31 Days

Day 12

Forgive Yourself

Mistake illustration
Mistake illustration

Making peace and moving forward is never easy. Nor is accepting the fact that we messed up. Being overly critical of ourselves for our bad behavior or mistakes is known as a “negativity bias” and it's something psychologists at the University of Chicago studied extensively. They found that we're more likely to focus on our own failures and shortcomings rather than our successes and virtues. No real surprise there, right? It's important to learn from our mistakes, in hopes that we don't repeat them, but this hardwired tendency to dwell on our screw-ups isn't doing us any favors.

What's more important is to focus on self-compassion and self-forgiveness, says Shahroo Izadi, author of The Kindness Method. She suggests consciously thinking about the way you're feeling and speaking to yourself after you've regretted something. Especially if you've done all you can to rectify the situation, she says to ask yourself: Would it take me this long to forgive someone else? Probably not. Self-forgiveness isn't about letting yourself off the hook. It's about accepting your actions and “believing yourself to be worthy enough to achieve your goals,” says Izadi. Here's how to do it.

Stop Replaying
the Tape

Likely the first thing that happens after we recognize we've made a mistake is to play it over and over again in our mind. Of course, it's important to process your actions, but going over what happened again and again won't do anything but torment you. If you catch yourself doing it, stop and take some deep breaths. Interrupting the thought pattern will steer you away from the negative loop and reduce stress and anxiety.

Recognize Why
It Happened

Sometimes this can be difficult. If you're having trouble seeing what led to this mistake, Jordan Pickell, a relationship and trauma therapist suggests journaling. This can help you understand your inner critic, develop self-compassion and even identify thought patterns that are sabotaging your ability to move past a mistake.

the Lesson

Pickell also believes in the power of speech. Saying out loud what happened or maybe what you learned from the whole ordeal can help you make sense of it. When you give a voice to the thoughts in your head (along with the emotions in your heart) they don't seem as overwhelming as when they're swirling around inside you. Izadi agrees that acknowledging the lesson is the key to freeing yourself from the burdens of past mistakes. She also believes that you can recognize that some things that feel like problematic mistakes now were, in fact, solutions that served us at one point in time. Once you see them as such, it's easier to understand why you made the choice you did and understand that you'd make a different one now.

Wise Words

Maya Angelou

Forgive yourself for not knowing what you didn’t know before you learned it

- Maya Angelou