Exploring Self-Forgiveness

“I can’t believe you did that! Seriously!?”


“If they found out, they would hate you!”

Above, are examples of self-talk that may indicate a need for self-forgiveness. When we have patterns of self-criticism or internalized shame (“I am bad, I am flawed, I am unworthy of love”) it can affect the way we act in relationships, the way we manage and cope with stress, and our overall mental health.

Ways the body/mind may react to holding a grudge with oneself:

Tightness and/or burning sensations when reflecting on past behaviors/interactions

Withdrawing from relationships when stressed or feeling inadequate

Keeping secrets from others (perhaps due to fears of rejection)

Feeling a need to ‘earn’ love from others

Self-forgiveness can dismantle shame, promote honesty with ourselves and others, and increase our willingness to make changes in our lives.

Overall, the goal is to debunk the myth that we need to be flawless to be loved and really show ourselves that it is safe to make mistakes and to be authentic. Possibly, the most direct route toward healing is working toward more global self-acceptance, instead of seeking validation or forgiveness from others.

There are many ways to work toward self-forgiveness, below is one example:

Consider a quality or behavior you dislike about yourself. Imagine a close friend or young child had the same characteristic or made the same mistake. What would you be thinking about that friend/child? What would you say to that person if they came to you full of shame and self-loathing?

If you find that you would be harsh with them, then it may be important to take the route of building awareness around and then challenging your general expectations for being human.

If you find that you would be gentle and generally forgiving with them, then consider offering yourself the same grace.

After some practice with gentleness, it could be a good time to begin practicing accountability and owning our mistakes while remaining patient and self-respectful.

Self-Forgiveness is NOT giving ourselves a pass or denying the impact we have had on others.
Accountability, efforts toward behavior change (especially when we have treated others disrespectfully), and efforts of intentional self-reflection all complement self-forgiveness.

This is a complex and nuanced journey that can feel overwhelming and even lonely. Our therapists are here to join you in your journey.

More than 50% of Americans struggle with mental health.

Headlight is now collaborating with health plans and companies to make therapy more accessible and affordable. Speak to a Care Coordinator today.