Ep. 33: 7 Steps to Self Forgiveness

Over the last week or two I heard from several people asking me to talk about Self Forgiveness. While I have done a few episodes of the podcast on forgiveness they were primarily focused on forgiving others.

Yet, forgiving ourselves is quite possibly the best gift we could give ourselves. It’s my hope that by the end of this podcast that you’ll have an even deeper understanding of the following:

  • How harmful it is to not forgive yourself
  • How self hatred plays into it
  • The 7-step process for forgiving yourself

We all make mistakes every day. Some of them are pretty minor and others aren’t but one thing for certain is that we can be really cruel to ourselves. Often times we’re much harder on ourselves than the people we’ve wronged. So why is this?

Shame is a sticky and toxic thing and we carry it around deep in our psyche. From a young age, likely around 5 – 7, we started getting messages that we weren’t enough. Whether it was that we weren’t beautiful enough, smart enough, good enough, or fill in your favorite “not enough”.

These messages started coming in so often that we took them in as our own. Fast forward 20, 30, 40 years and those same messages are still there! When we make a mistake shame takes the opportunity to stick to any guilt we feel! As soon as we make a mistake those same old messages of not being enough creep right back in and shame is there to finish us off!

Once this happens the mistake we made goes from something we did wrong to the horrible person we are. But aren’t we allowed to make mistakes? Shouldn’t we be a little less harsh with ourselves? Isn’t it harmful to carry around all this shame with us? YES! YES! and YES!

Listen to today’s podcast where I share a mistake I made when I laughed at my son!

So what should happen when we make a mistake?

Well, if we’re not going to allow shame to take over us, stay in the present, and be mindful about our life the following would likely happen.

1. Make a mistake

2. Acknowledge that we made a mistake

3. Feel guilt

4. Look for ways to make amends

5. Allow guilt to drift away as we continue to love ourselves

Sounds great, huh? Yeah, doesn’t usually work that way right?

Usually it looks something like this…

1. Make a mistake

2. Acknowledge we made a mistake

3. Feel guilt

4. Look for ways to make amends

5. Berate and self-shame ourselves by saying how horrible we are and what failures we are

6. Guilt turns into shame

7. Isolate and go into hyper-sensitivity mode in the future as to try and avoid those situations reminding ourselves we suck

8. Likely attract more situations in our life that remind us how not enough we are and the cycle continues

It actually looks a little worse than this but I was going easy on you! LOL As you can see, it’s a viscous cycle that doesn’t have a pretty ending. This is why shame = self hatred.

We love ourselves by giving ourselves what David Richo calls, “The Five A’s” (Attention, Acceptance, Allowance, Appreciation, and Affection). How much loving attention are you giving yourself when you focus on your lack and how horrible you are? How are you accepting yourself by telling yourself you are a horrible person? How are you allowing for your fallible nature when you call yourself a screw up? How are you appreciating yourself when you call yourself an idiot? How are you giving yourself affection when you emotionally abuse yourself?

As you can see, when we make mistakes and don’t forgive ourselves, it’s called Self Hatred. It sounds harsh but it’s the antithesis of loving ourselves! Seems pretty clear to me and I’m guessing you’d agree that self hatred isn’t exactly what’s going to take your life or my life to the next level, right?

So I think we all agree we need to forgive ourselves but how??

I go into these 7 steps in much more detail in the podcast and it’s only 36 minutes long (you can listen to it while you’re driving, doing the dishes, jogging, or laying in bed)! Listen here on iTunes! But let me give you a quick run down of those 7 steps right now.

1. Accept that I am fallible. It’s your right as a human to make mistakes! To deny your fallibility is to deny your wholeness.  Stop abandoning yourself and rejecting yourself when you make mistakes! You have a right to make mistakes! This is a very important step.

2. Choose to live in the present. Guilt is a present time feeling. Shame is a feeling that was born in the past. When we make mistakes it’s okay to feel guilty. Feel the guilt and then let that guilt turn into compassion (our next step). When that guilt turns to shame (i.e.; I’m not enough) is when we have serious problems.

3. Be compassionate towards ourselves. We talk about compassion for others but what about ourselves? Decide you’re not going to beat yourself up anymore. Let that guilt turn into compassion for yourself. Acknowledging you made a mistake and that you’re experiencing pain as well. Gently carry yourself to make amends and restore what is right but do it with self compassion.

4. Understand how shame works. We’re taught that we’re not enough from a young age. Shame is sticky and finds anything to attach to. Make a mistake? Shame sticks to it reminding you that you’re a screw up, not good enough, and need to pay for that. Remind yourself that shame is always present in our lives but that you have a choice to let it in. The moment you see yourself talking about not being enough shut it down! Acknowledge this is crap from the past that just isn’t true.

5. Be aware of the difference between guilt and shame. It’s okay to feel that present-time feeling of guilt. It means that you care and that you acknowledge you hurt someone. Stay in the present though and notice if you go back to the past – back to that place of shame. Know the difference so you can stay present!

6. It’s a practice Yes, you will screw up forgiving yourself! 🙂 That’s okay, just forgive yourself for not forgiving yourself! 🙂 This is a practice and will take time. Know that you’re not going to get this right the first time. Keep at it and practice!

7. Get Support Find a close friend or relative who will listen. Shame loves isolation so get it out and just share what’s happening with you.

I hope you find these 7-steps helpful as you move throughout your day and your week. You can use this process with a simple and benign mistake or one that’s pretty serious. Either way, your ability to show up in full and live the life you want is going to be directly impacted by how mindful and self-loving you are.

So, I want to hear from you! Let me know what recent mistake you made and how you’re going to implement this process or another one that works for you!