The Struggle for Self-forgiveness

I’ve written about the importance of forgiving yourself in a previous post and I’d like to expand on it.

Forgiving and accepting the mistakes you may have made in the past is difficult. If we’re used to criticising ourselves about everything we do wrong, downplaying our achievements and complaining about the lack of perceived progress, it’s difficult to change that mind-set.

I’m still struggling with it.

A helpful question to ask when you begin criticising yourself is:

Would you talk to your friend the same way you talk to yourself?

If your friend failed to start learning a language like she said she would, would you call her worthless, lazy and stupid? If your friend didn’t make consistent progress with programming, would you say he’ll never learn in the future?

Hopefully, you wouldn’t.

There’s an important difference between being honest and harmful. If we wouldn’t pile on these criticisms to a friend, why the need to do it to ourselves?

I would never tell a friend that she’s worthless I don’t believe she is. They’re capable of doing better and if I can I will help them reach their goals. This isn’t the same as simply excusing all the bad things one might do. Sweeping it under the rug will only result in more problems in the future.

We can run into the problem of holding ourselves to an extremely high standard without making the necessary changes to reach it. We skip the fact that building habits takes time. We skip the fact that being good at most things requires a lot of practice.

Such a trait might be seen as admirable but it’s useless if it simply results in self-hatred. Eventually all the criticism we pile onto our shoulders will bring us to a halt instead of making us stronger.

We don’t deserve the relentless criticism we give ourselves.

We don’t need to hate ourselves to make a positive change.

We deserve compassion. If anyone should be kind to you, it should be you.

The first step: awareness

I would be lying if I said I had this all figured out. There are many times in the day where I still feel disappointed with myself and wish I had done better in the past. There are times when I look at the progress I’ve made and see it as useless.

However, the first step to reducing the self-criticism is awareness. Realising that what you’re doing to yourself is not beneficial but instead harmful to your progress means you have identified what you need to change.

Forgiving yourself is the first step to accepting who you are and identifying what you want to change.

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