In my experience, the absolute foundation for learning to love ourselves is forgiveness. We are human, therefore, we have all behaved in ways that we deeply regret and most of us have been treated in ways that have left us feeling deeply shamed. We all have aspects of ourselves that we feel are unacceptable and many of us have ongoing behaviours that we deem to be bad. This is especially true if you are struggling with your weight; dealing with addictive behaviours or experiencing difficult emotions such as rejection, anger, grief or jealousy.
Most people think of forgiveness only in the context of forgiving others. We believe that by forgiving others we are actually condoning their bad behaviour and letting them off the hook for the real harm they have done to us. Real forgiveness however, has little or nothing to do with the other person. It is something we do solely to bring freedom and peace to our own heart.
In much the same way, we often feel that if we offer forgiveness to ourselves we will be condoning our own bad behaviour. There is often an unconscious fear that if we forgive ourselves we will be sending our inner dictator on permanent vacation and without him/her at the controls, all hell will break loose. As with most fears, this isn’t only false; it’s counterproductive. Using shame, blame and self flagellation is not the best way to control our behaviour. Hating ourselves healthy doesn’t work; nor does hating ourselves thin, happy or successful.
In the same way that forgiving others brings us peace and freedom, forgiving ourselves releases us from a spin cycle of self defeating thoughts and their subsequent negative emotions and behaviours. It opens our heart to the possibility of our inner goodness; not to mention freeing up a lot of energy for positive change.
So, how do we forgive ourselves? As with everything it starts with a willingness and an intention. We become willing to change our habitual negative thought patterns. We have an intention to see ourselves differently. We make a commitment to be more kind, compassionate and accepting of our humanness, our weaknesses and our flaws.
In practical terms we can begin our day and continue throughout the day with affirmations; both writing them down and speaking them aloud are powerful ways to open ourselves up to new ways of thinking and experiencing ourselves and the world. Begin your day with at least 10 minutes of written affirmations. Choose from the list below or create your own. Whenever you are alone, even if it’s just for a few minutes in your car, say the affirmations aloud; when you are around other people, as often as you can remember, say them silently to yourself. Become a detective of your thoughts. If you catch yourself saying something to yourself that you would never say to someone you love or even someone you don’t like; stop and replace it immediately with one of the affirmations below.
I forgive myself for ………anything and everything)
I forgive myself for feeling this way
I forgive myself for being anxious, angry, insecure,
I forgive myself for having (whatever ailment or flaw you have)
I forgive myself for being …………
I forgive myself for not being able to forgive myself
I am worthy of forgiveness
I forgive and release everything in my past (borrowed from Louise Hay)
I forgive and set myself free (Louise Hay)
In non-practical terms I believe that forgiveness is ultimately an act of grace. Again, it starts with a willingness. We ask the universe to make us ready; to show us; to guide us; to help us. We ask for the blessing of forgiveness.
The ability to forgive ourselves, over and over again, for all things big and small is the beginning of self-acceptance. It opens our hearts to the possibility that we are valuable, worthy and lovable. When we are willing to forgive ourselves and our past our future opens up for us in ways that were previously impossible.