Ten days ago marked Rosh Hashanah, the celebration of the Jewish New Year.
Today is Yom Kippur, The Day of Atonement. Traditionally, the ten days between the holidays are used to ask forgiveness of those we have wronged and to forgive others. On the Day of Atonement, we gather together to confess our “sins,” to repent and ask forgiveness and mercy. It’s kind of like going to confession in the Catholic church. We just do it together on one day of the year.
This year, in addition to forgiving others and asking for forgiveness, I’ve been thinking about how to forgive myself for my own missteps.
I encourage you to ask yourself: In which areas of my life do I need to forgive myself?
Everyone has faults, shortcomings, and missteps. This is simply human frailty.
We don’t need to hold ourselves to unreasonable standards, but it is helpful to identify the areas in which you know you can improve.
Since we all tend to be our own harshest critic, I encourage you to examine your shortcomings without being overly critical. Simply notice them. Don’t justify the actions.
In order to grow and better yourself, you need to practice a little self-compassion. If you can acknowledge these areas that need your attention without putting yourself down, you’ll be better equipped to come to clarity about the issue and make a plan to improve.
Here are some steps to use when learning to forgive yourself:
Step One: Rule out false guilt. Many people feel guilty all of the time. This is especially true for parents. However, you need to first ask yourself if you’ve actually done something wrong.
Step Two: If in fact you have actually wronged someone, ask yourself if you expressed remorse. Were you forgiven by the person you actually hurt?
Step Three: If you were forgiven by the person you hurt, you need to let yourself off the hook too.
Step Four: Decide if this specific shortcoming is something you desire to actually fix. Is it the kind of thing that you’ve made a lot of new year resolutions about but never actually work on? If it simply isn’t important to you, then you truly need to stop beating yourself up. You need to have a compelling reason to make changes or they w-+on’t stick.
Step Five: If you do want to improve upon this shortcoming, and it’s a recurring issue in your life, you might need to seek some extra help. This could be a friend to hold you accountable. If it’s a more deeply rooted issue or pattern, you may benefit from the help of a professional.
Whether you are working to forgive yourself or forgive others, it’s helpful to keep perspective. I believe that we should never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by simple human frailty. We all have our challenges. It’s truly the experience of being a human.