8 Ways to Forgive Yourself for Past Mistakes

There’s nothing worse than that feeling of utter defeat and despair that comes along with making major mistakes in life and failing. It’s like having a dagger driven straight through your heart. Usually, we’re so blindsided by the error, that it takes months, if not years just to recover.

I know. Because I’ve been there. And more times than I would like to remember or even admit. And each time I went through one of life’s monumental mistakes, I wondered how I would forgive myself for it.

Now, if you’re thinking to yourself that maybe these were minor mistakes and failures, then you’d be wrong. Each one decimated me to the core. And each time, I felt like I didn’t have the strength to move forward. Not emotionally. Not spiritually. Not mentally. And definitely not physically.

But, somehow, one way or another, I forgave myself. I picked up the broken pieces and I moved on. It wasn’t easy. In fact, it was probably one of the hardest things I’ve had to do in my life. And each time I would promise myself that it would never happen again.

I recovered from failures and mistakes in my relationships, my marriage, my businesses, my friends, and just about everything in between. Those were dark times. And I didn’t think I could forgive myself for the mistakes. In fact, I couldn’t even look myself in the mirror because I felt so infinitesimally small.

Yet, things somehow got better. Over time, things changed and they improved. It didn’t happen overnight. There was definitely a process involved. And, looking back on those mistakes now, there was also some serious soul-searching that went along with it.

By no means was it easy. It was painful. But I did it. I forgave myself for my mistakes. And you can too.

If you’re facing a serious setback in your life right now, then my heart goes out to you. I know the feeling of being completely decimated right down to the bone. I know how it feels to not have the will to go on for another day. But it does get better. It just takes time.

Whatever doesn’t kill you, really does make you stronger. But it’s not about physical strength. It’s about mental toughness, emotional fortitude, and a spiritual awakening that can only be realized through an enormity of pain. That pathway of pain leads to understanding, growth, maturity, and of course, forgiveness.


#1 — Find the silver-lining

While it isn’t easy to always find the silver-lining at the time, there almost always is one. Through failure, pain, and making mistakes, we learn. We grow, mature, and become more understanding of life, love, and the people around us.

So, when you fail or make a big mistake that potentially costs you time, money, or relationships, think about the silver-lining. Even if you faced a situation where someone wronged you and you just didn’t see it coming, what did you ultimately benefit from that?

You might say you benefited or gained nothing aside from a deeper understanding of things, or a better radar to identify major mistakes in the future before they happen again. But if that’s all you think your gained, you’re not looking hard enough.

There is always a silver-lining. Mistakes offer a fork in the road. They’re a chance to choose one path or another. Often, that’s done by design. If I hadn’t made some of the major mistakes that I made in my life, I wouldn’t have benefited in the enormous way that I did over time. And I wouldn’t be where I am today. I just hadn’t realized it back then.

You see — life is a series of mistakes. We go from one to the next, learning, shaping, and molding us along the way. But, when we’re suffering through the pain of our mistakes, it’s hard to see the forest through the trees, so to speak. But, looking back, it’s far easier to discover the silver-lining.

Either we gained a new understanding, or that mistake led us in the direction of another path that ultimately brought us happiness and joy, there’s always a silver-lining. Use your past mistakes as a guiding light to identify the silver-lining so that you can forgive yourself.


#2 — Reshape your goals

How can you use the pain of past mistakes for good in the future? One way is to use the information gleaned as a method to reshape your goals. What lessons did you take away from those mistakes or failures? How can you use those lessons to redefine what you want in life?

We can use experience from past failures to help guide us in the right direction towards our goals. Even if what we thought we once wanted didn’t pan out, we can help to reshape our goals to improve them and move us in a positive direction.

When we fail in life and make huge mistakes, it’s hard to forgive ourselves. It’s hard to move past the hurt and the pain. But, we can use those mistakes as leverage. We can use it as leverage to reshape our goals and where we’re heading in life.

Any difficult situation is made to help us grow and become better people. It happens to everyone. There’s no shame in it. But, what doesn’t happen to everyone is the understanding to use information gleaned from mistakes for their benefit.

