Stuck in the Past?
Here Are A Few Ways You Can Help Forgive Yourself
We all have things in our past that we’re not proud of and regret doing. Many of us have accepted the things we can’t change, learned from them, and moved on.
However, there is a certain number of us who struggle to do this. They can’t seem to get over their past missteps and mistakes, and they let those things continue to haunt their daily lives. They find it difficult to forgive themselves.
If you believe this resonates with you, then keep reading.
Maybe you did something terrible to a family member or friend.
Maybe you committed a crime.
Maybe a decision you made caused someone to be hurt physically or emotionally.
And when it comes to weight loss …
Maybe you keep failing to lose weight.
In many ways, it’s understandable why we hold onto these things – we want to try and remind ourselves of our past transgressions, so we don’t repeat them. However, we are far less likely to repeat these wrongs if we forgive ourselves, accept what we did, and move on.
In this article, we’re going to give you some helpful tips for letting go of guilt, forgiving yourself, and moving forward. If you use these tips to address the past mistakes that continue to bother you, you could see a positive change in the quality of your life.
7 Steps to Forgiving Yourself for Past Mistakes
1. Start with Self-Reflection
PyschologyToday states that self-reflection is one of the most important things we can do for our wellness.
The path to self-forgiveness starts by taking an inventory of what you did. It requires a significant amount of self-reflection.
It also requires honesty.
Over time, we tend to build up defenses around our memories, which can cause us to have a tainted view of what happened. In this case, however, you want to breach these defenses by asking yourself what you did and what role you played in what happened.
What bothers you the most about the situation? It may help to write it down, but it’s usually enough to spend some quiet time reflecting.
2. Imagine a Completely Different Outcome
Using the power of your imagination, think of what you would do differently if you could go back to that exact moment in time. How would you change the outcome? What would you have to do or say to correct the mistake you made?
Picture it all in your mind, concentrate on all the details, and visualize yourself correcting it.
3. Now Accept that You CAN’T Go Back
As comforting as it is to imagine that we can go back and right our wrongs, it’s now time to accept that we, unfortunately, can’t do so. This exercise is crucial to your understanding that whatever you did in the past is done.
However, this doesn’t mean that you are powerless. As you’ll see, there are ways to move on that can be just as enlightening as actually changing the circumstances.
4. Think of Ways to Make Amends
If you think hard enough, you’ll realize that there is almost always a way to make amends, no matter how severe. However, you have to be very careful about how you go about this.
For instance, if what you did is still a secret, and making it public could hurt someone, you might not want to confess publicly. However, if you wronged a friend, you could reach out and apologize. You could also do something good for them – something that shows that you’ve learned from your mistake.
Now, this obviously won’t apply to every situation, but it’s worth thinking over. If you need help, consider seeking advice from friends, family, or a therapist.
The person or people you hurt in the past may have already healed, so some situations are best left alone. In these cases, you can redeem yourself in your mind by doing acts of community service or random acts of kindness. If you’re religious, you might consider turning to prayer or other forms of attrition.
5. Try to Start Over
We sometimes allow our mistakes to be a representation of us; we ascribe them to our identity. Our mistakes do not represent who we are as a person. Those moments of past transgressions do not define who and what you are right now.
Make a commitment to yourself by establishing a new ‘starting point.’ Sure, you made some mistakes, but everyone else in the world has as well.
Now is when you commit to being a better person. To help this commitment stick, consider celebrating the occasion by starting a new journal, buying yourself a gift, or commemorating it in some other, personal way.
6. Remind Yourself of Your Commitment Frequently
When the going gets tough, it can be tempting to think about the past and return to old behaviors. However, to avoid this, do your best to continually remind yourself of the journey you’ve taken and your commitment to be a better person – the kind who learns from their mistakes and moves forward.
7. Consider Talking to Someone
If you find it hard to forgive yourself, consulting a professional may help.
Counselors and therapists are trained and skilled in helping people to heal from their past. They may even help you figure out the root cause of why you keep holding onto past hurts, failures, mistakes, etc. They would work with you by coming up with practical steps and methods that lead to a resolution.
Generally, it is easier to forgive the transgressions of others than it is to forgive the transgressions done against ourselves.
We cannot control the actions of others, but we can control our actions. And knowing this, the guilt and pain from our past actions linger much longer than we should allow them to.
To truly live and enjoy life, we have to learn from our past mistakes and let go. Sometimes it’s harder to bring in new positive experiences when we’re always re-playing our past mistakes.
Yes, they leave cuts and bruises on us, but they can heal if we allow them to.
If you found this article helpful, would you mind sharing it? We’d greatly appreciate it!
12 Ways to Forgive Yourself for a Past Mistake; Here’s how to finally move on, no matter what you did.
By Ellen Michaud; Feb 13, 2019; https://www.prevention.com/life/g20512857/how-to-forgive-yourself-no-matter-what/
How to Forgive Yourself and Move on From the Past; Four simple ways to forgive yourself and get on with your life.; Posted October 22, 2014; Matt James Ph.D.
How to Forgive Yourself; Co-authored by Moshe Ratson, MFT, PCC; https://www.wikihow.com/Forgive-Yourself
It’s for You, Not Them: Forgive to Help Yourself Heal; July 10, 2018 • By Andrea Brandt, PhD, MFT
What Is Self-Forgiveness And Why Is It Important To Your Mental Health?; Updated October 21, 2020