards the light.
Step 1: Take time out for instrospection and self-study. Ask yourself: How did this happen? Why did this happen? What went wrong?
Step 2: Ask for forgiveness. This might be an external experience as you ask someone outside of yourself for forgiveness but it might also be an internal experience as you are asking yourself for forgiveness. Pracitce asking yourself: What would it take for me to forgive myself (fully and unconditionally)? Listen to and honor your response.
Step 3: Come back to step #2 over and over again, as much as you need to. Just like our meditation practice keeps us coming back to our breath over and over, this process will likely take time and practice. Just when you feel as if you’ve moved past the need to forgive yourself, you will feel or hear a nudge otherwise. Know that this is the hard work that needs to be done, again and again.
Step 4: Finally, allow yourself to let go, move on, and prepare to continue to be a perfectly flawed human that is continuously learning and growing.
Forgiving ourselves, and others, isn’t easy. But the alternative keeps us suffering. It keeps us from expanding into the person we are meant to be. Accepting and embracing life’s experiences can be a process that brings us more fully into the present moment - the only place where life truly exists.