Have you ever made a mistake you thought was so bad that you simply couldn’t forgive yourself? So bad that you sunk into a depression and were unable to move on? Why are we so hard on ourselves? Why can’t we forgive ourselves for our mistakes? How long must you flog yourself before you are worthy of forgiveness?
I was working with a client recently who was very upset because she was going to have to declare bankruptcy due to the failure of a start up business. She had quit her job a year prior, taken all the money she and her husband had in savings, and started a business making and selling jewelry online. She made beautiful jewelry, but lacked the business acumen and experience to get enough sales. After a year of sinking into debt, she and her husband had to admit defeat and were preparing to declare bankruptcy. The weight of the guilt crushing her spirit was overwhelming her. She simply could not forgive herself for “ruining her family’s financial lives.” She had become depressed, withdrawn, and forlorn. She had even considered suicide because she couldn’t bear her shame and the disappointment she read on the faces of her husband and children. She felt like a complete and utter failure.
She wanted to know what she could do to make the situation right. She was hoping her spirit guides would give her a new business plan or a quick way to earn money so they wouldn’t have to declare bankruptcy. But that’s not what her guides offered her. They offered her the gift of self-forgiveness. At first, it may not seem like much of a gift, but knowing how to forgive yourself and how to move on after tragedy strikes is a skill you would benefit from developing. How did they do it?
They told me to ask her this question… “If your best friend came to you with this problem, what would you tell her?”
“Oh I would tell her that she shouldn’t be so hard on herself, everyone makes mistakes. I would tell her that she is resourceful and intelligent and can recover from this setback. I would tell her not to give up, but to dig in, make better choices, learn from her mistakes, and move on.”
So then I said, “And why can’t you say this to yourself? Why doesn’t this apply to you?”
She was stunned for a moment, speechless. Then she said, “But I don’t deserve to be forgiven.”
So I said, “How come your friend deserves forgiveness but you don’t?”
She didn’t answer.
“Forgiving yourself doesn’t mean you are free from the consequences of your actions. Yes, there will be consequences, but those consequences don’t have to include feeling guilt, shame and depression. Guilt, shame, and depression aren’t going to make you resourceful or stronger, in fact, they will weaken you and make it harder for you to recover. Don’t you owe it to your family to keep your vibration high so that you can help navigate out of this situation in the fastest and best way possible?”
She replied, “Yeah, I suppose I do owe them that. But if I forgive myself and act all happy again won’t people think I’m not taking my failure seriously?”
“Do you think your family wants you to sit in the corner and cry and blame yourself? Or do you think they’d prefer it if you were resourceful and working daily to improve your situation? Don’t you think they know you’re sorry?”
She started to cry. “I am. I am soooo sorry I did this. I can’t believe I hurt my family so badly.”
“You didn’t hurt them. You’re disappointed in yourself and you’re disappointed in the outcome of your actions. But neither of those are permanent. It doesn’t matter if you fall. Everyone falls. It only matters how quickly you get back up and continue the race. Your family is counting on you. What’s the very best thing you could do to help them right now?”
“I could get a job.”
“And you will, but the first thing you need to do is forgive yourself. Give yourself the same compassion and understanding you’d give one of your children if they made a decision that had a negative consequence. You want your children to learn from their mistakes right?”
“Of course. I want them to know they should never give up. I don’t want them to end up depressed, crying in the corner, like you said.”
“Well show them how to fall and get back up. You have an opportunity to model for them what true success is, which is learning how to recover after a setback. Unite as a family, come up with a solid plan for recovery, work your plan, and keep moving forward. Being happy and resourceful after a setback doesn’t mean you’re denying responsibility for your actions. It just means you’re acknowledging the situation and being committed to doing something to improve it.”
By the time our conversation was over she was feeling much better than when the call started. She adopted a new belief about her situation. Instead of thinking of herself as a failure, she started thinking of herself as a “success in progress.” She was committed to spending her time and energy on improving her situation instead of beating herself up over it. And she finally accepted the forgiveness her family had offered but which she couldn’t take before. She started treating herself the way she would treat others in the same situation.
The secret to forgiving yourself is to take responsibility for your actions, but not to let your perceived failure bury you. When you fail, when you make a mistake, learn from it and move on. Don’t beat yourself up. Raise your vibration, become more resourceful, and ask for help when you need it. Give yourself the forgiveness you so willingly give to others. You are worthy of forgiveness.
Forgiveness is the gift you give yourself that acknowledges you’re human. You can’t always prevent failure, but you can always forgive yourself for failing.