Forgiving Yourself: Realizing You Did the Best You Could

Forgiving others can be hard. Forgiving yourself can be even more challenging. Most people want to do and be their best. When a person falls short of that goal, guilt and shame can happen. Too often, people forgive others but treat themselves like they don’t deserve forgiveness. Somehow, they expect themselves to be perfect.

Mistakes happen. People fail. Realizing you did the best you could and then forgiving yourself is key to moving forward and doing better the next time.

The Benefits of Forgiving Yourself

According to doctors at Banner Behavioral Health Hospital, the benefits of forgiving yourself include:

  • Peace of Mind
  • Reduced Stress
  • Reduced Anxiety
  • Improved Relationships
  • Move Forward
  • Increase Compassion

Peace of mind is the feeling you get when you feel safe and secure. It is sometimes referred to as serenity or tranquility. When you remain angry and upset with yourself, peace of mind is impossible to achieve. When you forgive yourself, you allow yourself to trust yourself to try again and attempt to do better.

Stress and anxiety can cause serious physical harm to your body. When you don’t forgive yourself, your physical health can suffer.

According to doctors at the Mayo Clinic, stress and anxiety can cause:

  • Headache
  • Muscle Tension or Pain
  • Chest Pain
  • Fatigue
  • Stomach Upset
  • Sleep Problems
  • Increased Risk for Heart Disease and Heart Attack           

It can become harder to forgive others when you haven’t forgiven yourself, damaging your relationships. When you don’t forgive yourself, you are more likely to be bitter and resentful, causing rude and unsocial behavior that stresses your relationships.

You need to forgive yourself and realize you did the best you could to move forward. You can learn from your mistake and do better the next time. Each time you make a mistake or fail, you have the opportunity to improve. And when you forgive yourself, you become more compassionate towards others. You understand that everyone makes mistakes.

Guilt Versus Shame

The difference between guilt and shame is the difference between fact and feeling. The dictionary definition of guilt states guilt is the fact that a person has committed a specific act. The definition of shame refers to the feeling of distress or humiliation that comes from knowing you made a mistake.

Guilt has a purpose. It guides you to know what is right and wrong and is reason people want to improve. Shame, on the other hand, damages your self-esteem. When you feel shame, you are focused on the past, not on what you can do to improve the future.

When you accept guilt for something, you know that what you did was not the best choice. Your feelings, along with any thoughts you have about fault or blame, do not matter. There are many times in life when you make the best choice you can at the time, only to find out later it wasn’t as positive or productive as you had hoped. That is not a reason to feel shame. All a person can do is their best, accept their mistakes, and try again to do better.

Your Best

How do you improve if your best wasn’t good enough, and a mistake was made? To forgive yourself and be better, make these changes:

  • Apologize
  • Learn from the Experience
  • Silence Your Inner Critic

Apologizing to those who were hurt by your mistake means you accept your guilt but releases you from shame. You shouldn’t try to hide your mistakes if you want to improve. Use mistakes as a learning experience.

Ask yourself why things didn’t turn out the way you wanted and consider what you can change in the future. And don’t allow your inner voice to use shame to become an internal critic. Remember, shame doesn’t allow you to move forward.