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Let Go of Regrets and Learn to Forgive Yourself

when "I'm sorry" means something else

You are so worth it. Don’t let your past mistakes define your future.

Forgiveness is definitely a process. I learned this the hard way by holding onto mistakes and destructive behaviors for years. The longer I held onto them, the greater the burden they became.

If you are struggling to forgive yourself for something right now, I want to give you hope because everyone can do this although the process will be different for us all.

For years, I held on to bitterness and anger, which had built up over the years towards close relationships and only by forgiving myself was I able to experience such incredible freedom from these burdens.

I would love for you to let go of the burden you might be carrying around so you can learn how to forgive yourself and start to experience some freedom in your life.

Here are some of the things that helped me to forgive myself even in my darkest moments:

1. Don’t Attach Emotions to Regrets

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One of my first realizations was that I was attaching emotions to the things that I regretted doing; I was actually connecting my mistakes to my limiting beliefs. So is it any wonder I couldn’t forgive myself for my action because it was really the underlying emotion that needed to be addressed?

For example, if I ‘screamed’ at my mother, I would feel very guilty afterward and so trying to forgive myself for the screaming was ineffective as I needed to look at the guilt it caused me.

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2. Move On from the Past

The past really is the past and when we can leave it there we become more open to acceptance, which is a very healing experience in itself where you stop trying to change situations.

We find it hard to let go of the past because we feel it is really part of us, but remind yourself that at that very moment, you did the very best you could with the tools you had at the time. Keep what you have learned from the event and let go of everything else.

3. Take a Look at the Relationship You Have With Yourself

You can forgive those around you who you love dearly far more easily than you can forgive yourself. So by loving yourself and being less critical, less harsh, and giving yourself the benefit of the doubt, you will come to appreciate yourself that bit more.

Putting yourself first, taking care of your needs, creating boundaries, and practicing self-care will give you a new positive perspective on yourself.

4. Why Not ‘Re-Write’ the Event?

Write down how you would do it differently next time. This affirms to your subconscious mind that you have learned from the situation and if you had the tools you have now back then, things wouldn’t have worked out as they did.

You can then create a clear visualization in your mind of your new creation. This is how we learn not to repeat mistakes.

5. You Don’t Need to Look at Every Past Mistake and Regret

Just look at the main ones to forgive yourself. You will identify a pattern and once you can see the behavior developing you can focus on changing that and not just the ‘one off’ events.

6. Admit Your Mistake

We are brought up not to make mistakes and if we do, we get punished. So naturally, we try and hide from them.

When you can admit to yourself that you have taken ownership of that mistake, you realize that you are human and it’s how you grow and learn. If you’re making mistakes you’re stepping out of your comfort zone, well done.

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7. Don’t Deal With It Alone

Start sharing your feelings with someone you trust. You will soon realize that sharing your thoughts will actually stop you from sliding down a path of denial and repression.

8. Apologize

If you’re struggling to forgive yourself for something you have done to someone else the best way is to say “sorry” to that person. Face to face if possible, but if you can’t do that perhaps send a message or an email. Don’t expect a response; just know that you have said, “sorry.”

9. Make It Right from This Day On

I can’t go back and change how I behaved towards my family — yelling with such anger at my Mum or being known as the ‘Fun Police’ by my children. But what I can do is to be a better parent and daughter right now.

I can’t “make up” for what I did but I can learn from the past and create a new future. I know this is possible because this year alone I have been on holiday with my entire family and we’ve all loved every minute of being together.

10. Reflect

Before you close your eyes at bedtime, reflect over the day and remind yourself of all the things you have been able to do and how you made a difference, however small — the smile you gave to a stranger, the rubbish you picked up in the park, the dinner you made for your husband, the person you let in front of you in the supermarket queue. Then hold onto these thoughts as you drop off to sleep.

Why? Because you really have become one amazing person.

Forgiveness is the very best tool that allows us to face what we have done in the past, acknowledge our mistakes, learn from them, leave them behind, and move on. It does not mean that we excuse what has happened, and it doesn’t mean we forget what has happened. It means we have learned and moved on in a better way.

You are so worth it. Don’t let your past mistakes define your future. Forgiveness is not a destination. Do it regularly.

This guest article originally appeared on How To Forgive Yourself (Even When It Feels Impossible).

Let Go of Regrets and Learn to Forgive Yourself

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APA Reference
Guest Author, P. (2018). Let Go of Regrets and Learn to Forgive Yourself. Psych Central. Retrieved on December 2, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Jul 2018 (Originally: 24 Dec 2017)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Jul 2018
Published on Psych All rights reserved.