I enjoyed your articles about forgiving other people, but how do you forgive yourself and move on when you have made many mistakes? That is what I struggle with.
You are not alone. Most of us hold on to past mistakes and let them affect our self-esteem for way too long. This is not healthy and does not serve anyone. Here are eight suggestions that may help you to forgive yourself:
1. Choose to see past experiences as locations on your journey through life, instead of letting them define who you are
If you were on a road trip and drove through Texas, would the time you spent there make you a Texan? Of course not. It was just the location you drove through; it doesn’t change who you are. Your value is the same no matter what you experience along your journey. Mistakes teach you important lessons, but they don’t define who you are — at least they don't have to. You can see them as locations on your journey if you choose to.
2. Give yourself permission to be a work in progress
Choose to see life as a classroom, not a testing center. You have the option to believe that your value isn’t on the line here and you are not being graded — you are just here to learn and grow. Seeing life as a classroom helps you focus on the lessons so you can forgive yourself and try to do better next time.
3. Understand how pointless shame is
I believe "shame" stands for: should have already mastered everything. That is ridiculous. You are a student in the classroom of life. There is no way could know it all, all the time. Give yourself permission to be an imperfect work in progress. You are learning and growing and that is enough.
4. Figuratively get rid of it for good
You could write it down on paper and burn it. You could write what you did, put it in a box and bury it in the backyard. Then make a rule that you can’t bring it up again, unless you dig the box up first. (This exercise is great for couples who keep fighting about the past too.) Bury that stuff deep and let it die there. There is no sense wasting energy on things you can’t change. Focus on the future instead.
5. Learn some new skills
Focus on making your future brighter. This is in your control. Be present and find ways to improve yourself daily. Learning new skills is great for your self-esteem.
6. Imagine there is a dark room in your house where you can stash negative thoughts and emotions
Every time negative thoughts show up, which aren't worth processing anymore, visualize putting them in the dark room and slamming the door. You can always go in there, if you need to process it some more and dwell in self-pity. But you could also leave the negativity in the dark room forever. This empowers you to have control over what to do with those feelings.
7. Clean out your closets and your house
Most people, who hold on to old stuff, are also holding on to old ways of thinking and feeling. When you get rid of your old stuff, you can send your old beliefs, mistakes and fears out with it. Cleaning your house out will make you feel fresh and new on every level.
8. Change it up and try new things
Break out of your old ruts and change some things. Try new outfit combinations, new foods, new restaurants, new sports or new kinds of movies. The more you break out of routine and change it up, you will also open yourself up to feel differently about yourself and your life.
Steve Maraboli, in his book "Life, the Truth, and Being Free," said “Incredible change happens in your life when you decide to take control of what you do have power over instead of craving control over what you don’t.” The past is out of your control; there is nothing you can do to change it. Let it go.
Choose joy for today.
You can do this.
Kimberly Giles is the founder and president of ldslifecoaching.com and claritypointcoaching.com. She is a sought after life coach and popular speaker who specializes in repairing and building self-esteem.
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Kimberly Giles is the president and founder of Claritypoint Life Coaching and 12 SHAPES INC. She is an author and professional speaker. She was named one of the top 20 advice gurus in the country by Good Morning America in 2010. She appears regularly on local and national TV and Radio.