For a long time in my life, I kept a running tally in my brain about what I had done wrong, where I had failed, and how badly I had messed up things in my life. I suspect the real reason I kept that list is I was so desperate to protect myself from being blindsided by someone else’s criticism that I was desperately clinging to every wrongdoing I could even possibly think about doing.
In all honesty, even just looking back that was absolutely exhausting! And the reality is you can never be prepared for every single complaint from every single person in the world! It just doesn’t work that way. Over the last 20 years, I have worked with numerous clients who have the same or similar habits and behaviors. The problem is holding on to these frustrations and resentments towards ourselves put us at war with ourselves. That’s not only not healthy, it’s actually fairly dangerous. I was looking at research a few days ago that says holding a resentment towards ourselves actually has the potential to increase inflammation.
There are so many myths running around about forgiveness. Some of the common ones I have heard from clients include: If I forgive that makes what they did okay, there’s no way I could possibly forget what they did, or I don’t want to let them off the hook. I want you to know that I hear and validate each of those statements fully. However, that’s not how I approach forgiveness at all.
My working definition of forgiveness is: “Giving up the hope of a different or better yesterday”. I’d love to show you how to put this into practice. I absolutely believe we can put the past in the past. I also truly believe that many of the clients I have worked with (based on what they tell me) are no longer living lives that are ruined by their past. Your future is yours and it’s up to you to create the future that you desire and long for. My recommendations to allow you to leave the past in the past and create the perfect future for you include:
1. How Important Is It Really: This is a great filter to run your experiences and thoughts through. Before you decide to be upset about something or beat yourself up, ask yourself how important it really is. Will it matter a year from now? Will it matter in ten years from now? Is it worth losing sleep over? When we begin to run our experiences through this filter, it empowers us and gives us more control. It doesn’t mean it’s not okay for you to be upset or hurt, it just changes the outcome of your experiences.
2. Don’t Take It To Bed: Do you remember that old saying about not going to bed angry? That’s literally my suggestion. Many of the clients I work with, myself included, have a lower quality of sleep if they go to bed angry or frustrated. My experience is when we go to bed (or even to sleep) with residual issues or emotions that are unexpressed, it creates a carryover effect for the next day. We wake up less than well rested, we are already on edge, and we are just carrying that crap from yesterday around with us.
3. Practice Intentional Gratitude: I mean this very literally! I would love to see you begin practicing gratitude over each and everything. The great stuff, the mediocre stuff, the crappy stuff, and the downright awful stuff. I have found that when I aim to be intentionally grateful for everything that I experience in my life it creates a massive and instant shift. In his research about how to heal the brain, Dr. Daniel Amen talks about how just focusing on three gratitude’s each day creates a better quality of life in three weeks.
4. Communicate Your Thoughts Clearly: Even if you are living alone, on a desert island, communicating your thoughts and experiences clearly is so crucial. Even if you are only communicating it to yourself! Write it out, speak it out, sing it out, or paint it out. I really am not concerned about how you communicate or even what method of communication you use. If you live alone, journal your thoughts or feelings out. If you are in intimate relationships find a way to communicate with those people in your life. You will find so much freedom when you find your voice.
5. Take An Accurate Inventory: An accurate inventory is done on a consistent basis. If you try this philosophy and it daily is too much, back it down to once a week. Let’s set you up for success. The key is to leave emotions out of the equation and to carefully not delve into morbid reflection. When grocery stores take an inventory they don’t beat themselves up for running out of tomato soup. That would be absolutely silly, right? When we are taking an accurate inventory it typically consists of: what went well, what we could improve on, and where we need to grow. I also value being able to assess if there’s anything I need to clean up. Do I need to apologize, do I need to make an amends and do I need to do something to help someone? It’s an absolute shift in focus.
6. Forgiveness Starts With Us: This is such a challenging concept for many of us who have spent our lives beating ourselves up! When we use the definition I provided earlier, “Giving up the hope of a different or better yesterday,” I think it takes the people and situations out of the equation. When we begin practicing radical forgiveness towards ourselves it allows us to be human without the risk of being abused by ourselves. Forgiveness also clears up the garbage that we are carrying around so we can make room to begin loving ourselves.
I sincerely hope you found these suggestions beneficial. I am officially launching the Self Love Adventure. If you want to increase the amount of love you treat yourself with, you will want to join us. Learn more about it here: https://www.jennbovee.com/self-love
Jenn Bovee is a Shame Busting Coach who is dedicated to helping people overcome the impact of Shame.