There’s an aspect of forgiveness that I find extremely difficult. I have spent the last five years learning to forgive and work through a multitude of issues and traumas, but I have not mastered forgiving myself. Further, I’ll be the first to say that I often forget it. Forgiving oneself is a crucial part of healing. Yet, there is a part of me, the most critical, perfectionistic part, that believes that forgiving myself is letting myself off the hook or allowing myself to forget some lesson I am supposed to remember. In reality, forgiving oneself is none of those. It’s the gift of self-compassion and a sign of growth.
Still, it is often easier to forgive others than it is to forgive oneself. You can rationalize another person’s mistakes or listen to their apologies. Or you can simply get to a point where you no longer want to hold the energy of resentment. Forgiving others is challenging but not insurmountable. After all, most people acknowledge it as an essential step in letting go and moving forward.
Why, then, is it so hard to forgive the person in the mirror?
I won’t speak for anyone else. Forgiveness is still hard for me, no matter who I am supposed to forgive. But I realized I sometimes berate myself for things I did in middle school. The perfect vision of hindsight is sharp and unappeasable. It’s governed by the rule of shoulds and wields that word like a weapon. For example, thirteen-year-old me should not have been mean to a boy I knew was being arrogant to cover up his deep insecurities. Twenty-four-year-old me should have acted like a loving sister instead of an exhausted, pissed-off surrogate ings I scold myselfthese things for because I believe that, even then, I should have known better.
Forgiveness is giving up the hope that the past can be any different.Brene Brown
I’m learning I need to forgive myself for times when I acted outside of my integrity and values or times I did not listen to my intuition. Not only that, I tended to show I cared in an aggressive, sometimes bitch way. I need to forgive myself for not having the language or vulnerability to show up for people gently. Also, I need to forgive myself for the times I relinquished my power or let people trample over my boundaries. And I must forgive myself for simultaneously expecting too much and being less than I am capable of. I need to forgive myself for falling out of love and treating myself worse than I treat any ole chick on the street. I need to forgive the current, healed me for looking down on the woman I became when in survival. She should be exalted because she got me here. I have no right to feel sorry for her or feel irritated at her because of the habits she created to make it through those tough days.
I have realized that I am often angry at myself for exhibiting very human behavior. Like, I know that I am petty when someone crosses the line too many times. And I know that I am growing less petty by the year. It’s slow progress, but progress nonetheless. So, how can I be upset when I act within my character? Still, I don’t want to relinquish all of my pettiness; I’d like to maintain 10 to 20 percent of it for personal protection. And yes, you guessed it, my need to remain a little petty also irritates me.
Forgiving oneself is the highest form of self-love. I get that now. Logically, I understand that self-compassion and radical self-acceptance is the truest expression of love. When should you practice self-forgiveness? Honestly, if you are a recovering perfectionist like me, it should probably be daily. However, I’m still trying to figure out how to put it into practice. How exactly do you forgive yourself? I wrote myself a letter a long time ago, but it did not feel 100 percent sincere. I’ve attempted guided meditations and EAM in the past, but I can honestly say I was not ready to release all that came up at the time.
Maybe, like everything, timing is the crux of the matter. I wasn’t ready then, but I am now. I didn’t think I deserved to be forgiven for my mistakes. Nor was I ready to release guilt, shame, and self-recrimination. I see now that my refusal to let certain things go was yet another unhealthy tether to the past and behaviors that no longer serve me. The refusal to forgive myself is another manifestation of not believing in my worth and deservingness. And it is a bad habit that I am looking forward to living without.
I just finished reading The Body is Not an Apology: The Power of Radical Self-Love by Sonya Renee Taylor. She said, “Radical self-love demands that we see ourselves and others in the fullness of our complexities and intersections and that we work to create space for those intersections.” So you see, we have to accept the complexities–not flaws–of our nature. You can’t have inner peace if you are in the middle of a civil war. And you can’t bask in the fullness of self-love and self-acceptance without self-forgiveness.