We all make mistakes… We’re human and nobody is immune to making less-than-ideal decisions. Some we make deliberately, knowing we’re sabotaging our goals, (like “just one more slice of pizza, I’ll start my diet tomorrow”) and some we make because we lack information… but most of our mistakes have their roots in our beliefs and habits.
For example, if you grew up believing that you are “average” and that you will never achieve anything worthwhile… then you can’t help but act on that belief, and make choices that you feel bad about but can’t help making.
You might have a brilliant idea and get all fired up about it, but then give in to the lure of procrastination because you start reminding yourself that you’re not ever going to achieve this awesome goal.
Or, you might be offered an incredible job, but while there you become less engaged day by day as your belief of not being good enough, bubbles to the surface… and as you become less engaged, your performance suffers and predictably, you’ll be “downsized.”
“It’s not what you are that is holding you back. It’s what you think you are not”. ~ Unknown
These belief-driven thought habits and choices create circumstances that reinforce the beliefs, making it even harder to change them.
The problem is that when you dwell on yesterday’s failures, you may as well be trying to walk in quicksand! Negative thoughts generate negative feelings which in turn attract more negative thoughts and more negative feelings, and it can be quite challenging to get out of the quicksand.
Things start to look bleak and hopeless, and unfortunately this focus only reinforces the negative beliefs that created the mistake or failure in the first place.
Here are my 3 top tips on forgiveness of oneself – so that you can, through the creation of supportive thought habits, neutralize the self-defeating beliefs that give rise to unwanted choices/results… and become a conscious creator of your life experience.
1. As I mentioned above, most of your behaviors and choices are really deeply rooted in your beliefs about yourself and the world. That means – your mistakes are not really your FAULT. You were simply operating according to your beliefs and doing the best you could at the time!
Now, this doesn’t excuse the actual behavior (you still have that moment between stimulus and response in which to say “no” to a self-defeating choice) but it helps you to understand why you’re acting the way you are, and why you’re creating these outcomes.
Here’s a great example: let’s say you’re in a romantic relationship, and you feel yourself becoming more and more insecure and jealous whenever your partner wants to spend time with friends or stays late at work. All sorts of unpleasant scenarios go through your mind as your imagination goes wild… negative thoughts rooted in your own beliefs about yourself and your lovability… and you act on this belief by becoming more clingy, jealous and demanding.
You can guess the outcome – your partner pulls away from all this stifling behavior, and the relationship flounders, again reinforcing your “I’m not lovable” or “I’m not worthy of love” beliefs about yourself.
So – the takeaway from this is, when you realize you’ve made a mistake, do not blame yourself… just take a good hard and honest look at your beliefs around the situation.
Do this in meditation – a perfect distraction-free, SAFE place to delve into your beliefs. Once you know what you believe, you can work on changing that belief.
Remind yourself that any and all hurtful actions toward others (or yourself) are rooted in bad beliefs and experiences. Forgiveness is all that’s required. No negative behavior can possibly come from a place of love, only from a place of deep pain.
2. Realize that the past is the past and there is absolutely nothing that can be done to change it. There IS, however, often a chance to make amends and there is a chance to turn it into a “how not to do things next time” learning experience. Write down a “do over” of a situation that pains you. How would you have done things differently if you could go back in time… knowing what you know now?
This exercise helps you to learn from your mistakes and acknowledge that you have learned and grown from the mistake.
You can also – and this takes a lot of courage – reach out to someone you’ve hurt, either in person or through a letter, and try to make amends. Forgiveness works both ways and you can ask for this genuinely at any time. Be ready if they choose to not forgive or rekindle the relationship though. This is always a possibility but at least you will have released the burden of guilt, by explaining what you have learned from the situation, whilst taking full responsibility for your own chosen words and actions at the time.
3. Love yourself more. Remember, your beliefs about yourself are the #1 cause of poor choices and mistakes so it’s up to you to change those beliefs. The easiest way to do this is through deliberate action. Practice thinking loving, supportive and compassionate thoughts about yourself.
This is true self forgiveness at it’s best and most powerful!
Catch yourself whenever you call yourself stupid, for example, and replace that thought with one that is supportive!
Nobody, no matter how rich, famous, beautiful or talented is free of faults and flaws. Everyone has a “chink in their armor” or flaws they have to deal with every day. EVERYBODY.
So think about yourself as your very best friend thinks about you – accepting yourself for who you are, flaws and all.
Put yourself as a priority and teach people how to treat you!
Surround yourself with supportive people, and demonstrate self-love through your actions. That means, whenever you’re faced with a choice that doesn’t support your values or goals, ask yourself if this choice shows yourself love and if this choice supports positive beliefs about yourself. If not, stand tall and stay true to yourself!
Once you’ve mastered self forgiveness, you can then understand and forgive the human errors in others… and it becomes easier to release the burden of resentment or guilt that keeps you from being your very best.