Write out your goals for the future. Actually, physically write them out. And use your past mistakes as leverage. What are you looking to achieve and why? How will you use the lessons learned from your past mistakes to help push and motivate you to do more?

This isn’t about making more money or buying more things; this is about achieving something that’s meaningful to you. If your goals don’t have meaning, then you’ll do far less to achieve them. But, by leveraging those past mistakes, you can add fuel to the fire and meaning will stoke those flames.


#3 — What do you value most now and why?

One way to forgive yourself for mast mistakes is to reassess what you value in life. Failure and mistakes will help you to do that. Use your past mistakes as leverage. What things do you value in life as a result of your mistakes? People? Freedom? Security? Love? Country?

You have to sort out your values. Use the pain of the past mistakes to help you determine what’s most important to you today and moving forward. For example, let’s say you made some mistakes in your past relationship and your marriage fell apart, how could you reorganize your values so that they better serve you in the future?

Often, we just live in reactionary mode, not really assessing the things that we value the most. The subconscious mind might have some notion of what we value, but it isn’t always in our best interest due to the infighting that’s constantly occurring the psychic apparatus, that three-part interaction between the ego, superego, and the id.

For that reason, we have to consciously order our values by writing them out. They need to be listed in order to importance, and the reason for their order of importance must be stated. Then, as we move forward with life, love, and our goals, we can fall back on those values in order to prioritize our time, energy, and activities.

A value-driven life can help to correct the wrongs of our past by focusing on what’s important. We all make mistakes and that’s okay. But, as long as we don’t continue to repeat those mistakes over and over again, we can improve our lives and move forward with an honest intent for growth, contribution, and adding value to the world.


#4 — What do you have to be grateful for?

An easy way to forgive yourself for past mistakes is to focus on gratitude. Ask yourself what you have to be grateful for. The problem? It’s far easier to look at what we don’t have rather than what we do have. Our minds have been almost pre-programmed by society to emulate the haves rather than the have-nots.

But, we have far more than we understand. The problem is that we only compare what we have in our lives using the status quo of our past and the people around us. If we’ve always had clean running water, why would be grateful for that? But, you and I know just how little of the world has clean running water.

But it’s not just about clean running water. It’s about everything around us. We’re surrounded by things that we have to be grateful for. We can be grateful for the fact that we’re six feet above ground, because we could certainly cease to exist or die at any moment. But in this moment, we’re alive. Why not be grateful for it?

We can be grateful for our reason and our intellect, the ability to read and write, speak a language, see or hear, and a million other things. Once you start identifying the things you have to be grateful for, and focus on that rather than what you don’t have, the mind moves from a state of lack to a state of abundance.

Write out all the things you have to be grateful for, no matter how small. It’s an easy way to move past some of the mistakes that we have trouble forgiving ourselves for. No matter how bad the situation might be, we have to be grateful for what we have rather than what we don’t.


#5 — Commit to living your life differently

They say that doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results is the definition of crazy. Sometimes, we make monumental mistakes, not once, but time and again. When we fail to make changes and continue with the same behavior that led to similar mistakes in the past, we’re largely to blame.

So, what we need to do is adjust our behavior and commit to living life differently. If we make a monumental mistake, it’s far easier to forgive ourselves when we alter our behavior and make promises that we actually keep to ourselves or even the people around us.

When we don’t commit to living life differently, even if we forgive ourselves and move past the mistake, it will rear its ugly head once again. And, when it happens over and over again, it’s harder to forgive yourself each time. Whether we succumbed to bad habits or influential peers, we need to recognize that and make the relevant changes.

When we can’t change, we’re stuck in neutral. Sometimes, we can even travel in reverse. And there’s nothing worse in life than living it in reverse or being stuck in a situation that you feel you can’t extricate yourself from due to your own detrimental behavior.

Recognize the behavior that led to the mistake. If it was largely on your behalf, commit to living life differently. It isn’t always easy to own up to those mistakes, but it’s important to do so. If you can do that, not only will you easily forgive yourself, but you’ll feel far more confident about the future moving forward.


