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When You Can’t Stop Beating Yourself Up for Past Mistakes

2012 March 7

As tough as it can be to forgive others at times, most of us tend to be much harder on ourselves; in fact we are often our own worst critics.

forgive yourselfYou can’t stop beating yourself up for something you did. Maybe it was a moment of carelessness, or maybe if wasn’t your fault at all but you simply let it happen, or you believe you could have prevented it from happening but didn’t.

Whatever the mistake was, you can’t let it go and it’s preventing you from moving forward in your life.

Pain, resentment, guilt, anger, and fear… all of these feelings bubble up inside of us when we think back on our mistakes. I think we have all experienced these feelings at some point, I know I have.

As tough as it can be to forgive others at times, most of us tend to be much harder on ourselves; in fact we are often our own worst critics. If you’ve made mistakes in the past, and can’t seem to let go of the baggage or mentally rerun the experience over and over, you have two choices.

You can carry the burden of all your past mistakes for the rest of your life, or you can accept you have the power to forgive yourself and move on. Both choices are yours to make …but you must choose.

The truth is, unless you let go, unless you forgive yourself, unless you forgive the situation, unless you realize that that situation is over, you cannot move forward. ~Steve Maraboli, Life, the Truth, and Being Free

The healing begins by giving “permission” to forgive yourself.

The first step to forgiving yourself can be summed up in one word…“permission.” This is not something someone else can do for you. Forgiving yourself is something YOU have to do FOR YOURSELF.

Some people choose to carry their guilt around as though somehow it will force them to become better people. Feeling guilty will NOT help you improve or lead to positive change and repeatedly beating yourself up has never produced anything but really lousy self-esteem. Why … because it focuses the blame on the “person” rather than the behavior.

Instead of wallowing in guilt and self-pity, a better choice would be to accept responsibility for your actions and accept that you are not perfect; you are human and as such from time to time you will make mistakes … even royally screw up on occasion. If you must condemn… condemn the mistake… NOT the mistake maker.

Be willing to ask for forgiveness.

Once you forgive yourself, it’s also important to clear the air if others were hurt as a result of your actions (or inaction). A face to face apology is always the most effective approach. However, depending on the situation, it could be someone from your past who is no longer in your life, or you may simply be afraid to ask for forgiveness.

If asking for forgiveness in person is really out of the question, try writing a letter of forgiveness. Letter writing actually works very well because the process of writing the letter actually assists you in forgiving yourself by reducing pent-up, internal feelings of guilt. It lets you express your thoughts and process all of the internal drama that has bottled-up in your mind.

Learning to forgive yourself is very powerful – instead of resenting yourself for something you did a week or 10 years ago – you make the habit of forgiveness more and more of a natural part of you. And so forgiving others becomes easier in the process.

I’d like to end with this quote by Leonardo da Vinci because it does such a beautiful job of explaining life … “Life is pretty simple: You do some stuff. Most fails. Some works. You do more of what works. If it works big, others quickly copy it. Then you do something else. The trick is the doing something else.” ~Leonardo da Vinci

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13 Responses
  1. June 26, 2012

    Hi Marty,

    Many people are afraid to forgive themselves because they feel they must remember the wrong, or they will not learn from it. The opposite is true. Through forgiveness, the wrong is released from its emotional stranglehold on us so that we can learn from it. Thank you for your post.

  2. April 12, 2012

    This is very true. We are the worst critics of ourselves and sometimes it is so hard to forgive yourself for committing mistakes in the past. Sometimes past mistakes keep me awake in the middle of the night thinking the wrong things that I did in my life.

  3. March 13, 2012

    Hi Marty,

    I really enjoyed your post on forgiveness. Forgiving yourself as well as others is so important if you want to move forward in life. Dwelling on past mistakes is hurtful and detrimental to enjoying your life and it can lead to creating illnesses in your body. Thanks for the wonderful information and the quote.

    Shelley Alexander recently posted..Blueberry Hemp Green Energy SmoothieMy Profile

  4. March 13, 2012

    I enjoyed your post Marty. For some, completing their past is often a difficult step. We should give up our right to “beat ourself up” or be hard on ourself for any mistakes we may have made.
    Rachel Lavern recently posted..2 Easy Tools for Resisting TemptationMy Profile

  5. Zinedine permalink
    March 8, 2012

    yeah, I know the feeling I was often looking in the past, wondering what have I done wrong. But later I realized there is no reason and not by looking the past I was only feeling guilt.
    Zinedine recently posted..Can a hamster get along other pets in your house ?My Profile

  6. March 7, 2012

    Just keep in mind your goal in life is to become more of who you are, and less of who you are not. You’re fighting yourself until you forgive. Thanks for this wonderful post!

  7. March 7, 2012

    Hi Marty,
    Forgiving yourSELF is so powerful. It is a simple choice that many don’t make. I see it in some of my clients and it is something that inhibits their growth and choices they make in life.
    We all make mistakes and have done or not done things in the past that we are sorry for. Carrying guilt around can only lead to a dead end.
    It is so much easier to forgive others than ourselves. Thank you for writing about this because you have unlocked a door for people to realize that all they have to do is make one choice – to forgive.
    I also love DaVinci’s quote :)
    Donna Merrill recently posted..LinkedIn – My Secret WeaponMy Profile

  8. Steve Borgman
    March 7, 2012

    Marty, you wrote this article for me, right?! I recently made a mistake that I’m still kicking myself for. One of the most helpful things you said was to write a letter of apology to those affected. I did call one person, but I think that a letter is in order in the near future. Thanks for such a great post. I loved the DaVinci quote :)
    Steve Borgman recently posted..What Everybody Ought to Know about Achieving Their GoalsMy Profile

    • March 7, 2012

      Hey Steve, I’m so glad you liked the article! I love that da Vinci quote to; it’s so contemporary and timeless – hard to picture him in his day saying something like this, huh?

  9. March 7, 2012

    Hi Marty:

    I loved this post! This is a subject that resonates deeply with me. I am someone who has struggled with forgiving myself. When we does this it is like choosing to carry a 200 pound bag by ourselves when we can just drop it and move on. I have carried that bag way too much.

    Thanks for this post!

    Kevin Martineau recently posted..The power of encouragementMy Profile

    • March 7, 2012

      Hi Kevin, thanks so much for sharing your thoughts and I’m really glad you enjoyed the article. I think it’s very human to carry around this kind of baggage from time to time, but it’s important to realize we have the power to move on when we’re ready.

  10. March 7, 2012

    Hi Marty

    Thank you for this powerful blog post.

    This is a very important principal that you talk about, If you do not forgive you lock your self behind bar’s and with hold good things from your self.

    It apply not just to other people but towards your self also, some times it is not easy but it must be done to open the door for you so that good thing can start to enter your live.

    Theuns recently posted..The ABC and Failing forward to SuccessMy Profile

    • March 7, 2012

      Welcome back Theuns, thanks so much for contributing to the conversation. I always appreciate your thoughtful insight!

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