Sarah Barr from the New Beginnings Counselling Service looks at how people can learn to accept their mistakes and self-forgive.

“Be gentle first with yourself if you wish to be gentle with others.” ~Lama Yeshe

Forgiving yourself can be more challenging than forgiving someone else. The reason being you live with yourself and your thoughts everyday. However it is important for your mental health and well-being to be able to do this.

By forgiving yourself you are not forgetting or pretending it happened. You are acknowledging that your actions have consequences. Yet the consequences do not need to include self-inflicted negative thoughts and feelings.

Therefore self-forgiveness allows you to face the consequences in a more productive and healthier manner.

How to Forgive Yourself…


1. Acceptance

Accepting who you are, including past decisions and mistakes, can help you let go and move forward.

Remember what you regard as a negative trait, may in fact be the very thing that other people find interesting about you. We all have flaws and this makes us who we are.

“No-one is perfect, and we all make mistakes. This is okay!”

Your mistakes and failures can help you grow as a person. Through self-acceptance you will begin to make progress in your life. This will help you move on from the past and live in the present.


2. A bad decision does not define you

Decisions do not define who you are. Guilt and shame can take over and make you feel like a ‘bad’ person. Coping mechanisms vary and can include keeping busy or transferring these feelings on to others. However, until you deal with your past issues, they can spill into other areas of your life. This can lead to depression or anxiety.

“There is a difference between doing a bad thing, and being a bad person”

If you ask yourself the following questions, it can help you form a different perspective:

  • What age were you when the event/decision happened?
  • How much time did you have to make the decision?
  • What was your support network like?
  • What was happening in your life?
  • What was your environment like at the time?
  • How was your mental health and well-being?


3. Talk

Sometimes you just need to talk and get it out there. This can give you a sense of relief and comfort.

Here are some of the benefits of talking to someone you trust:

  • Another perspective. When you are upset with yourself emotions can cloud your reasoning abilities. A friend or a counsellor can give you a reason why you deserve to forgive yourself. You may have never considered this reason before.
  • Social support. You always feel better when somebody else has your back and is looking out for you. By joining a group or opening up to your friends, you may realise that you are not the only person finding it difficult to forgive yourself.
  • Counselling.  Speaking to a counsellor can be another option. This will give you a safe space in which you will be listened too and not judged.

4. The best friend test.

Imagine your best friend had done exactly what you did and they come to seek advice from you.

What would you say to them?

Would you reassure them and tell them not to be so hard on themselves?

Would you tell them that everyone makes mistakes?

Would you tell them that they deserve to be forgiven?

If you would say this to a friend why can’t you say this to yourself?

This can be hard to do, but by doing it every day it does become easier. Telling yourself that ‘I deserve to be forgiven’ and ‘I am a good person’ can reduce negative thoughts and self-talk.

“You can’t start a new chapter in your life, if you keep re-reading the last one”

I am offering a Coffee & Chat at my Healing Hut in Moville. This is a free consultation and open to anyone who is interested in finding out a little bit more about counselling. There is no commitment just a cuppa and a chat. It is carried out in a private and non-judgmental space.

Counselling can be seen as daunting and scary at times. I hope to challenge that perception. Counselling is about empowering people to move on from past events, improve how they feel about themselves and change negative thoughts.

We are all in this together, sometimes we have more bad days than good. This is okay, and you do not have to face them alone.

Take care ~ Sarah

New Beginnings Counselling

Call: 086 447 7867