Compassion is the ability to show empathy, love, and concern towards others. Self-compassion means showing love, empathy, concern, acceptance, understanding, and forgiveness towards ourselves. Kristin Neff was the first to define the term self-compassion academically and also describe it as having three components. These three components are – self-kindness (refraining from harsh criticism of self), recognizing one’s own humanity (acceptance of imperfection, pain and forgiving yourself), and mindfulness (holding one’s painful thoughts and feelings in balanced awareness rather than over-identifying with them).
Forgiveness is a deliberate decision to let go of anger, resentment, and retribution towards someone who you believed has wronged you. You might be generous in forgiving others and giving them another chance but can be hard on yourself. Everyone makes mistakes but accepting them, learning from them, letting go, moving on, and forgiving ourselves is vital for our mental health and well-being. Being able to forgive yourself requires empathy, compassion, acceptance, kindness, and understanding. Self- forgiveness is no sign of weakness or acceptance of wrongdoings. It simply means that you accept the behavior and accept what has happened, and are willing to let it go and move forward in life without ruminating about the past events which cannot be changed.
One therapeutic approach to self-forgiveness suggests that 4 actions can be helpful. These 4Rs are –
- Responsibility: It is referred to as acceptance and taking responsibility for what you have done or what has happened.
- Remorse: Taking responsibility for it to lead to a range of negative emotions, guilt, and shame. In this, try to understand that the mistakes that made you feel guilty don’t make you are a bad person. Nobody is perfect and everyone makes mistakes in life.
- Restoration: In this, you focus on taking action in order to rectify your mistake. It could be apologizing to yourself, improving your habits, etc.
- Renewal: It requires understanding yourself, learning from that experience, and growing as a person. Consider it as a chance to learn and grow in life.
Ways to forgive yourself
- Acknowledging and focusing on your emotions.
- Acknowledge the mistake out aloud as it helps in acceptance and understanding of the mistake.
- Think of each mistake as a learning experience. Consider mistakes as a part of life, and take it as an opportunity to learn and grow as a person.
- Permit yourself to put this process on hold and returning to it when you are ready to understand it, learn from it, and forgive yourself.
- Have conservation with your inner critic to understand yourself and to develop self-compassion.
- Notice when you are being self-critical by identifying and recognizing your self-critical thoughts.
- Quit the negative messages of the inner critic. If you are facing difficulties in doing this, you can identify the inner critic’s thoughts and emotion, and write it down on one side of the paper, and on the other side write self-compassionate and rationale responses for each one of them.
- Get clarity about what you want.
- Take your own advice.
- Quit playing the tape of your mistake again and again.
- Show kindness and compassion towards yourself. Self-kindness means showing kindness and understanding toward ourselves when we fail and treating ourselves with warmth and patience. Self-compassion means showing empathy, love, and concern towards self.
- Look after yourself. Practice self-care. This can be done by taking out some time for self-care activities, taking self-compassionate breaks, and taking out time for relaxation and reenergizing yourself.
Certain exercises that could be beneficial in forgiveness are perspective-taking, mindfulness exercise, writing a forgiveness letter, and self-awareness exercises. You can take help from peer support groups/listeners or go for professional help. In conclusion, forgiveness is a complex process of change. It has long-term benefits such as being compassionate, kind, and understanding towards yourself and is considered good for our mental health and well-being. It is not easy to attain as it requires sustained effort and commitment. It can be achieved by practicing certain exercises of mindfulness and calmness, understanding and accepting yourself, making efforts in acceptance of your mistakes, and learning from them.
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