Forgiveness may be defined as a conscious and voluntary decision to leave behind your feelings of anger, resentment, or desire for revenge toward a certain person or situation. Thus, forgiveness has ethical and moral implications in relation to how you judge others. Furthermore, how those judgments allow you to maintain ties with them. However, forgiving others is often easier than forgiving yourself. You might well ask yourself why this happens. Indeed, why are you sometimes so inflexible in judging your own actions?
In this article, we explain what self-forgiveness means and why it’s important to your mental health. We also explore how you can become more aware of the importance of forgiving yourself.
Dimensions of self-forgiveness
Self-forgiveness has been defined as the process by which you become aware of any damage you’ve caused, seek to repair it, and eliminate or reduce your feelings of self-condemnation and guilt.
Forgiving yourself entails experiencing feelings of self-condemnation. These are later replaced by the feeling of need to repair your mistakes. However, you must be careful not to confuse self-forgiveness with self-indulgence, self-deception, and narcissism.
For example, the simple desire to turn the page and feel better about yourself can’t be compared to the search for self-forgiveness. In fact, this first instance is a selfish and condescending response. On the other hand, forgiving yourself means reestablishing your self-concept, rejoining your recognized path, and amending your mistakes.
Working on your capacity to forgive yourself means you must deal with the following four strongly interconnected dimensions.
Reconciliation with yourself and self-acceptance
Self-forgiveness involves changing the way you think about your past mistakes. In fact, it’s important to stop interpreting them as sources of shame and regret and to understand them as part of the process of becoming who you are. As a matter of fact, relating in a healthier way with your past is essential to recognize and value your changes and to help your personal growth.
In order to do this, you must try to be honest and, at the same time, generous, in the way you treat yourself. This allows you to become aware of how you’ve been building a better version of yourself over time. Likewise, having the ability to forgive yourself will help you build a realistic self-concept. Indeed, learning to appreciate yourself as you are, with your strengths and weaknesses, is extremely important for your self-esteem and, in general, for your mental health.
Of course, feelings of guilt and shame can make it difficult to forgive yourself. However, paradoxically, when you can recognize and accept these negative feelings toward yourself, is when you can forgive yourself and release them. Therefore, forgiving yourself means understanding these emotions and identifying their origin. From there, you can build a path that allows you to repair the mistakes you’ve made.
Self-forgiveness goes beyond feelings of self-pity. In order to forgive yourself, you must, first of all, recognize your culpability in the situation that’s causing you to feel guilty. From there, you can explicitly express your will to repair the damage and to empathize with those who’ve been affected by your actions.
Commitment to change
The ability to forgive yourself also implies your firm belief that change is possible. This doesn’t mean ignoring the fault you committed. In fact, it simply means you’re aware of it. In addition, you’re aware of the importance of identifying what you can change in yourself to avoid repeating the same mistake in the future.
Your connection with humanity
Finally, the last dimension of self-forgiveness is the awareness that you’re only human, hence, not perfect. Consequently, you’re capable of failing at any point in your life.
Recognizing yourself as part of humanity can also help you to be more compassionate towards others. This means you’ll become more understanding and flexible in the face of the mistakes of others.
The importance of forgiving yourself
Having the ability to forgive yourself will help you to leave behind your intrusive and ruminating thoughts. As a matter of fact, these types of thoughts can often lead to a predisposition toward anxiety and depression. Therefore, being able to express forgiveness towards yourself will help you maintain a good state of mental health.
In the same way, self-forgiveness helps you learn from your mistakes and enhance your personal growth. Furthermore, it facilitates the development of your sense of justice and reparation to others.
Of course, there’ll always be situations that cause you to feel annoyed with yourself. For example, doing something you really didn’t want to do, making mistakes, and disappointing others. However, recognizing that not all situations are under your control and that error is an inherent part of evolution will allow you to interpret these situations as painful but necessary bumps in your life.
Finally, you mustn’t forget that your psychological well-being depends largely on your ability to reconcile with both yourself and your past.
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