How To Forgive Yourself – Being Your Own Best Friend

We all make mistakes as we grow and make relationships with others, and it’s important we learn from them and grow as people.  This can be challenging if we don’t know how to forgive ourselves for these mistakes.  In this article we will talk about what self-forgiveness looks like, how to do it, and how to move on for our mental health.

Forgiving yourself is letting go of the past and learning from mistakes to prevent making them again.  There are steps for forgiving yourself, worksheets, exercises, and affirmations to help you create your own self-forgiveness plan.

Are you feeling down on yourself because you hurt someone and don’t know how to move on?  Do you need to forgive yourself but don’t know where to start?

What Does Forgiving Yourself Mean?

Forgiving yourself means letting go of the past, letting go of the negative feelings, and looking at things in a different light.  We all make mistakes because we’re human, and if we feel we’ve wronged someone it’s natural to feel like we need to make it right.  We must learn to let go of those mistakes, learn from them, and move on with the mindset that we can do better.  Forgiving yourself also means loving yourself despite having experienced something that went wrong.

Foregiveness - How To Forgive Yourself - Gone Minimal

How to Forgive Yourself

Forgiving yourself can be challenging but is also very important in personal growth and healing. This may include acknowledging your mistakes or shortcomings without judgment, knowing everyone makes mistakes, and having compassion for oneself is essential for growth. Forgiving yourself is a process that takes time and patience.

Forgiving yourself is not always the easiest thing to do, and it gets harder as we age.  So let’s look at some tips and processes for how to forgive yourself and move on.

 Steps to Forgive Yourself

There are some steps to forgive yourself, which can make the process a bit easier.  The best way to forgive yourself is to take these steps:

  1. Identify what happened or what went wrong.
  2. Reflect on your actions and accept responsibility.
  3. Focus on the guilt, but don’t dwell on the event.
  4. Apologize to anyone you may have hurt.
  5. Fix any mistakes you made and learn from them.

Now this is not a one size fits all, but it’s a process to get you moving in the right direction.  You may find there are in-between steps or sub-steps that are unique to you and your situation.  The most difficult thing is the first step-facing what happened.

Reflection in a puddle - How To Forgive Yourself - Gone Minimal
Reflection in a puddle

Self-Forgiveness Worksheets

If you’re in need of a bit more practical guidance with self-forgiveness, there are options for self-forgiveness worksheets.  These include important definitions of related terms, compare what forgiveness is and isn’t, and lines out the phases of forgiveness.  There are also questions for you to answer to consider different viewpoints, think about how exercises make you feel, and what you learned from the process.  These self-forgiveness worksheets can also help you assess your self-esteem and how open you are to adapt your behaviors.

Exercises for Self-Forgiveness

More often than not, we need exercises for self-forgiveness to help us make the process easier and more comprehensive.  Here are just a few examples of exercises for self-forgiveness you may consider trying:

  • Use a journal to express your feelings
  • Verbalize negative self-talk and replace with positive affirmations
  • Practice mindfulness
  • Imagine scenarios with positive outcomes
  • Practice talking things out with a friend or family member
  • Write a letter of forgiveness to yourself

This is just a drop in the bucket of self-forgiveness exercises that are available.  You may only need one of them, or you may need to try a few of them.  Don’t just try the exercises you find easy-try those that make you uncomfortable as this leads to personal growth.

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Forgiving Yourself and Moving on

Studies including one by Pandey, Tiwari, Parihar, and Rai published in the Polish Psychological Bulletin have found that self-forgiveness has a positive impact on self-esteem as well as human flourishing, or living well. Once you completely forgive yourself, the next step is moving on.  It’s easy to get hung up on an event, even if you’ve forgiven yourself, and not be able to move on from the event.  So an important part of forgiving yourself is learning from your mistakes.  This way you can better try to prevent the event from occurring again, so moving on is easier, which is better for your self-esteem and mental health. 

