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Self-forgiveness: a guide

Nobody likes to admit fault, and often it’s hard to accept our mistakes. In a society where perfectionism is rife, there is little space or patience for error. Standards have grown so high, we’ve become increasingly tough on ourselves whilst we strive for the best. And when we inevitably fall at some point, those standards make it a painful battle to forgive ourselves.

We all get frustrated with ourselves for things... spending too much money on takeaways (again), locking the keys in the car, double booking yourself and having to cancel plans... We have become prone to berating ourselves for things that, when you take a backwards step, aren’t all that bad.

When I was in the throes of my eating disorder, I was not only short on any form of self-compassion, but aggressively unforgiving to myself. Maybe I thought I’d eaten too much, or couldn't fit into a certain skirt. I would become hateful towards myself, when in actual fact I should have been compassionate to myself, knowing it was my eating disorder creating this inner dialogue. I really struggled to forgive myself the wrongdoings I thought I’d committed.

It takes practice, but with consistent work, you can get to a more loving and forgiving place!

1. Acknowledge your worth

Ultimately, in order to become more forgiving of ourselves, we need to practice more self-compassion; it must come from a place of love. Self-love can feel like too big a task for some, so for the purpose of becoming more forgiving, let’s focus on self-acceptance or self-like. You need to believe you are worthy of forgiveness before it can happen. If you are too hard on yourself, or treat yourself without patience, you’ll struggle to get this down.

You also need to respect yourself enough to cut yourself some slack. Maybe you did a double shift at work and innocently forgot to pop into the shop for eggs, making your partner pretty mad on your return. Know inside that you can’t do everything, and you can’t make everyone happy...

2. Accidents happen

We all know that accidents happen, and no matter how high-powered or in control you feel, the reality is that we cannot control everything around us. Rest assured, shit will happen; it’s just a waiting game to see when and how bad! When something happens that you didn’t plan for, or wasn’t supposed to, be quick to reassure yourself that accidents do happen. The more you cement this mindset, the less likely you are to berate yourself and eventually, become more forgiving.

3. Damage limitation

Once the shit has hit the fan, all there is to do is address the situation and what needs to be done next. In some cases, perhaps the best way to go forwards is to do nothing. In most cases, however, there will be some necessary contingency action to ‘recover’ the situation and set it back on the straight and narrow.

Concentrate on the solution rather than wasting energy and focus on blaming yourself. Get it together, put your best foot forward and solve it. Feel empowered enough to admit you perhaps made a mistake, but instead of being cruel and harsh towards yourself, find a way to put it right and own that.

4. Mindset adjustment

Next time you find yourself in a harsh and critical mindset, subjecting yourself to unreasonably high standards, try and take a second to realise where your mind is taking you. nobody is perfect, we all make mistakes from time to time. Ask yourself ‘would I treat my best friend this way?’ And if the answer is no - it nearly always is!- then alter your inner dialogue.

More often than not, there is a solution to whatever you believe you have done wrong, and so the only issue to contend with is not actually the ‘result’, because we can deal with it! The issue is how you feel towards yourself when all is said and done.

In order to heal we must first forgive... and sometimes the person we must forgive is ourselves — Mila Bron

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