As we go through life, we are bound to make some mistakes. Big or small, those mistakes can haunt us for extensive periods. If we do not learn how to forgive ourselves for our mistakes, it can have negative implications on our mental health. Failure to forgive yourself can have the same consequences as holding grudges against others. Self-forgiveness can be learned and practiced over time to not affect your mental health long-term.
What is Self-Forgiveness?
“Forgiving yourself” is a common expression used to describe the self-release of personal guilt and shame. Forgiveness, by definition, means you accept actions and behaviors that occurred and forgive and move forward. Choosing to forgive yourself does not mean you are weak, or that you do not take responsibility for your actions. It simply means you accept those actions and choose to move forward without it draining your mental energy. Acknowledging yourself in this way will help with self-forgiveness.
The process of self-forgiveness varies for everyone. In most cases, it involves reaching out to others who have been hurt, taking responsibility for actions, and expressing emotions through a healthy outlet. Forgiving yourself should be a top priority.
Why Self-Forgiveness Matters to Your Mental Health
Self-forgiveness is important to your mental health, personal growth, and self-improvement. Holding onto our mistakes and decisions carries a lot of weight mentally, and can turn into negative symptoms like anxiety or depression. Many people who suffer from anxiety and depression are harder on themselves than others, and often think negative thoughts regarding their decisions. Even common mistakes made by everyone can haunt those who do not easily forgive themselves. Lack of self-forgiveness can have more implications than anxiety and depression. It also causes long-term self-doubt, low self-esteem, poor communication skills, and other consequences.
As you learn to forgive yourself, you may be able to reduce the risk of developing these mental health concerns. Naturally, you will be able to boost your own sense of self-worth, productivity, and motivation. Self-forgiveness allows you to let go of the past and look forward to the future. It also allows you to improve and gives you room to grow as a person in life and in relationships.
How to Practice Self-Forgiveness
When you don’t forgive yourself, it can be easy to fall into a mental trap of guilt, shame, anger, and low self-esteem. Instead of beating yourself up about the situation, learn to forgive. Practicing how to forgive yourself encourages your mind and body to calm down when facing unwarranted emotions. There are many ways to practice self-forgiveness, and below are a few tips.
● Acceptance. Acknowledge that you are human and that you will make mistakes. Every human does. You are not a bad person because of this, but one that needs grace and forgiveness.
● Learn from those mistakes. Take time to focus on the lesson being shared with you by this mistake. It is an opportunity for growth.
● Visualize your future. Picture yourself free of guilt and shame. Start setting goals for your healing process that allows you to learn and grow.
Source: Better Help (2023) Self-Forgiveness: it’s Important For You
Source: John Hopkins (2023) Forgiveness: Your Health Depends on It
Source: Centerstone (2023) How to Forgive Yourself and Let Go of Regrets