I was chatting with someone on Instagram.
She recounted past interactions with her children that were less than ideal. That is, for the mother that she would like to have been. The years of living in a toxic marriage had taken their toll.
This compassionate mother shared her attempts to apologize to her receptive and supportive children. Yet, she still could not get over her past mistakes.
I asked her, “Have you forgiven yourself?”
“How do you do that”? was her reply.
So, I am writing this for her and anyone that struggles to get over something from the past. Because, just maybe, it is time you forgave yourself.
Step One: Acknowledge What You Have Done
Seems like a no brainer. But you gotta be able to point out the fact that you made a mistake.
Step Two: Offer A Sincere Apology
A sincere apology is more than just a flippant, “I’m Sorry”!
It involves taking ownership for what you have done, and making plans to not make the same mistake again. (Check out my piece on a sincere apology).
Step Three: Note If You Are Still Feeling Bad About What You Did In The Past
If this is the case, there are two things going on here.
- You are most likely feeling shame. You know, that awful feeling of self-doubt and loathing that formulates in your mind from a young age. This pain, reflection, is uncomfortable, so you want to get rid of that.
Saying sorry over and over is an attempt to get rid of the pain by placing it on another person. That never works because again, you can not heal another persons pain.
- The other thing going on is the complete opposite. Your brain wants you to hang on to this pain from the past. If you were to forget and move on, you may put yourself at risk to mess up again.
Your brain doesn’t want to deal with that. So, it keeps a reminder with the hope that you will never have to go through that again
You have to prove to the brain that you got this! That you can handle yourself without all the reminders from the past.
Step Four: Forgive Yourself
You need to offer yourself a sincere apology. This includes owning what is yours and not taking on what is not yours (Again, see the piece about a sincere apology).
Step Five: Mourn
We often attribute mourning to loss of life.
But mourning can be applied to any loss, especially the loss of an idea or an ideal. In this situation, you are mourning the fact that you are not perfect. That you messed up.
Which is actually the way things are supposed to be.
We are supposed to mess up. We are not meant to be perfect. The need to be perfect is old programming from childhood when we learned that being perfect was protection. If you were perfect, you wouldn’t get into trouble. And getting into trouble doesn’ feel very good.
So you need to go through the mourning process. (See the piece on Mourning).
Step Six: Acceptance
This is the last stage of mourning and also the most wonderful. When the past no longer stirs up strong emotion. When you are truly OK with yourself.
The mind needs to know that you can handle things. It needs to know that you can protect it from pain in the future. This does not mean that you will never mess up again.
It’s actually quite the opposite. It means that you can mess up and be OK with the pain that comes from learning and growing.
And that, my friend, is what life is all about.