We all make mistakes, it's unavoidable. It is in our nature as humans to fail, whether at work, in our families, or in our relationships. We're all doomed to disappoint ourselves at some point, but that doesn't mean we have to accept it. I know that living with a mistake is difficult, and learning to forgive yourself afterwards is even more difficult. However, if you continue to let your blunders define you rather than improve you, you will only make your life more difficult than it would otherwise be. Instead of sobbing into a carton of Ben & Jerry's and hoping that the spoonfuls of milky sugar will somehow alleviate the pain of the past, follow these sure-fire steps to self-forgiveness and you'll be on the right track to recovery in no time. Who knows, maybe you'll find the motivation to close the ice cream lid in here as well.
1. Consider why you did what you did
Any conscious wrongdoing is always motivated by a reason. Always. We are often so caught up in our emotions after an incident that we fail to recognize the causes that led up to it. If you hit another car while driving, consider what you were doing just before the accident. Were you listening to radio stations? Were you looking at your phone? If not, something else may have distracted you or blocked your line of sight. Take the time to think about these things and write them down on paper. It is beneficial to identify the small details before returning to the big picture.
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2. Spend some time alone with yourself
Taking time to truly be alone, especially when I'm in the self-hatred phase, is one thing I've discovered that consistently helps me cope with whatever I'm experiencing. This does not, however, imply that you should sit on your couch and binge-watch TV shows on Netflix. This means that you should get out, go somewhere, and do something for yourself. If you must, call it a “me date.” Running or walking alone is the best type of non-prescription medicine for me, but not everyone finds their therapy in nature. You can't go wrong as long as you spend time alone doing something you enjoy.
3. Speak with someone who has been through a similar experience
Don't get me wrong: alone time is wonderful. It is, however, not the only thing you should do to deal with your problems. You should talk to someone who understands what you're going through, or look for an online forum where people are discussing a similar issue to yours. You can even see a therapist! I can assure you that keeping your emotions to yourself will not help. People are always willing to give you sound advice. You just have to look for it.
4. Be truthful with yourself and those you may have offended
Aside from self-forgiveness, the most difficult task is often admitting the error. It's so easy to make excuses or find ways to avoid the subject. At the end of the day, however, honesty is the best policy and will ultimately set you free. So be honest with yourself and the people you've hurt along the way. Don't be afraid to be vulnerable, even if it means the worst-case scenario. This stems from the biblical proverb, “Do unto others as you would have others do unto you.” If someone wronged you, you'd want to know about it, so why shouldn't the same be true for the other way around? Consider this. There is such a thing as karmic retribution.
5. Have some good old-fashioned escapism
So you're depressed and probably feeling guilty. You feel as if it is only fair that you spend some time moping about the problem at hand, but the question is how long? Yes, everyone has the right to feel the way they feel and act on their feelings. However, you can't keep berating yourself indefinitely. At some point, you have to tell yourself that what has gone before is gone, and nothing you do now will change that. Instead of constantly ruminating on what could have been done to avoid the error, take a break and go have some fun. Go to the movies, hang out with friends, try that exercise class you've been wanting to try, and focus on the present moment for a moment. After all, life is fleeting. Why waste time being unhappy?
6. Strive for self-improvement
The final and most important step in the self-forgiveness process is obvious, but it is one that we all need to remind ourselves of. When we do something that contradicts our values or ideals, we become so engrossed in the momentary inconvenience that we fail to see the light at the end of the tunnel–that light being the result of our reparation. Making amends as needed is the only way to truly learn to forgive ourselves for mistakes we've made. Take your flaws as opportunities for growth and improvement, and work on them from there. It's not easy, and no one ever said it would be, but learning from failure is what ultimately makes us all healthier and happier people. I guarantee that if you begin to see your mistakes for the positive change they inspire, you will eventually find success.
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