Have you guys ever found yourself saying, “Man, I can’t believe I did that.” Or, “Why can’t I change? Why does this keep happening to me?” Or even, “I’m so stupid. Why can’t I just get it right? Do it right next time.” If you have, you’re not alone in this. These are common things that we say to ourselves when we’re hard on ourselves and we don’t forgive ourselves, I’m Steve Nathenson, CEO and founder of Strive For More. And today I want to talk real quick about the path to self-forgiveness and the benefits it has for us.
When we call ourselves names, like I just did. When we question, if things are ever going to change, or we are hard on ourselves for things that happen, I can’t believe I did that, it’s never going to change. Why can’t you just… All those statements. It’s self-defeating self-talk. The inner talk track that we have, it keeps us down. It doesn’t help us overcome what we actually want to achieve, or the obstacles that stand in our way of doing that rather and lead us to what we want achieve. It actually keeps us down.
When we give ourselves the permission to be a human being and accept that we have all parts of us and we’re not alone in the struggles that we face, there’s also a part about forgiving ourselves when we do make mistakes, when we don’t hit the mark, when we don’t achieve what we want, or maybe handle things in the way that we would have liked to have. It’s these things, these lessons in life that help us grow and get better. And do it the way we want to do it then next time.
To illustrate this, I know we’ve talked about perfection before, but I want to talk about it a little bit more deeply here. So when we pursue perfection, which is something I agree with, by the way, I think the idea of the pursuit of perfection is good because it helps us set high standards and levels for ourselves that we always strive to achieve. Striving for excellence, achieving our high standards, wanting to do things right. These are all good things to have mentally and to strive for. But with it there’s the catch.
When I don’t give my self permission to fall short of that, I fall into this downward spiral about being hard on myself, keeping myself down in the non-serving that’s not going to help me get to where I want to go because I have to be perfect. And that’s where this concept starts to fall apart. If we don’t allow ourselves to be human and recognize that sometimes we don’t hit the mark. Sometimes we don’t perform as well as we want. Sometimes we would have liked to have said something a little bit differently, and that that’s okay because it’s part of who we are. If we don’t give ourselves permission for that and we forgive ourselves for missing that mark, saying something a little bit off, we don’t allow ourselves to fruitfully move forward.
Because what happens when we’re hard on ourselves, it stays up here in our minds. We play it over and over and over again, we call ourselves names. We can’t believe we did that. We get so caught up in the quote unquote problems, the things that went wrong, the failures, if you will, that we can’t see past those and forgive ourselves that you know what, yeah I made a mistake and guess what? That’s okay, I’m human. It happens.
When I forgive myself for falling short, that’s when this magic happens, because I can be full of stress and tension. This criticism that we’re talking about, even maybe a lack of belief that it’s not even going to be possible for me to overcome or to change. When I give myself for forgiveness for missing that mark, I alleviate all that. Because I say, “You know what? That is part of who I am. It’s a part of being human. And guess what? Yeah, I didn’t hit the mark. That’s okay. Because next time I can be better.” And when I am better and I’m focused on that excellence, that level of standard that I want to achieve, there’s a switch that flips in our minds because we’re focused now on the serving, the positive, what’s going to help us, how we can learn and leverage from what happened to get better and to continue to grow.
And there’s a greater peace that comes from that. A greater level of acceptance that also comes with it, that I am okay to be who I am and I can forgive myself for missing that mark and I can alleviate the stress, the tension, and the pressure that comes with it. I can be kinder to myself, more sympathetic. And when we’re in that calmer, more relaxed state we’re in that level headed more clear state, it’s easier for us to actually create that acceptance, to embrace what happened and to grow and learn from it, to keep moving forward and to even see that it is possible to move forward. To see that it’s possible, I have to first get rid of all of that self-talk and criticism that’s keeping me down, that doesn’t let me see the light at the end of the tunnel.
When we’re hard on ourselves, we keep ourselves down in this downward spiral, the non serving that creates great stress and pressure and a weight upon us that doesn’t allow us to see the path forward. But when I embrace that it’s okay to make mistakes. It’s okay to fall short, it happens. And that the pursuit of perfection is great for being just that, the pursuit of it, but it’s okay to not be perfect. I can alleviate the mental hurdles and obstacles that get created when I missed the mark and I fall short. And I can embrace what’s truly going to help me and leverage those experiences to get better and do it better the next time. But it starts with that self forgiveness.
And I’ll give you an example of this is, we’ve all had a friend, which I’m sure in a conversation, we may have said something that, man kind of wish I didn’t say that. I really hope I didn’t offend them. And when we checked in with that friend later, like, no, you didn’t offend me. No, it’s fine. We’re our own harshest critics because we put so much emphasis on always being perfect, on always saying the right thing, always doing the best that we can, that we don’t allow for mistakes to happen. And we try to shut off part of who we are. And I talked about this when we had an episode and a video on accepting all parts of us. If I try to get rid of that part of me that falls short or misses the mark, doesn’t quite do this the way that we ideally would have liked to have done it, we’re denying that part of us.
And we will just continue to be hard on ourselves and actually keep us in this bubble, this downward spiral of negative non serving self-talk that makes it harder for us to actually see that path forward and to achieve what we want. But if I can just simply forgive myself and say, “It’s okay that that happened.” That self-compassion, that kindness for ourselves, that forgiveness, it opens up the doorway. Just like in this example when our friend said, “You didn’t offend me. I wasn’t offended by that.” We’ve created this own perception that weighed on us chipped away on us. And maybe it preoccupied me so much that I was so distracted by what I had in front of me, the meeting perhaps, that I missed a lot of key things there because I wasn’t focused.
When I forgive myself for missing the mark, not saying maybe the right thing or saying it in a different way than I would’ve liked to have, when I do that, the path that we want to walk to greater success, greater achievement opens up, because now I’ve created an actual state of calmness, forgiveness, peace and acceptance that makes it easier to focus on what I do want to achieve and actually take the steps to make that happen. So what I want to leave you with today is really just a simple question. What can I forgive myself for?
And another way of looking at this, if it’s easier is, what am I hard on myself about? And can I forgive myself when I don’t hit the mark, when I don’t quite do it in the way that I would have liked to have done. And when you are having an awareness around what you’re hard on yourself for, it is easier to actually overcome and forgive myself in the moment, and it all starts with that self awareness. So today, as you’re driving, as you’re walking around, or you’ve got some time to yourself, that’s the question I want to leave you with. What a I my hard on myself about, and can I give myself permission to forgive myself when I miss the mark? I would challenge you to watch the magic that happens and the alleviation of stress and pressure that you feel when you give yourself that forgiveness. So until the next time be the movement in your life.
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