Learn to Forgive Yourself No Matter What

Wednesday, April 8, 2015 · 7 Comments

One of the greatest, most unproductive and destructive mind traps many of us face is self-blame. It’s as if the brain doesn’t know what to do with the uncomfortable feeling that’s there and it projects it inward. I’ve never seen a single example where self-blame is constructive. We all make mistakes in life, some greater than others. But there is a simple truth in life that is worth understanding, we all do the best we can with what we know in any given time.

It could never be any other way.

There’s a simple thing to practice that can bring us back to our senses with a bit more self-compassion. This inevitably will lead to greater ease, understanding and refocus us on a more constructive path of health and well-being sooner.

Forgiveness pic

Forgive yourself for not knowing what you didn’t know before you learned it.

No matter what you’ve done, it doesn’t serve you or anyone else to stew in self-blame. What would serve yourself and others more is     moving into a place of understanding and making peace with yourself. From this space you are better able to more constructively serve yourself and others.

In Uncovering Happiness I share a very personal story where in my twenties I was incredibly destructive to my mind and body. I would be constantly caught in a web of blaming myself for the things I would do – only to do them again.

This kept me stuck in a shame cycle.

As the years progressed, I’ve come to understand that even though I thought I knew better at the time, with the experience I had and in the place I was in, I was doing the best I could, it could never have been any other way.

I learned along the way what I needed to do in order to get unstuck, in order to love myself, in order to give myself a chance to be in this world the way I wanted to be. I began to become clearer on my values and took steps to begin walking alongside them. In doing this I experienced how self-compassion and purpose are natural anti-depressants, natural sources of resiliency and confidence in life.

After becoming a psychologist and in more recent years, I was thrilled to see how the neuroscience backed this up.

Consider what you might be blaming yourself for. What does the voice inside your head tell you you’re not good enough at? Is it around your parenting, work, relationships, exercise, diet, sexuality or in life in general? Or maybe your mind doubles up and says you’re not good enough at dealing with your stress, anxiety, depression, trauma or addictive behaviors?

Or maybe it says you’re not trying hard enough in mindfulness or compassion?

The fact is, forgiveness is the quickest shortcut to beginning again and refocusing on what matters. This doesn’t mean we let ourselves off the hook, we learn from it and release the burden so we can begin to be of service to ourselves and others.

So take an inventory, what is it you blame yourself for? Can you understand that at all times you are doing the best you can with what you know? Instead of blaming yourself for your history, learn from it, take the lessons and bring them into this present moment to begin again.

This learning mindset is the central thread to uncovering happiness.


Elisha Goldstein

Author of Uncovering Happiness

Originally posted on Mindfulness and Psychotherapy


  1. Ramesh Gupta
    January 30, 2017 at 4:52 pm

    We do not know what we have missed until we get this new knowledge from this site!

  2. Vanessa
    April 22, 2015 at 10:54 pm

    Thank you so much for all the effort you put into sharing valuable knowledge with us all. As a young college student dealing with emotional baggage from the past including some anxiety disorders, depression and some other perfectionist qualities, I am learning more and more that at the core, it seems that perhaps, loving yourself is the most important thing you can do to heal yourself. One of the best ways to do this is to forgive. Day in and day out, it seems that forgiving myself helps me remember I’m human and I’m truly doing the best I can… we all are. That is enough. Whether it’s a step forward or backwards, that is enough. Thank you again and may we all be at peace and ease with life.

  3. April 12, 2015 at 5:23 pm

    Shame is a powerful emotion that has survival value in that it facilitates surrender against overwhelming odds. It is also intense and uncomfortable, so it grabs our attention like fear or anger and can become the recurring focus of attention just as fear and anger can. It is also associated with our sense of conscience, so it is easy to confuse with guilt. We sometimes make meaning out of our emotions, attributing exaggerated values to those things we associate with fear shame or anger. This increases the likelihood that we will hide our mistakes, our fears, and our resentments, rather than working them out. I certainly have a lot of personal experience with each of these emotions to back up my theories.

  4. Marty
    April 10, 2015 at 3:05 am

    Forty years ago I killed someone in a psychotic break, I was in what is called transient organic psychosis. Simply put, I was high on alcohol and drugs and lost my mind. It has taken me many years of therapy and action to forgive myself. I still struggle at times but live happily today. Thank you for all you do and the focus on self compassion

  5. Inge Bundchen
    April 9, 2015 at 8:38 pm

    Thank you. I needed to read this tonight. Your work has helped me so much.

  6. Liti DeMane
    April 9, 2015 at 7:54 pm

    I need this right now. I am a caregiver
    For my Mom. She just came home from
    the hospital and she is very weak and not walking. She is 86 and is recovering from pneumonia . I blame myself for all sorts of things I may have done wrong.
    She has a feeding tube and I fear I fed
    Her too fast and made her aspirate. This
    Can lead to pneumonia. I also have OCD and doubt myself so often. I know I
    Am careful, but I feel so anxious when
    she dosn’t feel well. I know God forgives
    Me,but I feel guilty. I need to know I can
    trust in forgiveness. Thankyou Elisha

  7. April 9, 2015 at 12:24 pm

    Elisha. This so compassionate. Said better and simpler than I could–being slow to forgive self and ever chipping away at those hard places that cover my softness — AND, as you kindly say, those same places that make it hard to forgive others. I will read this again and send it to our mindfulness communuty. And to those who I sense may have a hard time
    forgiving me. Bless us all. MM

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