5 Key Steps To Forgiving Yourself For True Freedom

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5 Steps To Forgiving Yourself

The concept of forgiving yourself is very foreign.

Forgiveness is usually associated with forgiving others. But the hardest person to forgive is truly yourself.

Forgiveness, in general, can be challenging, especially if you feel justified in your anger and hurt. It’s possible you felt like your anger was a way of expressing your own boundaries.

Maybe it even felt good to hold a grudge! But eventually, that anger becomes a seed that grows into something toxic inside of you.

For your own emotional health, you must learn to forgive others. But what about learning how to forgive yourself?

RELATED: How Gratitude & Forgiveness Can Help You Let Go Of The Past And Heal Trauma

Self-forgiveness can be very difficult.

Forgiveness is a very powerful act. It’s not saying that what was forgiven is OK or letting someone off the hook.

You can forgive someone, but you can also choose to not have that person in your life anymore. That’s not the case with self-forgiveness.

Author Marianne Williamson once wrote, "Forgiveness is not always easy. At times, it feels more painful than the wound we suffered, to forgive the one that inflicted it. And yet, there is no peace without forgiveness."

Forgiveness is freedom.

It’s an act that you do for your own inner peace, not for anyone else’s. The goal of forgiveness is to let go of everything that is toxic about a person or situation that negatively impacts your life. This holds true when it comes to forgiving yourself, as well.

It’s easy to make a list of all the people in your life who wronged you. I did, and the list was over 40 people! That’s a lot of holding onto wrongs, some of which happened a long time ago.

We can’t change other people, but we can change ourselves.

That’s why it’s doubly valuable to forgive yourself.

My clients really struggle with this as they shoulder the blame and shame of something horrible from their childhood. They often carry a lot of guilt and shame from their traumas.

As a therapist, my role is to guide my clients through the residual guilt and shame that is common with trauma. Shame can lead to self-harm, addictive behaviors, or dysfunctional relationships.

While it can take a lot of therapy to understand the root of the shame, it’s a little easier to see the result. The result — your own reactions, if they continue to harm you —is what you can forgive in yourself.

The process of letting go is not easy, but it's doable.

First, take a personal inventory of the ways you’ve hurt others and yourself. If you’re anything like me, you may need to forgive yourself for having a long list of wrongs you’ve done to yourself.

For example, your list can include perfectionism, judging others or yourself, using substances or engaging in any self-harm behaviors, isolating yourself, shaming yourself, and finally, not forgiving yourself.

Take these 5 steps to self-forgiveness for true freedom.

1. Look in the mirror and offer an apology and forgiveness out loud.

You won’t always get an apology from someone who has wronged you. You cannot control that part of the process.

But you can grant that apology to yourself. You can only control what you are willing to let go of.

2. Use this experience to help others in similar situations release their shame.

You might initially feel so stupid about it. But the more you talk and share what happened to you, the more people come out of the woodwork and appreciate not feeling alone in shame over their own experiences.

RELATED: Why Forgiveness Is Important For Your Own Self-Care (And 4 Steps To Help You Forgive Someone)

3. Use mantras.

Say the following mantra: "I forgive myself for (fill in the blank). I am human. My forgiveness is complete. I am free."

Keep repeating the statement for every wrong against yourself on your list.

4. Commit to self-forgiveness.

Forgiving yourself is easier said than done, of course. But committing to self-forgiveness is a big part of a goal to live as free and authentically as possible.

Be patient with the process, as you may need to go through these steps as many times as needed.

5. Keep working on yourself.

Forgiving yourself isn’t just a one-time activity, either. You must keep looking inward and being honest with yourself, while staying committed to letting go of what hurt you.

You can make a new list of wrongs you’ve done to yourself frequently, but only if you forgive yourself instead of beating yourself up further.

Brené Brown says that we can find a way to forgive if we realize that everyone is doing their best. Are you doing your best? In reality, it’s all you can ask of yourself.

It’s normal to regret past decisions and choices that end up being mistakes. Mistakes happen, especially when you are in pain.

Some people think they should have "known better" at the time of their trauma or in subsequent decisions and choices. At the time, they all thought those were good decisions and made sense.

Forgive yourself for being human. We are all human. We are all worthy of forgiving ourselves. Only once you’ve forgiven yourself, you can take steps to make sure it doesn’t happen again.

If you need help from a professional therapist, your pastor, or another trusted individual with this process, seek it out. There can be incredible transformative healing when you allow this process to take place.

It will be worth it to experience the freedom that comes with letting go, learning to be gentle with yourself, and forgiving yourself.

RELATED: How To Identify, Heal And Banish Your Deepest Shame

Lesley Goth PsyD owns and runs a private practice in Broomfield, CO. If you're interested in learning more about Lesley, or want to know more about how to forgive yourself, please contact Lesley.

This article was originally published at Reprinted with permission from the author.