The 5 Step Guide to Forgiving Yourself 


“Forgive yourself for not knowing what you didn’t know before you learned it.”

Maya Angelou

I don’t know about you but I’ve made a lot of questionable dating decisions in my lifetime. Many of these decisions were rooted in naivety. Some were because I convinced myself that I didn’t care so might as well. Others, I was well aware of the consequences but did it anyway due to my need for instant gratification. No matter the root of my questionable decisions, the destination always ended that same; heartbroken and disappointed. Being disappointed and heartbroken about a situation is normal. It sucks but I can still handle it due to me writing a little book called How to X Your Ex. But once you face the disappointment and heartbreak, you’re left to face the toughest battle of all; forging yourself.

A famous quote by Maya Angelou says “Forgive yourself for not knowing what you didn’t know before you learned it.” Some of our most difficult struggles in life are moments when our guilt piles up and that little voice in the back of our head keeps saying “You knew better!” I got the t shirt for self guilt trips and rumination. Being the person that everyone asks for advice, I hold myself to this impossible standard that I’m not supposed to make a mistake. So when inevitable mistakes happen, I beat myself up badly. Well, I should say I used to because with time I’ve grown a good bit. That’s why I’m able to not only relate to your need for self-forgiveness but I can also offer some tips on how to arrive to it. Here’s the 5 step guide to forgiving yourself

  • 1. Be Honest…If you can’t be honest with yourself about what truly happened, this means you aren’t really ready to move past whatever the situation is. You have to be honest about what really happened. You’re only admitting this to you, yourself , and you. An example of honesty would be admitting that you saw red flags in the beginning but you dated him anyway because you convinced yourself you could change him. It could also be saying that the relationship was actually working until you pushed him away by being too insecure and not trusting. Make sure it’s the truth and not the made up scenario in your head. Consult with wise and trustworthy counsel if you can’t decipher between the two. Whatever your truth is, admit it to yourself because that’s the beginning of self-forgiveness.


  • 2. Take Accountability…You’re probably thinking “Isn’t being honest and taking accountability the same thing?” It’s not. Being honest means admitting something, being accountable means owning it. Have you ever met a person who would say things like “Yea I slapped her but she called me out my name first?” A person that blames everyone else for their reactions but never owns their part? Don’t be that person. In every scenario, we play a part in some way. I don’t care if the part is as small as staying too long or being too trusting, it’s still a part you need to own. The only way to learn a lesson from past mistakes is to identify the mistakes and take ownership so you can create new ways of handling things in the future. So say this to your self…

“I (insert name here) own the fact that (insert act here) and vow to create a new way of going about things in the future so I won’t repeat this mistake.”

  • 3.Take Your Time…Forgiving yourself takes just as long, if not longer, as it does to forgive someone else. Since you hold yourself to a higher standard (at least I hope you do), you’re most likely going to be more hurt by the decisions you chose to make. We all know the bigger the pain, the longer it takes to release it. So again, take your time. If you’re wondering if you’ve forgiven yourself, here are a few signs that you haven’t…
  • You constantly question your decision making
  • You find yourself unable to speak up for yourself in fear that you’re wrong
  • You say really mean things to yourself
  • You tend to settle because you don’t believe you deserve better or believe you’re not capable of doing better
  • You blame yourself in several scenarios

If this sounds like you, don’t be ashamed. You still have some forgiving to do. It’s not impossible, it’ll just take a little more time. Be kind to yourself and take it one day at a time.

  • 4. Accept you can’t change the past…Always remember that acceptance and awareness are two different things. You can be totally aware of the past mistakes you’ve made and that your past is affecting your present but still not accept it. Being aware means you know, accepting means you’re okay with knowing. It’s basically releasing the emotional hold your past has on you. You do this by allowing yourself time to sit in the emotions your past brings up. This could be anger, sadness, bitterness, etc. But allow yourself time to sit in that emotion. Too many times we rush passed feeling pain because we want to feel happy again. We have to get out of that habit. Learn that it’s okay to not be okay. Stop listening to your friends when they tell you not to cry about something. Your crying about it is a signal that you’re still not over it. Give yourself time to grieve that person or situation so you can accept it and move forward without the emotional hold.

“Being aware means you know, accepting means you’re okay with knowing.”

  • 5. Create a Plan of Action…If you fail to plan, you plan to fail. After you’ve forgiven yourself, you’ll have clear vision on how to NOT repeat certain actions. The best view is retrospect and now you have it. Create a list of standards for yourself so you’ll know what to do if this scenario occurs again. You’re not perfect so you may still slip up but that’s alright. A part of your action plan should be to implement some self-compassion. This plan is to remind you of how far you’ve come and help you to keep moving forward.

Bonus: Learn to trust yourself again…Once you’ve forgiven yourself, you’ll notice that you’ll be hesitant to take your own advice in fear that you’ll make a wrong decision. Aht aht, don’t do that. Trust your gut and move on it. Making a mistake doesn’t mean you suck at all things decision making. It was a just a moment in time. You have permission to trust yourself again with your new knowledge you gained from past incidents. God turned your L into a lesson; use it.

I hope this post helps you to move towards self forgiveness. If you still have more questions and feel you need some extra advice, I offer coaching sessions. Click here to schedule yours today.

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