5 Ways to Forgive Yourself
So you’re in a bind and can’t stop beating yourself up about it, huh? Well, we always start by assuming our clients’ innocence in whatever legal situation they’ve become entangled in, and regardless of what has occurred, we fight for their right to be treated with respect, dignity, and fairness, and to achieve the best, most positive outcome we can. All of this being said, however, regardless of what kind of outcome our client is legally, and rightly entitled to — how they feel about what has happened and their role in the circumstances may not necessarily be affected by the legal results. The unfortunate truth of it is that we often work with people who have committed grave errors — and they know it.
Coping with the legal consequences of that mistake (or mistakes)
is one thing, but coping with the mental and emotional repercussions
is an entirely different, and sometimes even greater challenge.
Coping with the legal consequences of that mistake (or mistakes) is one thing, but coping with the mental and emotional repercussions is an entirely different, and sometimes even greater challenge. We believe all of our clients, regardless of their past actions, deserve to move on with their lives into a future that is hopefully happier, healthier, and more positive that their past. Sometimes, when it is you who has committed this serious mistake, however, it can be a lot harder to see it that way. Many of our clients — and perhaps, you too, reader — must learn to live with and move on from deep residing regret, guilt, and shame and find a way to forgive themselves for their mistakes.
How do you do this? It’s often a long, complex process, and we’re not experts, so we don’t have all the answers, but here are five steps we know can help.
1. Recognize your innate humanness, the imperfection of yourself and others.
Remember that you’re human, and you — and all of us — are inevitably bound to make mistakes. Whether it ultimately really was “your fault,” or the fault of others is irrelevant. You can’t magically become a completely new or different person, but you can choose not to live in the past. No amount of apologies or making of amends can change what happened, but how you react to it, and how you move forward from it is still within your power. You deserve happiness, so don’t be afraid to seek it out.
You can’t always control whether or not others will forgive you for those mistakes, but you can forgive yourself, give yourself permission to move on, and create new beginnings and fresh starts in your life.
2. If you haven’t already, take responsibility.
If you’re already experiencing feelings of shame, guilt, or regret, chances are you already know the role you have played in your present circumstances — however small or large — that may have lead to serious physical damage or emotional distress for yourself or others. It’s important though, that before you try to let these feelings go and move on, that you genuinely and authentically acknowledge and take responsibility for this fact, to yourself or others. If you can, try to find a way to express it verbally, or perhaps by writing a note or letter, to anyone involved. Acknowledge and apologize for any actions you may have taken that contributed to the pain and suffering of yourself and others. This is an incredibly difficult thing to do, because our egos tend to encourage us to do otherwise and not admit fault. However, it can also be a healing experience, both for yourself and others. Even if what happened was caused by a series of different factors, some of which may not necessarily have been “your fault,” talking about what happened and acknowledging the hurt it caused is essential to moving forward because until you fully recognize that pain, you can’t really let it go.
3. Focus on the present.
Once you’ve really taken the time to think about, discuss, and try to process the event or experience that have taken you to this dark place, the next step is to try to refrain from getting stuck in the past, reliving that moment or series of moments over and over again. As much as we’d sometimes like to, or can easily imagine how we might have done things differently later on, we can’t change the past — there are no do-overs, no “refresh” or “restart” buttons. What happened, happened, and now we need to learn to focus on the present, because that is the only thing we can control, and what will ultimately end up affecting our future. Try to be more aware of what is happening now, what is going on around you now, what you are doing now, and consider: Do I like where I am right now? What I am doing right now? What my life looks like? The people I am surrounded by right now? What is going well? What is going not so well? What is making me happy? What is making me unhappy? If you’re unhappy with your present, consider what you might do to change it to make it better (that doesn’t involve trying to rewrite history).
4. Exercise gratitude.
Although it’s important to recognize the negative parts of our past — and our present — we also recommend that you don’t forget to practice gratitude. It’s generally much easier to get caught up in all the bad stuff that we’ve done and all the bad things that have happened to us and those around us than all the good stuff in our lives, so it’s essential that we take a moment every now and then to remember — and be thankful for — all that good stuff. And there is always good stuff to be grateful for, we promise, even if at times it may not feel like it. For example, in recognizing mistakes you may have made, hopefully you have learned something from them, something useful, beneficial, or positive that you can take with you into the future. And showing gratitude for something, anything, even the small things, can help shift your perspective — and your life — in a more positive direction. Gratitude makes you happier, and science can prove it.
5. Finally, don’t forget to lean on your support system.
We sincerely encourage you to ask any friends, family, mentors, counselors, or support groups you have access to for help. No matter how alone you may feel, there is always someone somewhere out there who is willing and able to help, you just have to have the courage to seek them out and ask for it. Under feelings of regret, shame, guilt, and self-loathing are usually feelings of grief, anger, disappointment, and sadness, and while it’s not easy, but you need to let yourself fully experience and process those emotions before you can move on and let them go. Says Melissa Dohse, licensed therapist and founder of Cultivate Counseling Flagstaff, “The only way out of the most challenging situations in life is right through the heart of them. We must first befriend the feelings that arise, breath by breath, before we can hope to let go of them.” Just talking to someone about how you feel and what you’ve experienced can make a huge difference, so find someone with a listening ear, such as the folks over at Cultivate Counseling, or other licensed counselors and therapists. You can also find help from the following websites and organizations, which we have listed below.
National Suicide Prevention Hotline 1-800-273-8255
National Hope Line 1-800-442-HOPE (4673)
Grief and Loss:
Crisis Call Center
800-273-8255 or text ANSWER to 839863
24 hours a day, 7 days a week
National Hopeline Network
24 hours a day, 7 days a week
Dohse also stresses the importance of self-care, of taking care of yourself in even the smallest of ways, explaining “The most important things we can always do for ourselves no matter the challenges we are facing are to drink water, stay connected to our supportive community, find physical movement each day, get plenty of rest and eat food that nourishes our body. These simple acts of self-care can have a profound effect on our ability to overcome challenging situations.”
So take care of yourself, and forgive yourself, because even if you don’t feel that you do, you deserve it.
Our team of dedicated trial attorneys at Antol & Sherman, PC, has more than 60 years of combined legal experience and a strong track record of providing successful legal counsel. We have been practicing criminal, family and divorce, drug and DUI, and accident law in Flagstaff, Arizona and surrounding northern Arizona cities including Camp Verde, Sedona, Williams, Holbrook, Winslow, Cottonwood, Mayer, Seligman, Kingman, Page, St. Johns and more for over 30 years. Antol & Sherman, PC and their staff of lawyers would love to sit down and discuss your legal needs. Please call us at 928-241-6339, stop in today at Antol & Sherman, PC, 150 N Verde St Suite 102, Flagstaff, AZ 86001 or visit us at flagazlaw.com.