“How could I…?” – How to learn to forgive yourself

“How could I…?” – Learning to forgive yourself
Photo: CC0 Public Domain / Unsplash / Matteo Vistocco

Forgiving others is often difficult enough. But forgiving yourself for small mistakes or major failures is sometimes impossible. A coach and a psychologist explain why it still makes sense to practice – and how you can learn to forgive yourself.

As strange as it may sound, we are often more tolerant towards others and more willing to forgive mistakes. “Forgiving ourselves is not a natural and intuitive process for us,” says Nina Lizon, a coach in Munich. Even children learn to turn to others, to comfort them and to forgive them. But unconsciously, we internalize the idea that forgiveness has to come from outside.

In a competitive society, there is also an unwritten rule: mistakes are not allowed. “We are wired to criticize ourselves and push ourselves to dismantle failure,” Lizon explains, “and there is no one who can give us absolution, we have to do it ourselves.”

It is inevitable that mistakes will happen. They can be small things or big mistakes. You quickly get caught up in a spiral of self-reproach: Why did I give in again? Why didn’t I go through the presentation again and notice the mistake? Why didn’t I do the training back then? Why didn’t I start a family back then?

Perfectionism narrows the perspective

The small, supposed “unforgivable” things can often be much more insidious. “Because they accompany us like an inner voice and we often don’t even notice them,” says the coach. We mentally replay everything over and over again, and the next mistake quickly occurs to us, and shame and fear set in. “And in the end we are convinced of our own failure and feel useless as a whole person,” says Lizon.

In her practical experience, ambitious and successful people are particularly prone to these brooding thoughts. “Ambition is a double-edged sword: a certain tendency towards perfectionism often leads to the success that I have,” says Lizon. “But if I don’t admit to myself making mistakes and the tone towards myself becomes increasingly harsh and unkind, I have to take notice.”

The nasty thing is that the spiral of self-reproach always leads downwards. “Suddenly my whole life is blackened,” says Berlin psychotherapist Wolfgang Krüger. “It seems to me as if I’m only failing.”

Constantly going over your own mistakes is also unhealthy: stress, insomnia or even depressive symptoms can result. And if you avoid certain situations in the future out of fear of failing again, you are narrowing your perspective on life.

Forgiving yourself makes you more resilient

On the other hand, people who can forgive themselves and let go live more resiliently to stress. So how do you get out of the negative spiral? First of all, it’s very important: “I can definitely acknowledge my frustration and anger and give it space,” says Nina Lizon. Because only then can you consciously turn your gaze away from it.

To change your perspective, the coach suggests the following question: What would I say to a good friend in the same situation? “Say it out loud or write it down.”

And: A mistake can also have something good about it. So ask yourself: What are the positive aspects of my mistake, what can I learn from it for the future? “This way I shift my focus from what happened to what I can do,” explains Lizon.

Trick for forgiving yourself: Self-praise strengthens

Psychotherapist Wolfgang Krüger advocates generally strengthening one’s own self-esteem. “We all know the saying: self-praise stinks,” he says. “That is completely wrong.” He suggests making it a ritual to write a note to yourself every evening: “What did I do well today?”

The author says: “It is not enough that we see something positive occasionally, it is about getting a different attitude.” Many people often feel dissatisfied, especially in the evenings. According to Krüger, anyone who practices this ritual for about three months will feel the effect. Because such a wealth of things that you have mastered and that are going well strengthens you for situations of failure that are inevitable.

“You can also ask good friends to write down your positive qualities for you,” recommends Krüger. “You will be very moved by the results.” Incidentally, you can also give recognition to your friends. “All people, even the most successful ones, have a lack of recognition,” says the psychotherapist. “But self-respect and self-love are the foundation of a happy life.” And they make you more confident – including when it comes to forgiving yourself.

Read more on Techzle\.com:

  • Forgiving and pardoning: Why it is good for you and your relationships
  • 5 languages ​​of love: How people express their affection
  • Maintaining friendships: How to make old and new friendships work – even at a distance

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