Self-Forgiveness Starts with Taking Responsibility For Your Actions

Jennifer March, MS

As Originally Posted on Medium

I was in a crowded bowling alley for an award night. I had joined a year-long bowling league season, and things were wrapping up for summer.

I bowled among people on our local USBC hall of fame and pro-bowlers; it was a fantastic experience. At the beginning of the season, I started pretty poorly but slowly sharpened my skills.

Unfortunately, I had ended the season horribly and wanted to hide my face from everyone. I just felt embarrassed and silly being there — I couldn’t have achieved much.

The night carried on, and it was award time. I heard name after name being called. I only listened in when I heard my name being called. I quickly got up and made my way to the front of the crowd to accept my award.

I had won nearly a hundred dollars for achieving the award of most improved. I had improved my average of almost 35 pins. I was so excited and happy that I had achieved one of the most challenging awards in a bowling league.

As I descended from the front of the crowd, I settled in to the back, wanting to fade from the group.

That was until I heard my name being called again for another award. I had won the award for the highest handicap series for the entire season!

Another difficult achievement!

I felt so happy and proud — but only for that moment.

After that night, all I could think about was my last two weeks of bowling being my worst. How could I have won these awards with the worst scores just a few weeks back?

I needed to do better, and I needed to be better.

But why should I doubt my achievements when I worked very hard to reach them. Instead, I am hung up on my mistakes. All the games I played, injuries that flared up, and embarrassing mistakes I made were at the forefront of my memory.

On my bad days, I am down on myself pretty severely. Every accomplishment I have ever had is only followed up with criticism and judgment from myself.

But what purpose does that serve? Why should I harp on a poor throw or a bad score — it’s not life or death. Bowling is a fun, happy sport for me that brings a sense of family to my heart.

But what right do I have to take away my happiness and success?

That’s when I noticed how poorly I handled failure for myself. I was stuck looking at the negative that I failed to see the positive.

I’m not here to become the best bowler, nor do we go into any hobby wanting to be flawless. Mistakes are part of life and do not mean that you are a failure.

The bad days aren’t remembered, nor do the terrible days predict your overall success. Forgiving ourselves for the mistakes we make is essential for life.

By showing yourself forgiveness, you can see the small, successful moments all around you. By approaching our failures with forgiveness, we can begin to show more kindness.

Why you should forgive yourself

According to Standford Medicine, we may believe that being hard on ourselves means we will be successful — that’s certainly not the case.

Forgiving ourselves is a gateway to showing more kindness to our failures. The perspective shift comes when we imagine ourselves talking to a child in how we speak to ourselves.

To understand why we need to forgive ourselves, we have to review why we need self-forgiveness. We cannot live our life being mean to ourselves. Accepting that you made a mistake and learning from it are the essential points.

Acknowledging our mistakes is essential, and we should never stop doing that. But when we don’t forgive ourselves for making a mistake, we can fall into a dangerous trap.

With never allowing ourselves to be forgiven, we hold on to that frustration. That frustration can continue to grow and feed into negative self-talk.

Negative self-talk is when we speak about ourselves unkindly. Consistent negative self-talk can lead us to have poor self-esteem and lack confidence in our abilities and decisions.

Rest assured that self-forgiveness can be broken down into manageable steps.

Small steps towards self-forgiveness

Acknowledging our mistakes is the first step in practicing self-forgiveness. Self-forgiveness, at its core, can be seen as a way to understand your mistakes and learn from them.

Making a mistake isn’t necessarily the end of the world, but repeating that mistake can indeed feel that way. With each error, there is a lesson that can be learned.

According to verywellmind, there are the four “R’s” to forgiveness: responsibility, remorse, restoration, and renewal.

Responsibility

Take responsibility for your actions first and foremost. If you made a mistake and you hurt someone, be sure to own up to that. If you didn’t accidentally hurt someone with your actions, then maybe you will need to take responsibility for whatever your consequence may be.

Self-forgiveness does not mean excusing your actions. Always keep that in mind!

Remorse

If you hurt someone, say you’re sorry. Just like taking responsibility, you have to be accountable for your actions. Simply acknowledging your mistake isn’t enough.

Of course, this may not be as relevant for smaller, minor mistakes. Either way, remorse is a lesson. What could have been done better to avoid this consequence or outcome?

Above anything else, learning from your mistakes is a sure-fire way not to make that mistake again.

Restoration

Much like responsibility and remorse, there needs to be some action on your part to correct your mistakes. Some mistakes can’t be fixed, but there is always something you can do to help.

By taking accountability, and the proper steps to fix your mistakes, you can release that mistake.

Consequences and outcomes for your mistakes don’t need to be drastic and life-changing. When I would bowl, sometimes I would drop the ball right into the gutter. I am now down a throw from my fumble; my next roll has to make up for my lost opportunity. Missing this throw could be the reason our team loses.

But again, that’s okay — my team won’t hate me. It’s just how things played, but I shouldn’t feel bad for the role I play.

Forgiveness to kindness

I can show myself more kindness by forgiving myself when I make a mistake.

The hate I have shown myself is enough to turn my enemies cold and surprise even the roughest of people. Why should I be my own worst enemy?

I would never trash my friends or tell them they were failures — so why am I saying that to myself.

I’ve seen that self-forgiveness can help me soften up and relax with my surroundings. I don’t need to be perfect; I don’t need to diminish what I have accomplished.

I will celebrate every win and laugh off every mistake (when appropriate) because I don’t have time to show myself hate. Showing yourself kindness is so vital in strengthening your relationship with yourself.

When I praise the good, I’m taking the energy I would use to shame myself into showing kindness.

Next time you make a mistake, practice self-forgiveness. You deserve to treat yourself with kindness every day.

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Psych nerd turned freelance writer | MS in Psychology | Mom of two cats and some house plants | #MentalHealthAdvocate #BeKind

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