The ability to forgive yourself for your mistakes is an essential skill emotionally mature people should strive for. However, while you might be very gracious in letting go of feelings of anger or resentment toward others, you might be overly harsh on yourself – especially if your anxiety causes you to second-guess your decisions. How can you learn self-forgiveness and improve your mental well-being along the way?
The Value of Self-Forgiveness
We tend to justify our bad behavior in the desire to sweep complex emotions under the rug. The ability to forgive yourself doesn’t mean you’re letting yourself off the hook and moving on with no consequences for your actions. Instead, it means you’ve taken time to analyze what happened, reflect on what you did wrong and accept the responsibility.
As a result of taking these steps, you may experience guilt and shame. When you know you’ve done something wrong, these feelings are normal and healthy. Let them motivate you to make positive changes. Nobody’s perfect, and making mistakes is human.
Constructive Tips for Forgiving Yourself
Anxious people often have trouble loving and accepting themselves. They’ve listened to their harsh inner critic for so long that they have absorbed all the negativity into their sense of self. What can you do to practice the skill of self-forgiveness?
1. Use Failure as a Teacher
It’s unrealistic to expect to get everything 100% right the first time, every time. Instead of dwelling on failure and letting fear hold you back, look at each mistake as a learning experience. What can you take away that might help you in the future?
2. Visualize Yourself Succeeding
A technique called creative visualization can go a long way toward helping silence your negative inner monologue. For example, you might get intensely anxious in social situations. In that case, having to attend a networking event could be something you dread to the point of building it up in your head for days beforehand, worrying that you’ll say or do the wrong thing.
Instead of stressing yourself out and convincing yourself you’ll be too awkward, picture every element of the gathering in your mind’s eye. What will you wear? Will you need to bring any supplies, like brochures or business cards? How will you introduce yourself to others? Mentally rehearsing all these elements will help ease your anxiety and prepare you for the occasion.
3. Learn How to Apologize
If you hurt someone else with your behavior, learning how to make amends is an essential part of self-forgiveness. If you’re working on your sobriety using a 12-step approach, you’re probably already familiar with this concept. Reaching out with a sincere apology, then actively trying to repair the relationship, will help you move on and feel better about yourself. It will also demonstrate your ability to learn and grow.
4. Be Kind to Yourself
You’ve probably told yourself hurtful things you’d never think of saying to a friend. If your first reaction to a setback is to criticize yourself, take a step back and show yourself some compassion. You are worthy of forgiveness, and you deserve to succeed.
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