I write about being your best self inside and outside of work, and the occasional trolls of millennial life.

The Challenges of Forgiving Yourself

The Challenges of Forgiving Yourself

Have you ever felt like you deserve to suffer for something that you did, no matter how inconsequential it was?

These feelings of self-imposed punishment are applying guilt and shame to anything potentially positive in your life, and therefore prohibit you from happiness. 

I once made a mistake at work that, in the grand scheme of things, was not really a big of a problem, though I didn’t feel that way at the time. My manager and I talked about it, and everyone else moved on — but I didn’t. 

He finally came to me one day and said: 

“You absolutely need to move on from this…wallowing in a small mistake just creates contagious negativity, and is not productive. Nobody still cares about this except for you, and I can’t for the life of me figure out why.”

By continuing to brood over my mistake, I was diverting attention away from concerned coworkers and the actual work to be done. 

I was now unwittingly punishing everyone in my orbit; not just me anymore. 

Since I was now negatively affecting others, I snapped out of it. But I still internalized some of the guilt of that as well. Now, I was literally punishing myself for punishing myself…and the punishment cycle continued. 

But why? 

We may punish ourselves without even realizing it

Self-punishment tactics can easily compound on themselves, and create a self-fulfilling prophecy of negativity in many aspects of life. They can be based on a past mistake, rooted in deeper self-esteem issues, or a combination of the two. 

These also become convenient defense mechanisms from facing life head-on. 

  • Procrastinating a task until you feel overwhelmed

  • Over or under-eating

  • Sabotaging relationships

  • Avoiding positive opportunities

  • Living in a messy house

  • Isolating yourself until you reinforce feelings of loneliness

When these actions occur for a long time, it can feel impossible to let go and go back to enjoying life. It starts to feel like now, this is just who you are, and this is what life is like. This increases the risk of spinning into a deeper depression. 

Healing takes time and effort

The best way to transform that voice of your inner saboteur (as RuPaul puts it) is to take that negative energy and apply it into healing, positive energy, and self-love. You have to believe that you don’t deserve to feel pain or guilt in order to fully move forward. 

This can take a lot of patience, and is likely best done with a trained therapist or mental health professional. 

If you can forgive others for their mistakes, why can’t you forgive yourself? When you realize that you are just as deserving of forgiveness as others who are flawed, with their own issues, you can start to mute your inner critic for good.

If not for you, then do it for your friends and loved ones. They are affected by what you do and how you feel, whether you believe it at the moment or not. 

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