6 Ways to Forgive Yourself and Start Moving ForwardBy Jessica Cassity
You've probably heard that one way to get over a past wrong is to forgive the perpetrator. But what if it feels like you're the one at blame? What if the misdeeds you're having a hard time moving past are ones you believe you're responsible for?
Forgiveness is still the answer, says Everett L. Worthington Jr., Ph.D., a professor of psychology at Virginia Commonwealth University.
“A lot of people struggle with self-condemnation or self-blame because they’ve either done something they feel was wrong and they feel guilty, or because they feel that they're wrong or defective in some way and they feel a sense of shame,” says Worthington.
Of course, not all instances of self-blame are harmful. “There’s a reason we feel negative when we make a mistake,” says Worthington. The five minutes of frustration you feel after taking the wrong exit off the highway? It's a cue to pay more attention the next time you're driving.
But self-blame is worth addressing when your negative feelings about a big misstep in your life, or a series of smaller ones, become chronic. Worthington calls this “unforgiveness towards oneself,” or the inability to move forward from anger or pain from a past mistake, delaying any sense of closure.
What does this look like? It's feeling a deep pang of guilt about a long-ago affair each time your ex’s name comes up. Or flashing back, each time you fire up the grill, to the time you accidentally let your daughter get too close and burn her hand. This ongoing self-directed negativity makes you feel bad in the moment; long-term, it's linked to a host of mental and physical ailments including depression, cardiovascular problems, and immune dysfunction.
There's often no way to undo past mistakes, but you can make amends with them. The below process for responsible self-forgiveness, which Worthington details in his book,