#6 — Shift your priorities

Sometimes, when we’re living life on autopilot, its easy to lose sight of our priorities. Either we’re sacrificing our time or values for someone else in our lives or we’re living life in overdrive that we forget to take care of ourselves. When that happens, the buildup of stress and anxiety can become so overbearing, that the weight on our shoulders can cause us to implode and collapse.

We have to take care of ourselves. We need to shift our priorities and ensure that we’re ticking the boxes off for our health and wellness. While it’s okay to do things for other people, and even to sacrifice much of yourself, it’s not okay to do it entirely at your own expense. So shift your priorities.

Schedule time for you. Do something special that you enjoy or care about. Life isn’t all about winning or achieving, and it certainly isn’t about impressing other people. Worry about yourself. Even if people talk, which they always do, ignore them. Shift your priorities and focus on the things that matter.

It’s far easier to forgive yourself for past mistakes when you aren’t worked to the bone. It’s easier to let go and move on when you don’t feel so stressed out all the time, or constantly living in a state of fear or anxiety. Don’t take everything so seriously. What’s done is done and it’s in the past so learn to move on.


#7 — What can you do today to help others?

One way to overcome monumental mistakes in your life, forgive yourself, and move forward, is to seek opportunities to help others. What can you do to contribute something of yourself to your fellow man, woman, or child? How can you love thy neighbor and be of service to others?

When the focus shifts from a “me”-centric life, to one focused on being of service to others, some ground-altering shifts occur in the mind. It’s very real and exact, and you can feel it. That’s likely because we were meant to live a life where we help others.

There are simply so many people that are disadvantaged in this world. It’s easy to look down on them for whatever problem we might think they have. Drugs, alcohol, or any other form of addiction or self-detrimental behavior can create chaos, homelessness, and hopelessness. Being in that situation is scary. And each of us can play our part rather than walking right by or seemingly going about our days as if nothing else mattered.

What can you do to help others? Ask yourself that question every single morning. Today, what can you do to help someone else? There are millions of people who are struggling in this world. Not just in your country, but in other countries as well. And if you want to help someone else, you don’t have to look far.

In your neighborhood, maybe even on your street, there’s someone that needs your help. There’s someone that’s going through a very difficult time and maybe they’re too afraid or embarrassed to ask for help. Seek them out anyhow and help them.

It’s far easier to move past all of our personal problems and worrying about forgiving ourselves for past mistakes when we’re focused on helping others. When you can become a true value to others in this world, that’s when some magical things begin to happen.

This isn’t about figuring out what you’ll get in return for doing something for someone else, or even shouting it from the mountaintops when you do charity work. It’s about helping someone in silence and not having to campaign to others about what you did.


#8 — Relax, breathe, and let go

Sometimes, you just need to relax, breathe, and let go. Don’t take everything so seriously. The thing to remember is that, whatever it is that you’ve been through or are going through, millions of others have been through or are going through right now. And, millions of others will continue to go through it in the future.

Saying that doesn’t make it feel any easier. But, it should send a powerful message that our problems only seem big because they’re our problems. Our mistakes only seem monumental because they’re our mistakes. When a friend comes to you with the same problem, what do you tell them? You tell them it’s going to be okay and they’ll recover, that it’s not that big of a deal.

Well, why can’t we take the same advice we give to others? How come, when it has to do with us, it seems like it’s the end of the world? Well, let me tell you right now that it’s not. Relax, breathe, and learn to let go. Give it to God or to Allah or Buddha or just out to the world. Let go of it.

It’s far harder to hold on to pain, anger, or resentment, than it is to just let go, to love, and to forgive. And, forgiving yourself is the most important type of forgiveness. No matter what happened, it’s going to be okay. There’s a grand design to everything, even if we can’t see the meaning at that very moment.

If you look back at some of your big mistakes 5 or 10 years ago, how important do they seem today? Or, maybe those mistakes actually helped you. Maybe they helped guide you in a better direction in life. Remember, it’s okay. Let go. Breathe. And don’t be afraid to forgive yourself for past mistakes. Just be sure to learn and grow from those mistakes and become a better person. That’s what truly matters.