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How to Forgive Yourself

How to Forgive Yourself

Many roads to contentment begin with self-forgiveness. It is among the most difficult—and most important—steps one can take.

By Psychology Today Contributors published January 4, 2022 – last reviewed on January 4, 2022

Many of us know that forgiveness is a good thing. It frees us from bitterness and anger, two difficult emotions that can disrupt our physical health and hold us back. Often we’re consistent about forgiving others, but forgiving ourselves is more difficult. Understanding why self-forgiveness is hard can make it easier to practice.

Some people “forgive” themselves too easily and quickly. When they feel the tooth of remorse or the pang of regret, they let themselves off the hook. Denying their responsibility, minimizing their role, shifting blame, and engaging in revisionist history are some of the characteristic moves of the speedy self-forgiver. This is not genuine self-forgiveness because there’s little self-reflection about how their actions have harmed others or themselves. Nor is there much reflection about how these experiences and their responses to them might make them better people. There’s no effort to repair the damage. These people seem more concerned with removing negative emotions by wiping the slate clean. They treat themselves and their actions like an Etch-A-Sketch. Give a good shake and all the troubling experiences and negative emotions just disappear.

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