Why you need to forgive yourself
Forgiveness. It’s a word we hear a lot. “I’m sorry” is muttered at almost every indiscretion – especially if you’re British – but what does it really mean to forgive?
I lost someone I loved at a very young age, too young to really understand the loss. I was angry, upset, confused but I didn’t really understand that I felt those things. In school people I thought were friends did what young girls do, we fell out, lost touch and grew distant. Years later someone I loved and trusted abused my trust, and it changed the course of my life forever.
I could share hundreds of stories like this, I know you have similar stories too, and whilst each incident is unique what is similar about them all is that not only did other people hurt me, but I hurt myself too. I blamed myself. I felt like it had to be something I did wrong to deserve it.
Forgiveness is the final form of love
Photograph by Evan Kirby via Unsplash
For many years this impacted my life. I was nervous about making friends, I was scared to love in case I lost that person, I was reluctant to put my hand up or head up in case I was more susceptible for ridicule.
I believed I wasn’t really good enough for certain things. I listened to the voices that told me I wouldn’t amount to anything, that I deserved the pain – it’s those voices that can cause the most damage.
“You create a prison for yourself if you can’t forgive yourself.”
Ghandi famously said that “the weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong.”
As I sat atop the mountain in Machu Picchu after the 4 day Inca Trail I finally, after many many years, understood what that meant.
You see I had forgiven the other people many years before, but I hadn’t managed to ever forgive myself. I carried around anger, pain, regret, shame and myriad of other emotions and constantly beat myself up with them. It wasn’t until that moment that I understood rather than feel that pain, deal with it and move on, I’d used it as a way to continually punish myself.
What changed at that moment on top of the mountain? These three things:
Photograph by Christopher Campbell via Unsplash
1. I acknowledged the pain and let go of the story
I found a really effective way to forgive other people was to write a long letter outlining everything I felt, why I was upset and pour all my emotion into it. I never sent one letter, but I wrote lots. I carefully wrapped the letter up and tied it with a bow and put it in a drawer. When the moment felt right, I simply burnt it or threw it away. I was able to somehow allow all the emotion to live in that letter so I didn’t have to carry it around with me.
At the top of Machu Picchu I emotionally did the same thing for myself. I acknowledged the role I’d played in the things that had happened, took responsibility but also let go of the blame for things that I couldn’t be responsible for. I mentally wrote that letter and poured everything into it and let it go. The voices stopped and I started a new narrative in my head.
2. I chose the future
That sounds so simplistic, but it’s true. I decided to stop allowing the past to consume the present and determine the future. I wanted to have a full, experience laden, crazy adventure. I wanted to feel everything, do as much as I could and feel everything. I accepted that all the negative emotions I’d carried simply numbed me from fully living – and I wanted to LIVE. Sitting at a magical spot like Machu Picchu helps create that clarity!
3. I accepted that I wasn’t perfect, and that was OK
I’ve both written lots on perfection, but also coached myself and others around this. The Virgo in me strives for perfection. The little girl in me that is afraid of being abandoned tries to be perfect so no one leaves me. But the woman in me accepted that perfection is an illusion. Every single person, action, and process is perfectly imperfect.
So why am I telling you this?
I’m telling you this because I know the power and freedom that forgiving yourself brings.
I’m telling you this because you deserve to be happy …. let me say that again, everyone, even you, deserves to be happy.
I’m telling you this because I want my suffering, in some small way, to be of service to you.
I’m telling you this because the suffering you’re experiencing isn’t absolute – you can choose to release yourself.
And what’s in it for you if you do?
Love. Real genuine love.
When you forgive yourself and accept who you are the world changes. There are good people around you. There are opportunities and prospects. You treat yourself kindly and you’re happier and healthier. Love surrounds you.
The truth is, it’s always been this way, it’s just that your view created a shadow over them.
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