Yesterday you worked on forgiving others, and today we're going to talk about forgiving yourself. This is probably one of the most difficult things for people to do, much more difficult than forgiving other people.
We are so hard on ourselves.
We have high expectations for who it is we think we should be, and when we don’t live up to those standards it manifests as guilt and shame. And we hold on to it. Most people never forgive themselves for things they have said or done, even from childhood. We may wave our hands and say, “Oh I was a kid back then,” but deep down inside we haven’t really let it go.
I’m going to tell you a personal story from my life which I held a lot of shame around. It’s a story I haven’t told many people and one which I’ve never written publicly about. When I was in high school I had a very close friend who was born with Cystic Fibrosis, a genetic condition in which her lungs and digestive system were clogged with thick mucus. She was a beautiful, bubbly, incredible soul who passed 10 years ago.
Throughout our friendship she was in the hospital. Sometimes she’d be there for months, and I knew how much it meant to her to have companionship. I was in college in Philadelphia, and she was in the hospital not too far away. It was around Valentine’s Day, and she asked me to come visit. I wasn’t feeling well, myself. In fact, I had been to the doctors the day before and found out I had bronchitis.
I was on antibiotics, but to be perfectly honest, the thought never crossed my mind that I shouldn’t be heading to the hospital with bronchitis, let alone headed into the room of one of my dearest friends with a lung disease. I can’t fathom how I didn’t realize this. When I think back to the feeling at the time, I was more connected to my friend’s emotional needs than her physical ones.
Well, her mom walked into the room and heard me coughing, and I told her I had Bronchitis, expecting sympathy. Instead (and rightfully so) her mouth dropped open and she looked like she wanted to kill me. I immediately realized that I shouldn’t be there and that I was jeopardizing my friend’s health. I went home and started researching and found out that I needed to be on antibiotics for 3 days to have protected her. I was devastated.
I held this guilt with me for years, even beyond her passing. She wasn’t affected by my poor decision that night, but she could have been. I could have killed her. I held onto this shame for years.
When I began doing Breathwork I started to write out everything that had ever wounded me in my life, anything that caused even a little prick that I could remember. I processed it and let it go. I remember trying to work one afternoon and feeling a deep blockage. I decided to go write about whatever it was that wanted to come up.
I found myself writing about this situation and sobbing so deeply I became the grief. I let it all come out until it was done. Afterward I felt lighter than I ever had before. That afternoon I forgave myself. I didn’t know it was happening at the time, but I did.
We can make horrible choices in life and still forgive ourselves for them.
We do no service to ourselves or to others by carrying around guilt and shame. In fact, these emotions hold us back from being of service to others and sharing our gifts.
We all have things (often many things) we need to forgive ourselves for. Start by opening yourself up to the idea that it’s ok to forgive yourself, that it’s ok to be human, to make mistakes, and to still give yourself love. It’s ok to let go of the pain.
Use this worksheet to list the things you are holding on to. Use some of these to work on forgiving as you look into your eyes today.
I forgive myself.
Head on over to the mirror...