Self-Forgiveness Prayers and Affirmations

Another part of self-forgiveness is prayers and/or affirmations.  When you use these, you say positive and reaffirming things to yourself.  These statements include:

  • I’m letting go of the past.
  • I forgive myself for participating in ____________ (event in question).
  • Someone forgave me, so I can forgive myself.
  • I made a mistake, and I have learned from it.
  • I choose happiness.
  • I’m letting go of worry and stress.
  • I’m breaking out of my negative ways and choosing positive.
  • I am strong and compassionate.
  • Mistakes are part of learning.
  • I love myself unconditionally and am worthy.
  • I am at peace with myself.

There are endless ways to create and use self-forgiveness prayers and affirmations.  The best way to use these is to choose statements that resonate with you and state them daily.  Make it part of your morning or evening routine and over time you will feel more positive. 

This helpful video offers thoughts to help us begin practicing self-forgiveness.

Reasons for Forgiving Yourself

Forgiving yourself is important for diminishing guilt, blame, and resentment towards yourself as well as improving self-worth according to Gokmen Arslan of Mehmet Akif Ersoy University and Muhammet Coskun of Kafkas University.  What can make things a bit more complicated is the reason behind the need for forgiving yourself.  Let’s take a look at a few scenarios here:

Forgiving Yourself for Cheating

Cheating is never acceptable, making it difficult for self-forgiveness.  Don’t give yourself excuses and figure out why it happened.  Discuss with and apologize to your partner and be sure to not contact the other party again.  Work with your partner to improve your relationship and figure out what’s missing to make things better both with your partner and with your self-forgiveness.

Forgiving Yourself for Hurting Someone

Whether it’s physically or emotionally, it’s good to forgive yourself for hurting someone.  Feeling guilty is normal, so discuss your feelings with the someone you hurt.  Apologize for hurting them and learn from your mistakes.  Discuss with the other person what could have been done differently, and don’t expect them to change for you.  Be the change yourself.

Love yourself and forgive yourself - How To Forgive Yourself - Gone Minimal
Love yourself and forgive yourself

Forgiving Yourself after a Mistake

If you’re a perfectionist like me, forgiving yourself after a mistake can be darn near impossible.  And this could be any mistake-from saying the wrong thing at a meeting to not following a recipe exactly and burning dinner.  Learn from these mistakes by looking back at where you went wrong, apologizing to someone if needed, and changing your behavior for the next time.  It’s okay (and human) to make mistakes!

Forgiving Yourself for Lying

Why do we lie?  To protect ourselves, to protect others, to get out of hot water, either way-it’s usually not good when the truth comes out.  Think about why you lied and who you lied to.  Guilt is a normal feeling in response to this, and writing it down and meditating on it can help with forgiving yourself for lying.  As always-learn from your mistake and move on.

As always-learn from your mistake and move on.

Related Insights

Why Is Forgiving Yourself So Hard?

Forgiving yourself is hard because in order to do so, we have to be able to admit we made a mistake.  Mistakes feel like flaws, and no one wants to admit they’re flawed.  But guess what?  We’re human-and we’re all flawed in one way or another.  So don’t be so hard on yourself, because you’re not alone.

How Do I Practice Self-forgiveness?

To practice self-forgiveness you must start with reviewing what happened.  Look in the past and see what went wrong.  What did you say that you shouldn’t have?  What did you not say that you should’ve?  What could you have done differently?  Now learn from this, move on, and try not to make the same mistake again.  It takes practice, and you will make mistakes again.

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How Real People Practice Self-forgiveness

I asked 5 friends/family to list 3 ways they practice self-forgiveness or things they do to help forgive themselves. Here is what I learned:

Things People Do To Self-forgiveTally of Family/Friends
Professional counseling4
Talking with others3
Thinking while exercising2
Thinking out loud1
Talking with friends/family4
Writing a letter1

Other Resources:

Forgiving yourself can be a real challenge depending upon the severity of the offense.  From lying to cheating one of the worst things you can do is continue the behavior.  When we learn from our mistakes, we grow and change and become better people.  Self-forgiveness is a beautiful thing for yourself and your mental health.

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