Learn to forgive yourself
Have you ever been in a situation where you could not forgive yourself for the consequences of a choice or action or for a failure? Were you sometimes unable to silence your inner judge and its never-ending and increasingly severe sentences?
In this case, this article is for you!
Ever since I was a little boy, I have always had an idealized picture of what being an adult was like. When I was just a kid, I thought that adults were the perfect embodiment of all those values that society puts forward like courage, respect, tolerance, wisdom, being responsible, accept the consequences of one’s choices… How could it be otherwise? How could the world run smoothly if adults were not the personification of what’s best?
Therefore, and in order to meet the requirements of what being an adult was like, I started to have very high standards for myself at a very young age and to only expect the best of me. This way, when I grow up, I would be able to pass the perfection test and I would be worthy of being called “adult”. I admired some fictional characters or real persons who were in my view the purest embodiment of those values that were important to me and used them as role models to draw inspiration from their actions.
When I grew up however, it slowly began to dawn on me that this idealized picture was entirely wrong. Unfortunately, adults were not those perfect beings I had first imagined, far from it. But despite that, I kept on expecting perfection of me in everything I was doing. This was my strategy to stand out from those who only do the bare minimum and then complain that their life is mediocre. Every failure was judged with extreme severity and should never happen again. I was looking for perfection in everything I was doing, whether it be in my professional or love life or in my relationships with my friends or family.
This worked out quite well for me until the day when the unavoidable happened: I failed. Out of necessity, I abandoned and hurt two persons I cared about. And even if this situation was unavoidable, the decision I had to take was against all principles and values I held dear. How could have I caused such a great deal of pain for those persons who had given me so much despite my willingness to do what was best? From my inner judge’s point of view, I was guilty of the worst of crimes. I had committed something unforgivable. And as you can imagine, the sentence passed was as dreadful as the crime committed. For years, I had conditioned myself to expect nothing less than perfection of me. But I had just broken a golden rule: I failed two persons who had trusted me. My inner judge was merciless, always reminding me of the extent of the damage I had caused and the pain that my decision had led to. Every day, it reminded me of the extent of my failure.
Many sentences, always more severe, were passed with regard to my failure before I finally realized that I could not go like this any longer, having such high standards for myself in every aspect of my life. It wasn’t just absurd, it was also extremely harmful. I had to stop judging myself so harshly. I had to stop trying to reach perfection in everything I was doing, because there is no such thing as perfection in this world. I had to learn to be kind to myself. But above all, I had to learn to forgive myself.
However, forgiving yourself is easier said than done. It’s not the sort of things they teach you at school! Until one day, an idea popped into my head. I was looking at pictures of myself when I was a young boy and I realized that it is much easier to forgive a child than an adult. So, I chose the picture of me I found the most touching and I stuck it on the frame of my computer’s screen so that I could see it every day. On the back of the picture, I wrote the following word: “Don’t be so hard on that little boy. No one is perfect. So be kind to yourself, and learn to forgive yourself.” And every time my inner judge would come up to pass yet another sentence, I would look at that little boy smiling on his plastic motorcycle to tell him the words written on the back of the picture. Much to my surprise, speaking directly to that little innocent boy who is still there deep down inside of me had an incredibly soothing effect on me. After some times, my inner judge started to calm down and stopped reappearing so often. By speaking to the child, I managed to forgive the adult.
No one will ever judge you as harshly as you judge yourself and learning to forgive yourself is something that you have to train every day. Therefore, if you want to get out of this vicious circle et make peace with your past failures, if you want to silence your inner judge and his increasingly severe sentences, if you want to learn to forgive yourself, here is a piece of advice for you: find the cutest picture of yourself when you were a child. Never mind whether you are playing with a family member, making funny faces or driving a plastic police motorcycle. Find that picture and hang it somewhere where you can see it every day. Every time your inner judge crops back up to remind you of your failures, just look at that child on the picture and simply say: “Don’t be too hard on that little boy/girl. No one is perfect and he/she is no exception. So, accept your failures, be kind to yourself and forgive yourself”. And if this brings tears to your eyes, let them come. They are the sign that the forgiveness process has started.