How to Forgive Yourself and Move Forward Gracefully

Forgiving yourself for the mistakes you have made in the past is often easier said than done. 

However, while learning to forgive yourself can be tricky, it is possible. 

If you have thoughts like “I can’t forgive myself,” or find ways to forgive yourself after a huge mistake, know that it is possible to forgive yourself and move gracefully.

One of the steps to forgiving yourself is accepting and acknowledging that forgiveness is a choice. 

When you can’t forgive yourself, know that practicing self-forgiveness requires giving yourself kindness, compassion, and understanding.

Whether it’s a minor mistake, you are working through or one that has a significant impact in your life, the steps you need to take to forgive yourself and move on are the same.

It is also important to remember that it is part of human nature to make mistakes.

No one is perfect.

The idea is to learn from your mistakes and move on.

While it can be uncomfortable and painful, some things are worth the pain and discomfort and forgiving yourself is one of them.

So the next time you say “I cannot forgive myself,” take to heart the following tips:

Focus on your emotions first.

One of the first steps to forgiving yourself is focusing on your emotions.

Before you move forward, you must process and acknowledge your emotions.

Give yourself permission to accept and recognize the feelings triggered in you, welcome them with an open mind and heart, and accept them without judgment.

Acknowledge the mistake out loud.

If you make a mistake and struggle with letting go and forgiving yourself, it would help that you first acknowledge out loud the lessons you have learned from your mistakes.

When you provide a voice to the thoughts in your head and the emotions in your heart, you can free yourself from the heaviness and burden you have been carrying.

Consider each mistake as a learning experience.

Forgiving yourself will also require a change in mindset and perspective.

Rather than focusing on your mistake, focus on the lessons you have learned.

It will also help if you remind yourself that you did your best with all the knowledge and tools you have at your disposal.

This type of mindset can help you forgive yourself and move forward easier.

Permit yourself to put the process on hold.

If you are having a hard time forgiving yourself and putting the mistake out of your mind, consider putting the process aside for the time being.

Visualize your feelings and thoughts about the mistake going into a container like a box or a mason jar.

Then tell yourself that you are putting the process aside for now and get back to it when you are ready and when it will benefit you.

Hold a conversation with your inner critic.

Journaling can help you develop self-compassion and better understand your inner critic.

Writing down the conversation with your inner critic can also work wonders for your mental health and mindset.

Moreover, writing down your thoughts and conversations with your inner critic in a journal can help you identify thought patterns that sabotage your ability to forgive yourself.

Journaling can also be a powerful tool to put things in a more positive perspective.

Start by creating a list of qualities you like about yourself, including your skills and strengths. 

This activity will not only help you see things from a different (and more positive) perspective, but it can also help boost your self-confidence, especially if you feel very bad about your mistake.

Observe if you are being self-critical.

Oftentimes, people are their own worst critics

You must observe when the harsh and critical voice comes in and be mindful.

It would also be best to write those harsh and self-critical words down so you will be aware of what your inner critic has to say and you can counter the negative and irrational thoughts effectively.

Quiet the negative thoughts in your mind.

At times, it can be hard to fully recognize the thoughts that are getting in the way of self-forgiveness.

If you are having a hard time dealing with the negative thoughts in your mind, try the following exercise:

On one side of the paper, list down all the negative thoughts in your mind. Make sure you write everything down without any judgment.

On the opposite side, write down a loving and compassionate response to each of the negative things you wrote.

This exercise will help you focus on the positive rather than the negative and can help you become more compassionate and forgiving towards yourself.

Be clear about what you want.

If your mistake has hurt another person, you must figure out the best action.

Should you talk to the individual concerned and apologize?

Would it make you feel better if you made amends and reconciled with the other party?

If you are unsure what you should do, it might help you make amends. 

For the process to be powerful, it would help if you do more than just ask for forgiveness or say you are sorry.

Go the extra mile by fixing the mistake you have made. 

Some studies indicate that forgiving yourself for something you have done is much easier once you have asked for forgiveness and made amends.

Follow your advice.

It is often easier to tell someone what to do.

However, following their advice can be difficult for most people.

If you feel the same way, ask yourself what you would tell your best friend or someone you care about if they were in the same situation and then take your advice.

You can also roleplay with a friend and ask them to take on your mistake.

Have them tell you about their struggle to forgive themselves.

Give loving advice to your friend about self-forgiveness and moving on and then follow your advice.


While some processing is important, dwelling on your mistakes won’t help you take the steps needed to forgive yourself. When you think you are a horrible person, stop yourself and focus on the steps needed to forgive yourself. Interrupting your negative thought pattern will not only help you move forward, but it can also help keep anxiety and stress to a minimum.

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