Having a good emotional balance and the ability to grow as people involves knowing how to reconcile with ourselves at key moments.
However, this is something that not everyone understands: self-forgiveness is often confused with self-deception or even narcissism.
In this article we will see why these beliefs are harmful, and why is it important to know how to forgive yourself.
What is self-forgiveness?
When talking about the concept of forgiveness, it is usually referred mainly to a social phenomenon with moral implications about how we should relate to others. From this point of view, to forgive would be to assume that the redeeming qualities shown by someone who misbehaved They deserve that we do not totally break the relationship with that person, or that we do not adopt a hostile attitude towards them “by default”.
Thus, although forgiveness does not have to mean forgetting or overlooking the harmful actions someone carried out, it allows giving second chances, making it possible for new alliances and complicities to arise with those who were unfair to us or with someone we care about. .
Now, this definition of what forgiveness is is somewhat limited and does not cover all the human experiences that we can go through when forgiving and being forgiven. And it is also possible to forgive yourself. Moreover, as we will see later, there are not few occasions in which this is totally necessary to reach that reconciliation with one’s own “I”.
Self forgiveness means stop seeing our past mistakes only as a negative aspect of our identity or as a reason to be ashamed of who we are, but also as a reference that helps us see that we have changed and that it would be unfair to treat us as if we had not progressed in the right direction.
In short, it implies creating a more nuanced self-concept, without falling into Manichaeism and accepting that there are chiaroscuro in our past, and at the same time being able to see that redemption is possible in our case. Forgiveness implies having a complete vision of what we got to do a while ago, integrating into it information about how we are in the present.
4 reasons why it is good to know how to forgive yourself
These are the psychologically beneficial aspects of being able to forgive yourself.
1. Leave psychological rumination behind
Guilt is a psychological phenomenon that triggers the process of psychological rumination, that is, that constant appearance of intrusive images and thoughts that emerge in our consciousness over and over again, making us feel worse as time goes on. In these cases, those intrusive thoughts have to do with remembering what we did and what we now regret.
Forgiving ourselves helps us to stop fearing those thoughts and memories, not obsessing over them or fighting against their appearance in our mind (something totally counterproductive), so that they lose more and more power over us and finally fade, integrating with the rest of memories.
2. Help us learn from our mistakes
As by forgiving ourselves we stop focusing our attention on those biased and pessimistic thoughts about what we did, that helps us remember more clearly and objectively what we did.
Thus, from a constructive attitude, we are gaining the ability to detect the moments in which we act badly, the concrete decisions that were not correct, etc. In this way, self-forgiveness reinforces itself once it has started to occur.
3. It gives us a more nuanced view of the real damage we have done
Those who assume that self-forgiveness is always a negative thing they tend to be more focused on how bad they feel about your own identity than on the actual damage they caused in others with their behavior.
This extremely perfectionist and even moralistic way of analyzing one’s behavior leads to an extreme solipsism: it can even reach a point where although others have forgiven us, we have not done it, believing that these people do not understand what has happened. or do not know what is appropriate.
4. It predisposes us to normalize our relationships with others
Although at first it seems that forgiving yourself is a totally introspective and private activity, it also has a social dimension.
Once we have gone through this process, we gain the ability to “connect” with others, and also with those people we harm, by showing that we do not just feel sorry for ourselves, but that we are willing to compensate and repair damages as far as possible because we are able to empathize and adopt an active attitude to improve things.
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My name is Javier Ares and I am a General Health Psychologist specialized in emotional problems and related to anxiety. I offer online therapy by video call and also in person in Madrid.