A Guide to Forgiving Yourself (And Others) For Inner Peace

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Self-criticism is an all too common experience for many of us today. It can be hard to escape the constant anxieties, pressures and depressive thoughts that seemed forced upon us in everyday life. With over-worked job schedules, managing relationships, as well as the constant reminders of the unattainable, over-exaggerated life we see on social media, it’s very easy to get down on ourselves all the time. 

The detrimental effects of self-criticism are extremely serious and can not only lead to seclusion and other social consequences, but can also have serious effects on your health. It’s vitally important to take the necessary steps to break down the self-critical habits within our lives so we can move through the world with an openness and understanding, for ourselves and others. 

It can be easy to look at a situation where we acted wrongfully, and feel as though the first step is to take responsibility and show remorse for our actions. This is what we’ve been taught since we were young. However, the reality is that this pattern does not help to decrease the negative thoughts that seem to occur after this.

Taking responsibility, and feeling bad about an action, although important, does not help to create a healthy internal dialogue around our mistakes. Above all, taking responsibility and showing remorse are external cues that tell the people around us we understand we are at fault, and hope to improve upon that mistake. 

Elements of Forgiving Yourself

Focus on your emotions: the first step to forgiving yourself and others is to focus on what you’re feeling. Listen, and understand the root of your emotions so you can better place them. Sometimes, when we have intense feelings of guilt it’s easier to displace or ignore them. Instead of pinpointing them we put them in our subconscious and focus our now misguided attention elsewhere. 

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Create a learning environment: instead of focusing on your faults, and feeling anxious over the things we or others have done wrong, it’s much more powerful to look at every situation as a learning experience. By forming a strong habit of analyzing situations immediately, from an educational perspective as opposed to a judgmental perspective, you will almost always be able to bypass those negative thoughts of guilt and anxiety

Give yourself permission to take your time: not every situation or mistake has to be dealt with immediately. Sometimes it’s best to take your time, allow your emotions to settle, or digest the problem in full. You have every right to do so. 

Pay attention to your inner monologue: instead of letting our critical thoughts overrun our mental space, sometimes it’s better to remove ourselves and listen to our thoughts from a distance. It’s important to pay attention to the inner monologue and to be sure we’re not being overly critical or harmful to ourselves. Another key facet of forgiveness is to understand we are not defined by our thoughts. Our inner dialogue is constantly passing in front of us and it’s okay to be critical without being obsessed with that critical thought. 

Be clear about what you want from yourself: after making a dire mistake, it’s critical that you are clear about what steps you’d like to take to make amends. Without that clarity, you spend more time analyzing than acting. That can leave you in a pool of anxious thoughts without ever reaching a conclusion. Working through your feelings includes moving in the physical space. Take concrete actions in the real world to make amends to others or yourself.

Take your own advice: it’s far easier to give advice than to receive it. The reason simply being that we are often much more critical of ourselves than others. Sometimes you need to treat yourself as you would a friend. Remove the emotions, and give yourself some positive advice to fix the situation. 

Delete the replay tape: the worst thing we can do after a bad situation is to replay that situation again and again in our mind. Habits like this are the foundation of anxiety and will keep us in a place of unforgiving turmoil. Through replaying these moments in our mind, we also begin to exaggerate the situation and the reactions of those around us. We start to assume all the things people are thinking or saying about us. We are now removing ourselves from a growth mindset and instead focusing on issues that won’t help us move forward. 

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Seek professional help: finally, the most helpful thing we can do is to seek therapeutic help to relieve our self-critical minds. A proper professional can help you navigate the complex emotions that come with forgiveness. 

Daily Rituals to Sustain a Healthy Mind and Find Inner Peace

At the core of being forgiving is a system of healthy daily rituals that create a positive mindset around growth and mistakes. If we are able to anticipate and acknowledge that we are going to make mistakes, then the minute they happen, they are mere opportunities for growth as opposed to moments of anxiety and guilt. 

Defeating guilt is extremely difficult, and it’s important to slowly work through our trauma as opposed to ignoring it. It’s critical to accept our mistakes, but also shift our perspective about how we view ourselves. Treating ourselves as our best friend is one of the most powerful tools to achieve inner peace. 

One of the best daily rituals we can use to forgive ourselves is journaling our thoughts everyday. Getting out the unproductive thoughts that don’t help us solve our problems is one of the best ways to clear our minds and emotions. By doing so, you will find yourself thinking much more clearly about how to move forward as opposed to paralyzed by analysis. 

Meditation is also a powerful way to clear our minds and find comfort with our emotions. Sometimes the best way to move through a feeling is to sit with it for sometime. Truly sit with it until you feel comfortable enough to think clearly through it.

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At the end of the day, as with everything else, forgiveness is a habit that must be practiced and attained. We are all capable of building it within ourselves.

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