Sometimes we find it easier to forgive others than to forgive ourselves. We hold onto anger and even hatred towards ourselves because of past choices and past behaviors. This is self-defeating, and we often engage in self-destructive activities (e.g., alcohol and drug use, suicide attempts, self-harm, destructive relationships) because we are unable to forgive ourselves. In order to forgive yourself, you will need to recognize that you are holding onto something in the past, reminding yourself over and over again about an incident, mistake, or failure in your life. Your inability to let go of your past affects your self-esteem and self-worth. You may carry a sense of unworthiness and try to make others happy, being a people-pleaser or rescuer, and make decisions in the present that increase your low self-esteem. Other ways you can tell if you are unable to forgive yourself:
  • Not paying attention to yourself and your needs.
  • Not sharing share emotions or limit what you are willing to share.
  • Getting angry at yourself easily.
  • Disrespecting yourself.
  • Engaging in self-destructive behaviors.
  • Self-pity.
  • Chronically recalling past mistakes and failures.
  • Being suspicious when someone else accepts you.
  • Chronic depression.
  • Chronic hostility, sarcasm and cynicism.
  • Calling yourself names, belittling and demeaning yourself.
  • Unwilling to change and/or unwilling to seek help to change.
  • Resistant to doing things that would increase your self-esteem.
  • Irrational thinking preventing self-forgiveness
  • Believing that only God can forgive you but not believing that he can forgive you either.
  • Believing that you don’t deserve any self-kindness, self-compassion or self-forgiveness.

Whenever you are unable to forgive yourself, you need to look back at the situation and understand who was responsible, exactly what your feelings and behaviors were, and who was hurt by these. After doing this, commit to letting this event or behavior go, forgiving yourself, and accepting yourself as an imperfect human being. You no longer need to carry the load of all your past mistakes. You can give to yourself the same understanding, compassion, and forgiveness that you would give to a friend or family member that you cared about. Recognizing your imperfections and not judging yourself, but accepting yourself, will release you to forgive yourself. When we don’t forgive ourselves, we shut off parts of ourselves and lose self-awareness. Self-forgiveness is essential to remaining fully aware of your emotions and actually being able to trust your feelings again.

Self-forgiving is:

  • Accepting yourself as a human who has faults and makes mistakes.
  • Letting go of self-anger for your past failures, errors and mistakes.
  • No longer needing penance, sorrow and regret over a grievous, self-inflicted, personal offense.
  • Spiritual self-healing.
  • Letting go of the need to work so hard to make up for your past offenses.

Refusing to forgive yourself may result in:

  • Unresolved hurt, pain and suffering from self-destructive behaviors.
  • Unresolved guilt and remorse for self-inflicted offenses.
  • Chronically seeking revenge and paybacks toward yourself.
  • Being caught up in unresolved self-anger, self-hatred and self-blaming.
  • Defensive and distant behavior with others.
  • Pessimism, negativity and non-growth oriented behavior.
  • Having a festering wound that never allows the revitalization of self-healing.
  • Fear over making new mistakes or of having the old mistakes revealed.
  • Being overwhelmed by fear of failure, fear of rejection, fear of non-approval, low self-esteem and low self-worth.

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