Making peace with ourselves
As fallible human beings and eternal learners, we are exposed to making countless mistakes and slips. Life is unpredictable, and we don't have a crystal ball or a time machine to foresee the consequences of our decisions or omissions.
In this uncertain life scenario, stumbling and sometimes taking tumbles are part of being a tiny portion in an immense and boundless world. Recognizing this reality means humbly acknowledging our vulnerability and the certainty that we will make thousands of mistakes as we evolve in the difficult task of becoming better human beings each day.
Learning to forgive ourselves is an art we must practice to avoid condemning or mistreating ourselves endlessly for not making the right choices in every decision we have made, for making mistakes, or for unintentionally harming or neglecting others out of clumsiness or ignorance.
Kind-hearted individuals often find it easy to forgive others but may take years or even a lifetime to forgive themselves. When this happens, the past becomes a heavy burden to carry, always with us unless we face it directly and honestly and make peace with what we could or couldn't do.
On the contrary, by not forgiving ourselves, we not only fail to lighten the load, but we make it even more unbearable with self-reproach and self-blame that hurt us and damage our self-esteem.
Forgiving ourselves is a decision we need to make; otherwise, it won't happen naturally. Forgiveness does not mean forgetting; it is about remembering without pain and self-reproach.
It is not about "forgetting." This aspiration is not only impossible but also prevents us from learning from the circumstance in which we failed or where we would have acted differently if we had the opportunity today. One good thing about making mistakes or being wrong is the opportunity to learn from the experience and avoid stumbling in the same place again.
Forgiving ourselves is the only option we have to move forward without holding onto resentments. If we don't forgive ourselves, unconsciously, we will seek to punish ourselves. Feeling guilty, we may choose harmful paths, neglecting our self-care and personal growth.
What does forgiving oneself mean?
Forgiving oneself is an introspective process that happens slowly and progressively. It first involves recognizing that we have become deeply tied to some unfavorable circumstance that we went through and can no longer change.
We realize that we are fixated on our mistake when we repeatedly revisit the situation, go over it, and think about what we would do differently if time could go back. This is a magical thinking that prevents us from moving forward as it constantly takes us backward. It becomes a sort of mental self-gratification that closes us off and leaves us without a way out.
What prevents us from forgiving ourselves?
Behind the impossibility of forgiving ourselves lies an incredibly large and fantastic ego, considering itself too important, omnipotent, and infallible. It's as if a part of us says, "I can forgive others for making mistakes because they are imperfect humans, but as a perfect being, I can't afford to make mistakes."
A good question that helps us step down from the pedestal is: Who am I to be exempt from making errors? What makes me so special to feel superior, to believe I can do everything perfectly, act without ignorance, and always have the best answer or solution for others?
If we don't become aware of this inflated ego that torments us, we will never find peace because we won't let ourselves off the hook easily. This ego that claims to be superior finds certain delight and even pride in victimizing itself and berating itself for what it does wrong. Forgiving ourselves for an error conceals what it perceives as a greater threat: the acknowledgment of being an imperfect being in constant learning and evolution. Thus, behind the condemnation for a mistake made, immense pride often lurks, making it challenging to recognize.
Another reason why forgiving ourselves is so difficult is that the present reminds us of the consequences of our past bad decisions. For example, going to a job we don't like reminds us of the mistake of not pursuing higher education, the absence of a person reminds us of what we failed to do for them, not offering help; the body's pain today reminds us of how much we neglected it in the past, the loneliness we feel reminds us of the connections we failed to nurture, the calendar reminds us that time passes, yet we continue to procrastinate, the feeling of emptiness reminds us that we haven't taken enough care to build an interesting life that excites us.
As you can see, each situation requires a different type of forgiveness. Some situations are irreversible, while others are within our reach to impact, intervene, and take responsibility to improve if we recognize that they can still be changed.
When what we reproach ourselves for is no longer within our reach, that is, the harm is irreversible, we need more than ever to recognize ourselves as fallible humans and make that painful circumstance an opportunity to become a better human being. Sometimes, making a sort of agreement with the Universe, an act of compensation for the mistake, can help settle accounts with the past or make peace with our inner selves: a strong commitment, an act of altruism, a gesture of generosity, offering ourselves for some service, turning a trauma into a vocation to help others, or perhaps a healing ritual, like writing a letter to someone who is no longer here, where we can say what we couldn't or didn't give much significance to in the past.
When what we don't forgive ourselves for is something that can be changed today, that is, the harm is reversible, victimizing ourselves is an excuse not to reactualize and not take action. There is no age limit for studying, for relating to others, for taking care of our bodies, for making healthier decisions, for unleashing a talent, for picking up what we left behind and still reproach ourselves for. Starting from where we are, stopping thinking that it's too late, is to honor the life we have. Our life is no less valuable today than ten, twenty, or thirty years ago. The spirit doesn't decline with age; on the contrary, it strengthens and becomes wiser.
Finally, if what we can't forgive ourselves for involves another person with whom we can still connect, approach, and ask for forgiveness, it soothes and lightens the burden. Pride serves no purpose, nor is shame a good adviser. Looking into someone's eyes and admitting an error is an act of greatness and profound dignity.
There are many situations where forgiving ourselves is necessary. We must evaluate each circumstance and what is most appropriate for each of them. What is true, in any of the varied scenarios, is that the worst thing we can do is continue to condemn ourselves for the rest of our lives for an unhappy event or a bad decision we made.
Feeling sorry for ourselves, being eternally regretful, and doing nothing to lighten our souls corrodes us from within and keeps us stuck.
To forgive oneself implies...
- Accepting our humanit
Acknowledging that making mistakes, failing, lying, ignoring, hurting, and postponing are intrinsic characteristics of every mortal human being. There are no exceptions to this rule, so we must abandon the unconscious idea of superiority that exempts us from this reality.
- Accepting what happened
At a certain point, it no longer matters if the event was intentional or unintentional, if there were casualties or injuries. No matter how much we attack ourselves, the past will not change.
- Observing our feelings and thoughts.
We should not force ourselves to free ourselves from the emotions we feel, but we must try not to feed the emotions that harm us with defeatist thoughts.
- Harvesting a lesson
Every mistake and unfavorable circumstance always leaves an important lesson. We learn as we live. The only real way to mature is to try and fail, try and fail, try and fail until we succeed.
- Holding the decision to forgive ourselves with full awareness
If we are negligent and do nothing about the feelings of guilt that nest within us, they will grow like weeds. We must not neglect ourselves; working for our inner peace is a responsibility we can never abandon. Knowing how to ask for help if we cannot do it alone is part of the decision to forgive ourselves.
Deciding to forgive ourselves is "doing ourselves good" and evolving
Making a healthy commitment to do ourselves good is the only path to feeling good. Living burdened by regrets eats away at us from within. Of course, if one feels like a victim, they cannot assume the protagonism they need to take control of their life today.
We must remember that what makes us great and evolved is not avoiding critical situations but emerging stronger from each one and moving forward with our heads held high and a wealth of learning and experiences.
I invite you to work daily, starting right now, so that in a few years, when you look back, you feel pride instead of self-pity, to be able to admire the life you have lived instead of criticizing it.
Lastly, an important clarification: admiring one's life has nothing to do with having done grand or extraordinary things but with feeling that one has been able to overcome those things they thought were lost or had given up on.
Forgiveness plays a healing role in our lives. Have the courage to heal yourself and learn to look at yourself with deep love and compassion.