5 Steps To Forgiving Yourself

5 Steps To Forgiving Yourself After a Big Mistake


No matter how many mistakes you make or how slow you progress you are still way ahead of everyone who isn’t trying.” – Tony Robbins

So, you screwed up.

Worse than falling and scraping your knee, or cracking your phone screen for the dozenth time.

You messed up BIG time.

You’re tense, upset, you may even want to cry a little.

The thoughts, ‘how could I have been so stupid!’ play on repeat through your head.

What do you do now? How will you ever get past this?

We’ll get there in a minute. First, let’s take some pressure off and I’ll share my mistake, we can relish in our stupidity together.

In 2012, I was looking to buy a new car (not brand new, I’m not that stupid!). I found a 2006 Honda on Craigslist – Great gas mileage, safe and reliable, everything I needed. The deal was too good to be true.

I contacted the seller. She was in the air force (at least that’s what she told me), she asked me to wire the money so she could have the car shipped to the air force base where I lived.

I lived right next to a base, so it sounded legit. I went to my bank, wired the cash and waited.

Turns out it was too good to be true.

The money was gone and I wasn’t getting a car in return.

Just like that, I was out $5,000.00.

I should of made the check out to ‘charity of the con artists’, because for the first time in my adult life, I was conned.

I was angry, shed my share of tears and couldn’t have felt more dumb. I’d never get over the stupid mistake I made.

Three years later, I’m happier than ever. I did get over it, in fact it was the turning point to creating my life today.

It wasn’t clear at the time, like most of our experiences, we understand them more as we reflect. But looking back, there were 5 key steps I took to forgive myself and move forward.

If you’ve recently been in a moment of crisis, or made a mistake thats hurt so much you can’t find the strength to forgive yourself, these are for you.

5 Steps To Forgiveness

1.  Realize

The first phase of getting over a mistake is identifying with it’s realness. When you screw up it hurts.

Let it.

There’s no sense in bottling your pain. I was in complete denial. I pretended it was a dream and convinced myself I never bought the car.

Finally, I broke down and emotions came pouring out.

It’s okay to feel pain or weakness, when you allow yourself to get hurt, it shows you how strong you really are.

You got knocked down, it’s okay. It happens.

Take a minute to let it hurt, embrace the feeling, and exhale.

Then get back up.

2.  Accept

So you’ve realized the mistake actually happened – it’s real life. Now it’s time you accept it.

Not only accept your failure, but accept the role you played. Accept you screwed up, accept you made a mistake NOT someone else.

So badly I wanted to blame the scam artist. ‘How could you do this to me!?’

But she didn’t do anything. I sent the money, I fell for her trick. It was my ignorance and my lack of attention to details that screwed me.

There’s no forgiveness without acceptance first. Forget about pointing the finger outward, grasp the blame and accept it.

Swallow your pride, and take ownership for your mistakes. It sucks now but it’ll get you where you need in the long run.

3.  Learn

In Dan Sullivan’s book, Laws of Lifetime Growth, he explains how all experiences have two parts – the parts that worked and the parts that didn’t work.

He goes on to say, “Once you identify these two aspects you become aware of new ways to maximize what did work and eliminate what didn’t.”

The best way to do this is to break down what happened. Reflect on the event and go over what went right and what went wrong.

Yes, I learned how not to buy a car, but I also learned how to save money fast and to live below my means while saving for a larger purchase.

Using those same techniques I was able save enough money for a four month backpacking trip the next fall.

There’s a great study on Psychology Today on how mistakes actually make us smarter when we take the time to learn from them.

No matter how bad the mistake, there’s always something good to take away.

Identify what went wrong and bypass it next time, then focus on what went right and take it with you moving forward.

4.  Humor

“Laughing at your own mistakes can lengthen your life.” – Shakespeare

This is by and far the most important step to forgiving yourself and getting on with your life. Ignore it at your own peril.

According to the Mayo Clinic, laughter is known to soothe tension and improve your mood. Laughter will help you forget about your mistake faster than anything else can.

But it’s more than laughing, it’s being able to laugh directly at your mistake.

Any person on Earth has the ability to laugh at someone else’s mess, but to laugh at your own mistakes – now that takes courage.

When I look back at the details of my car scam, it’s hilarious how blind I was.

I should of picked it up as a fraud right away, but I didn’t. It sucked at first, but the damage is done, it’s comedy to me now.

If you can laugh at your biggest failures you’ll have no trouble finding joy in all the other amazing parts of your life.

There’s too many people stressed out acting like they’re going to live forever. Don’t be one of them. One day or another our time comes and our mistakes won’t matter.

So laugh about it.

Don’t waste your time taking life so seriously.

5.  Let Go

“Last night I lost the world, and gained The Universe.” – C. Joybell

So you’ve accepted your mistake and took ownership for your faults, you’ve learnt some valuable lessons and even got a chuckle out of it.

Now what?

Let go.

There’s plenty to learn from our mistakes, but once we wring it dry it’s time to leave it behind so we can get on with our lives.

Josh and Ryan from The Minimalists said it best, “life is fulfilling only when we allow ourselves to let go and allow ourselves to be in the moment.”

There was a time after my mistake I thought my life was over. I was a complete failure and nobody would respect me for the rest of my life.

I was 19, my life is far from over. Even if you’re much older than I am, it doesn’t matter.

Hiding in the shadows of your mistakes is a terrible excuse for not living the rest of your life.

Your life isn’t defined by your mistakes, you are not your mistakes.

You’re so much more.

It’s worth hearing again.

You are so much more.

Always remember that.

Moving Forward

Since I was scammed, I’ve traveled through Mexico, Belize and Guatemala living with only what I could carry on my back.

After returning, I saved up for a camper van, packed it with everything I owned and moved from my home in Maine to Las Vegas.

That’s where I am now, adopting a frugal lifestyle which allows me to focus my time on connecting with people like you.

So I didn’t get the fancy Honda, but I ended up with so much more.

It’s a very real thing that our greatest success comes after the most tragic of failures.

You screwed up, and that’s okay, it happens to all of us.

But your life’s not over. The faster you can forgive yourself and let go of your failures, the quicker you can focus on creating the most amazing life imaginable.

Take the time to soak in what’s happened, learn from it, laugh a little and when you’re ready, set yourself free.

The funny thing about mistakes is they open our eyes to greater possibilities and allow us to reach heights we never before thought capable of ourselves.

In a way, your big mistake may turn out to be the best thing that’s ever happened.

Have you recently made a mistake or experienced failure that’s affected your life? How did you get past it? What lessons did you learn from it?

About The Author:
George Mortimer packed his van and drove cross country in pursuit of freedom. His goal is to inspire others to live life on their own terms. Download his Free Ebook: 5 Steps To Freedom – The Quick & Simple Guide To Creating A Life You Love

Image: / 123RF Stock Photo

About the author

George Mortimer

George Mortimer packed his van and drove cross country in pursuit of freedom. His goal is to inspire others to live life on their own terms. Download his Free Ebook: 5 Steps To Freedom - The Quick & Simple Guide To Creating A Life You Love

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