Forgiveness is a deliberate decision to release feelings of resentment, anger, and vengeance toward someone who has wronged you. Most people are taught from a young age that forgiveness is important, and this blog has discussed how forgiveness benefits both physical and mental well-being. It can be challenging to release feelings of bitterness and truly forgive. But as hard as forgiveness may be, forgiving ourselves can be significantly more challenging. Self-forgiveness is not about absolving yourself from any mistake or wrongdoing. Much like forgiving someone else, learning to forgive yourself involves:

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  1. Understanding your feelings and emotions: Developing an awareness of feelings is essential when learning to forgive yourself. Identifying and naming your emotions often reduces the intensity of related guilt and shame.
  2. Accepting personal responsibility for what occurred: Rationalizing, justifying, or making excuses for your actions often impairs the forgiveness process. You can prevent negative emotions by accepting responsibility for any actions that have harmed others.
  3. Regarding yourself with compassion: Any compassion you would extend to someone else, learn to offer to yourself. Forgiving yourself means acknowledging that you made a mistake but resolving to do better in the future – and giving yourself a break.
  4. Expressing remorse for your errant words or actions: When we accept responsibility, we often experience damaging emotions like guilt and shame. Guilt is healthy and understandable when you’ve done something wrong, but remorse should be used to stimulate a desire to change.
  5. Making amends with all parties and apologizing – even to yourself: Making amends is an essential aspect of forgiveness, even when the individual you are forgiving is yourself. One way to ease your guilt is to take practical action to right your wrongs, starting with an apology.
  6. Discerning lessons to be learned: Giving into self-pity or even self-hatred is harmful and makes it nearly impossible to stay positive and motivated. Forgiving yourself means finding the lessons to be learned and allowing yourself to grow from mistakes.

Did You Know? There is a difference between guilt and shame. Experiencing guilt means that you are a good person who did something you regret. Shame, however, implies that you feel you are a terrible person or have a failure of character – inspiring feelings of worthlessness which can lead to addiction, depression, and aggression.

Benefits of Self-Forgiveness

Self-forgiveness is a powerful exercise, but it doesn’t work for everyone. Those who irrationally blame themselves even when they are not at fault, for instance, may not be able to find a way to forgive themselves. In addition, those who have experienced abuse or trauma may be consumed by shame and guilt about circumstances out of their control.

However, forgiveness offers a multitude of benefits as well.

Mental Health: Offering forgiveness to yourself enhances self-worth and boosts feelings of wellness. Research has shown that when people practice self-forgiveness, they are less prone to depression and anxiety and enjoy elevated productivity, focus, and concentration levels.

Physical Health: Forgiveness can also positively influence physical health, such as improving cholesterol levels, reducing pain, lowering blood pressure, and minimizing the chances of a heart attack.

Relationships: A forgiving and compassionate attitude is critical to enjoying successful relationships. Establishing close emotional bonds with others is essential, but so is the capability to restore those connections when they become damaged.

If You Can’t Forgive Yourself

When individuals can’t seem to forgive themselves, negative emotions such as self-loathing can take over. Anger, aggression and depression can all result from lingering guilt and shame. While this condition is common, it is no way to live your life. If you are ready to escape the prison of self-condemnation and find your emotional freedom, call Denise Schonwald today.