Monday, December 17, 2012

My Self Forgiveness Lesson

Last week, I wrote a post containing my second letter-writing exercise: a letter of forgiveness to yourself. I promised a followup with the insights and challenges that I learned from my own letter, and I believe in keeping promises, so here you go!

First, I'll start with the challenges, because I suspect that others may recognize similar ones in their own letters. Most notably, I noticed my tendency to dig deep back and try to think of everything I could possibly forgive myself for. In theory, this isn't a bad thing, because it forced me to look at what may be some underlying causes of frustration, sadness, or confusion. However, as someone who's already an over-apologizer, I have the bad habit of taking the blame for everything, feeling guilty about things that I shouldn't, and hence having to forgive myself for all of the above. So my first challenge came in determining what items really required forgiveness. I noticed that there were patterns - everything had to do with my interactions with others. I had no concerns that I've been ungrateful, haven't worked hard enough, or anything that's completely self-contained. It always involved others, and most of the time, my past romantic relationships. (For the record I really dislike that phrase because it sounds like something my great aunt would use, but can't think of another to differentiate this type of relationship). And therein lay the other challenge - forgiving myself was only half the battle. The other half is forgiving the other person, because we all know it takes two to tango. Luckily, that letter is coming up in the next couple of weeks.

As for the insights, in addition to realizing which patterns tended to need the most forgiving, I realized that I was indeed ready to forgive myself. Which was incredibly refreshing to discover. I'm generally quite tough on myself, and the fact that I was able to say "yes, it's time; I deserve to be forgiven" was a nice change. It helped thinking about it in terms of others - if they were trying to forgive me for the same thing, would I accept it. Undoubtedly, I would. If they were genuine about it, it wouldn't be fair not to, and there would really be no way to move forward unless I accepted it.

I'm curious to learn of your experiences. What overall effect did this letter have? Did you find it easy or difficult to genuinely forgive yourself? Do you feel that you can move forward, and not regress into self-blame for those actions again? As always, I'd love to hear from you! 

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