Is there something in your life that you’ve done that keeps haunting you? Maybe you said something to a loved one that you regret, or maybe you have an unhealthy habit that is negatively affecting your loved ones. Let’s face it, life can be tough, and we all make mistakes and struggle to overcome actions and habits that we’re not particularly proud of. It’s time to forgive yourself and let go of the worry. With a little practice, you can free yourself from the heavy burden of past mistakes keeping you stagnant in your life and learn how to become your own best friend.
Have you ever heard of International Forgiveness Day? It’s a holiday of healing and every year it’s celebrated on the first Sunday in August, and while participants generally focus on forgiving the offenses of others, personal forgiveness is equally important. August is just around the corner, but you don’t need to wait for Forgiveness Day to reap the rewards of personal forgiveness. Why not start today? Find a mirror, look yourself squarely in the eyes, and forgive yourself. The very act of saying “I forgive you,” can be hard, but it opens the door for positivity, optimism, and healing. It allows freeing emotions to replace any negative, pessimistic, soul-binding thoughts that perhaps you’ve been entertaining for a bit too long. Remember, it’s okay to be human!
Consider the difference between guilt and shame. Guilt, though uncomfortable and often viewed as a negative emotion, actually has an important purpose. When we feel guilty about something we’ve done, it’s a healthy signal that we understand that we’ve made a mistake and there’s almost always something we can do to make amends. Shame, however, is an unproductive, painful feeling toward oneself that can be paralyzing and keep us from moving forward in our lives and in our relationships with others. Shame attacks our self-worth and makes us feel like giving up. Don’t. Ever. Give. Up. Cut yourself a little slack and keep trying!
If you’ve been feeling a little guilty about your shortcomings, that’s a good thing! Just consider what needs fixing, take action, and do your best to move forward. If what you’ve been feeling goes a bit deeper and you’ve been suffering from feelings of shame, it’s time to turn up the self-love. After all, you are more than your mistakes. Just start where you are and commit to do just a little better today than you did yesterday.
Another helpful idea to put into practice for the times when you’re feeling bad can simply be to do some good. Find someone who needs a little help and do a good deed. What you do can be as simple as holding open a door or listening to a friend talk about the difficult day they had. If you’re feeling a little more ambitious search for some volunteer opportunities in your community or find ways to use your skills to improve the lives of others. Before you know it you’ll have shifted your focus from yourself to others, and to the things you actually have control over—like the present moment.
It’s important to remember that forgiving ourselves doesn’t mean forgetting what we’ve done wrong, but it does mean letting go of the past and determining to do better in the future. A simple but helpful quote from Maya Angelou can be life changing for those who struggle with personal forgiveness. “Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.” This quote is just another way to look at what many call the serenity prayer. “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.” Adopting a forgiving, friendly attitude toward yourself can be just the ticket to help you alleviate pain from the past and move forward with optimism and faith in your future.
Linda Clyde is a devoted wife, proud mama, and a lover of uplifting things. A few of her favorite things: lasagna, farm animals, t-shirts and jeans, babies, and notebooks—lots and lots of notebooks.