People on spiritual paths so often concentrate on forgiving those who have hurt them in the past. They work hard to be non-reactive in the present, releasing hurts as soon as they appear. I would never suggest that this is not a good practice. It is an essential practice. Yet, it leaves out a crucial part of the equation.
Most of us forget to forgive ourselves. This may seem self-evident, but how many times a day do you beat yourself up over past mistakes? We put ourselves at the bottom of the list, believing that it is more important to forgive others first. That seems very spiritual, but if you have not forgiven yourself you can’t be in love towards others.
Self-hatred taints everything and everyone you touch. It makes you behave badly so people will be angry at you, which then allows you to continue hating yourself. No matter how well-intentioned you are, no matter how many spiritual systems you have studied, if you hate yourself, you cannot act in love. That underlying pain will affect your relationships, your efforts at manifesting, your daily experience of life.
It sounds very simple to say, forgive yourself!” It isn’t easy at all. We hang on to the belief that we must suffer, we must somehow make up to others the pain we have caused, we must re-live mistakes, so we won’t repeat them. Psychologists know it is easier for most people to embrace their dark side than it is to embrace their beauty and wonderful selves.
You have to make it an equal priority with forgiving others. When that hurtful voice comes up, you have to gently tell it that it is no longer allowed to berate you. When uncomfortable memories arise, take the time to forgive yourself.
Some exercises that help with this process: Place a picture of yourself as a small child in a prominent place. Look at it and say, “I love you,” to it at least once a day. Few of us can look ourselves in the mirror and say that, but can you tell that child that he or she is loved? If you can move on, after a few weeks, try telling your adult self, “I love you.”
Take some time each day to write out things that make you angry. It only needs to be a few minutes. Notice how often you are angry at yourself. Tell yourself that you are forgiven, if if you don’t feel it. Feelings will come later.
Start doing things to take care of yourself. Do something fun just for you. Take breaks, eat well, do exercise that really makes you happy.
Spend time in nature. Nature has healing properties physically and psychologically. Just allow yourself to be somewhere close to trees and natural sources of water. Feel the peace and acceptance that nature brings.