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How to Forgive Yourself With Self-Compassion

July 25, 2022

Being harsh to ourselves can keep us stuck from learning from our mistakes. KEY POINTS As you forgive yourself, you develop the courage to ask for forgiveness from others and offer forgiveness to those who have harmed you. Consider something that you have had difficulty forgiving about yourself and turn toward that pain with kindness and […]

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Diana Hill, PhD, is a clinical psychologist, international trainer, and sought-out speaker on Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) and compassion

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Being harsh to ourselves can keep us stuck from learning from our mistakes.

KEY POINTS

  • As you forgive yourself, you develop the courage to ask for forgiveness from others and offer forgiveness to those who have harmed you.
  • Consider something that you have had difficulty forgiving about yourself and turn toward that pain with kindness and care.
  • With self-forgiveness, we lean into the parts of ourselves we have kept our distance from.

More than a decade ago, I attended a workshop on forgiveness with Tara Brach, author of Radical Acceptance. I went in hoping to learn tools to help clients stuck in resentment, but I left with the unexpected gift of self-forgiveness. I jotted down this line in my journal during the workshop:

Choose to lean into what you habitually keep a distance from.

–Tara Brach

We all have had times when we have harmed others or harmed ourselves, and many of us harbor regret, shame, or self-blame for years. However, being harsh to ourselves can keep us stuck from moving forward or learning from our mistakes.

With self-forgiveness, we lean into the parts of ourselves we have kept our distance from. We learn to stay with the harm we have inflicted long enough to heal it. Forgiveness is not condoning or forgetting about the harm that’s been done. You can forgive yourself while committing to never harm yourself or another in that way again. Forgiveness doesn’t let you off the hook. Instead, you intentionally make contact with the hook of self-liberation, carefully unhook it, and then choose to stop taking its bait.

Simple Forgiveness Technique

By bringing the goodness of compassion to the parts of yourself that you have turned away from, you allow for healing. Self-forgiveness also opens the door for a “flow” of forgiveness. As you compassionately forgive yourself, you develop the courage to ask for forgiveness from others and offer forgiveness to those who have harmed you. Below is a simple forgiveness technique that you can use first with yourself, and then with others:

  • Step 1. Get into a compassionate mindset. Practice a few soothing rhythm breaths, slowing your mind and body down.
  • Step 2. Consider something that you have had difficulty forgiving about yourself. Make contact with the pain of that thing inside your body.
  • Step 3. Turn toward that pain with kindness and care, as you would a child or friend who is hurting. Bring warmth and gentleness to yourself and the part that is hard to forgive.
  • Step 4. Practice a forgiveness dialogue with yourself. You can say the following lines out loud or write them in your journal:

Dear {your name},

I am aware of the pain I have caused you, and I feel the hurt of that pain. I ask for your forgiveness.

Dear me,

I am aware of the pain you have caused me, and I feel the hurt of that pain. I forgive and release you from carrying that pain.

[enter lines to end of page]

  • Step 5. Practice some more soothing rhythm breathing.

The Flow of Forgiveness

Learning to forgive yourself opens you to a deeper connection with not only yourself but also others. Are there people that you have had a hard time forgiving? Are there people who are asking for your forgiveness? How can you bring what you have learned about regret and forgiveness to these relationships? Look for opportunities to practice the flow of forgiveness: self-forgiveness, giving forgiveness, and receiving forgiveness.

For more on self-forgiveness, listen to my podcast on the Power of Regret with Daniel Pink on Your Life in Process.

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