One of the most underrated principles of a peaceful life is to learn to forgive yourself.
The advent of the lockdown during the first phase of the pandemic was pretty relaxed and enjoyable. Everyone, on social media and in real life was picking up hobbies and making the most of this extra time. So many of us had hit the kitchen with the Dalgona Coffee and Banana Bread trend, some let their imagination run wild through crazy social media dubs and spoofs, some were inspiring others with their fitness regimes; but in collection, there was an overall feeling of kindness and togetherness.
However, ever since the second wave and subsequent lockdown hit, it has been getting increasingly difficult to stay at home. There is a constant and unforgiving pressure to meet deadlines on the work front, to maintain decent immunity to fight the disease, to maintain a reasonable social (media) life, to occasionally give in to the self-care trend; but most importantly, the compulsion to stay within the same 4 walls every day. And because of this inescapable pressure, oftentimes, horns are locked with our near and dear ones.
I think while the first wave united us all, the second wave divided us!
Bearing a similar headspace, I too, did something I had to live with for a long time. It was May and I cannot exactly remember what caused me to red; but it was an embarrassing scene and well outside my character. I lost my cool and atrociously lashed out at a friend during a very ordinary discussion. I was fuming and simply refused to apologize to the brink of risking the friendship. Even though my friend accepted my apology later and we decided to move on; what I did not realize is that I needed to forgive myself too! Subsequently, I carried that anger and shame inside me for months.
Forgiving oneself, I believe, is a practice rooted deep in freedom and humility. It is an act of learning from past mistakes and looking at oneself with compassion, because we are beautiful but still flawed. And sometimes, we do make mistakes and hurt ourselves as well as others. It is a universal truth that often leaves us feeling guilty, resentful and embarrassed.
And with the crazy times we live in, it is imperative to move forward and free ourselves from these unpleasant experiences, which haunt us later in life. We need to offer ourselves the same compassion that we so easily give to others, just like the love and kindness my friend offered me. He deserves it, but so do I. And choosing not to forgive ourselves will not only make us a permanent member of The Guilt Party but also, harm our present and future relationships.
WHY THE NEED TO FORGIVE OURSELVES?
There are circumstances when we all need to practice self-forgiveness. In this particular case of mine, I had to forgive myself for causing hurt to another person. It is easy to assume that once someone has forgiven us, the conflict has ended. But after an unhealthy exchange of words, 2 apologies must take place: One is for the victim, and the other is for the culprit. While we simply cannot control how others will react to our apologies, we can make sure to release ourselves from these past mistakes to let go of self-resentment.
The feeling of long standing anger towards oneself does not serve any purpose. In fact, there is only agony in that thought. If this feeling is not dealt with, it eventually allows our mistakes to have power over us and negatively impact our lives. We don’t have to forgive ourselves for someone else; we do this for ourselves, for our peace of mind and for our holistic well-being.
When we know we have made a mistake, we need to give ourselves the same love that we would so willingly give to a friend. Because mistakes are normal, and committing them is part of being human. It should be a secondary thought whether that mistake was committed towards another person or towards our own self. The next step should always be an apology, whether it goes out to the other person or to ourselves. Because when we are not kind to our own body and mind, we delve into self-hatred. We forget to take care of ourselves in the most basic practices like adequate sleep and hydration, and this results in an endless spiral of self-loathing and eventually buying into harmful body image messages. It is a never ending cycle of shame — feeling shame for feeling shame. But self-forgiveness is the answer!
HOW TO FORGIVE YOURSELF?
The biggest misfortune is that most times our mind does not realize that we are in need of self-forgiveness. But delightfully, our body is aware. This is the time when we need to look at our bodies to guide us in this forgiveness journey. Do you feel panic or humiliation when an old memory comes to mind? Does your body tense up when you are around someone you’ve had unpleasant exchanges with? This is a sign that you are in need of self – forgiveness.
I have carefully crafted a 3-step guide for anyone who wishes to overcome this agony and self-bashing and turn a new leaf. While all these steps have worked really well for me, I would recommend all the readers to run these through your psychologists:
Seeking forgiveness may often feel like overexposure, because admitting our shortcomings takes humongous courage and strength, and a whole lot of humility. But what we need to remember is that no one is perfect, and we all make mistakes. And just like we would willingly hold space for a close friend during their most vulnerable moment, we can offer ourselves the same compassion and warmth.
Studies have also shown that self-blame can lead to anxiety and depression, which is another reason to completely avoid negative self-talk, and in fact replace it with compassionate exchanges. It is definitely hard to offer ourselves that grace and love, but isn’t Growth and Healing the purpose of life?
Apologize To Yourself
Apologies are a quintessential part of forgiveness, and can act as a catalyst towards better accountability for our future actions. When we choose to turn our apology inward, we are not only apologizing for the harm we inflicted upon ourselves, but also apologizing for hanging onto humiliation and anger. This is an important step in recognizing the need to let go of all the negative feelings we have harbored all this while. And in this way, a self-apology can turn into a form of self-care.
The most important and often forgotten aspect for that apology to come full circle, is the need to accept it. We don’t need to immediately forgive and forget the mistake, but we should establish new ground rules, as we move forward and rebuild that self-trust.
Now, how to offer and accept your own apology –
It begins with understanding the actions or thoughts that led to the unpleasant situation. Below mentioned are a couple of methods that will help us offer an apology to ourselves:
a) The What, Why, How model makes this process comfortable: What are you apologizing for? Why did you make the choice you did? How can you reconcile and learn from it?
b) You can try apologizing to yourself in the mirror, by looking into your eyes as you speak. Say all things that you wish to hear.
c) You can record an audio apology and listen to it.d) In case you prefer journaling, you can write yourself a letter.
All this may feel silly at first, but try creating a dialogue with yourself as you accept your own apology.
Learn From The Past
Finally, we need to understand that we can learn from our past. We should ask our former selves what lessons we would like to take with us into the future. Instead of judging ourselves for the mistakes we committed, we should simply acknowledge our history and choose to walk fresh in a new direction.
Please Note: It is not helpful to wallow in the feelings that don’t serve us anymore. We have already made the decisions we did, and we cannot go back in time. But what we can do is, let our past provide directions for the future. Those decisions have led us here to this moment and we wouldn’t be who we are without them.
We should tell ourselves that we see all of our feelings and flaws, our decisions and shortcomings, and we acknowledge them. We should recognize the actions that have not served us, and take steps to move on, understanding that every choice and mistake has led us here.