How to forgive yourself

One of the certainties that you will encounter as you work on healing yourself and move further and further outside of your comfort zone is that you will encounter your past self – A LOT!

A few years ago, I read a Facebook Meme that said “My goal as a Mother: Raise children that don’t have to recover from their childhood.”

This seemed so inspiring at the time when I read it, that I grasped onto this meme and filed it in my heart. I thought “Yes, I am that mother! I will give my children that childhood that they don’t have to recover from!”

And then I failed, and I felt like the worst mother ever…

I know that this resonates with a lot of moms. When I posted about this on Instagram recently, so many women reached out to tell me their stories.

To be human is to make mistakes and fail – often. This also means that you will be triggered by your past self’s mistakes and failings.

However, when I look at the goal, I set myself upon reading the above meme now I realised what an impossible expectation this was. I was operating from my Wounded Mother. Her nature is to control and take responsibility for everyone else’s worries as if they were her own.

None of us is perfect and we all make mistakes as parents. As mothers, we say things we shouldn’t and argue with our partners. We do things that we wish we could take back. We all carry things from our past into our present from our childhoods. This is just how life works.

For example:

And even if you did everything perfectly there are so many outside forces outside of your parenting that you can’t control.

You can’t control what goes on at school, whether other children will pick on your children, the friends they will choose, or what your parents, siblings, partners, teachers or even strangers will say or do.

It is impossible to control whether or not your children are born with genetic challenges and how this will affect their lives.

Nor can you control how your children experience their life and the conclusions and decisions that this will lead them to make.

None of this is within our control. But yet, we try so hard to control everything and when we can’t, we beat ourselves up about what a shitty mother we are.

An opportunity to learn

Being confronted by a past mistake may feel like something to be ashamed of, however, is also an opportunity to learn. It is an invitation for introspection and trust rebuilding with yourself, as you travel along the personal growth journey, we call life. This ultimately builds wisdom and resilience.

Let’s face it, present you did not get here out of thin air. This current version of you was born out of past versions of yourself. If she is anything like my past self, she would have made sooo many mistakes along the way.

From personal experience, I know how these mistakes can so easily morph into beliefs that we hold onto as truths. Truths about ourselves then lead to self-protective behaviour patterns that we repeat over and over again.

The thing is, even if you have done the work, you still have to be vigilant with yourself and your thoughts. Our past selves and the beliefs she created can become deeply ingrained in our subconscious. If we are not careful, we can so easily slip into old familiar but unhealthy behaviours.

This behaviour is more likely to occur when we are feeling challenged, overwhelmed or exhausted. This cuts off our connection to the logical part of the brain that makes sensible decisions.

Our trust accounts with ourselves

Just as we can break trust with other people, so can we break trust with ourselves. This is super easy to do because we often have poor boundaries about our commitments to ourselves. I don’t know about you, but I find it far easier to let myself down than disappoint someone else.

Think about trust as a currency. We create trust accounts in all our relationships, including the one that we have with ourselves. When we act in a way that builds trust, such as keeping a commitment, we make a deposit into the account. If we act in a way that breaks trust, such as not meeting the commitment, we make a withdrawal from our trust bank.

Many of us without realising it, have made too many withdrawals from our accounts and not enough deposits. This means that our trust accounts with ourselves can become severely overdrawn.

It is little wonder that we find it so difficult to trust ourselves and our intuition.

The Nameless Maiden

The beliefs and behaviours that are the hardest to change come from our experiences from when we were in our Maiden Archetype as a child. This impressionable Nameless Maiden self-learned from a very young age to trust her caregivers’ judgement over her own.

As infants, we learn that in order to survive we have to please our parents. This is often taught and reinforced through punishment and reward. This is one of the first of many withdrawals from our trust account with ourselves.

How to forgive yourself
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If we didn’t listen to our parents’ instructions or made a mistake, we may have learned that bad things happen when we trust our own judgement.

We might have learned that if we listen to others and follow “the rules” then we receive praise, approval and love.

Hence, we were programmed to believe that if we “follow the crowd” we will be safe and accepted. The result is that we shut down our inner guidance system and trust ourselves less and less. Eventually, we develop learnt helplessness and leave all of the decision-making to others.

As we grow older and venture into the world, we are provided with opportunities to rebuild trust with ourselves and to flex our intuitive muscles. This opportunity may have prompted us to take risks which may have ended in making mistakes and failing.

If we were taught that these “learning injuries” were “bad” as a child, this can trigger our old beliefs which stem from the wounded Maiden. Unfortunately, we often revert back to this belief. We may revert to this way of thinking even if we have been working to see our mistakes as part of the learning journey. Some of these old, wounded ways of thinking run deep!

Shark Music

As I mentioned in my introduction, this behaviour is always self-protective. When we have experienced something that resulted in extreme feelings of fear, shame and trauma this becomes hardwired into our brain connections.

These experiences are often punctuated by sensations of feeling trapped and powerless. Our bodies and brains want to protect us from another occurrence and so when we sense a similar threat – Hello self-protective behaviour! (Or as I call it in my book When She Wakes, She Will Move Mountains, Shark Music.) Shark Music is the unconscious programming that is operating in the background that signals to our nervous system that we are unsafe and puts us into a fight, flight or freeze mode.

So how do we go about forgiving our past selves their mistakes and freeing ourselves from our Shark Music?

Firstly, self-awareness is key.

Ask yourself:

“What things trigger my “Shark Music”?

“How do I feel when I hear my Shark Music?

“Where do I feel it in my body?”

When I hear my Shark Music, I can feel it in my stomach, and it knots up. My jaw tenses and I feel the tension all through my face. I experience a rush of adrenaline followed by nausea, exhaustion and brain fog.

Once you notice the sensation in your body, name the emotions that come up for you.

Allow yourself to sit with your emotions until they start to lift.

Then ask yourself, “What past event am I projecting into my present?” Allow the answers to come to you.

Recently, my Shark Music started playing really loudly before my appointment with my accountant. When I did the exercise above, I realised that I was projecting a past business failure onto this current situation.

How to forgive yourself

Forgiving Our Past Selves

The person that we find the hardest to forgive is usually ourselves. We are also the person who needs our forgiveness the most. It is human nature to hold onto old mistakes for years, even decades and use these mistakes as an arsenal for self-attack as if we are living in that moment again.

When we use the introspection power of our Wild Woman, we can recognise that this is merely a past self that needs forgiveness and love. We can let go of the hurt if we choose while only keeping the lessons from our learning injuries.

Rebuilding trust is what comes after forgiveness. It is the action part of the healing process. As with any relationship, learning to trust yourself after you have let yourself down is a gradual process of healing and forgiveness.

Tanya Valentin – When She Wakes, She Will Move Mountains

We can spend a lifetime, feeling stuck, waiting for someone else to show us compassion and forgiveness. Or we can choose to give it to ourselves and move on with our lives.

This is an excellent invitation for us to reparent ourselves through the embodiment of our inner own Mother. One of the most powerful ways to do this is through mirror work.

Try this simple but powerful self-forgiveness exercise:

  • Take a moment to look at yourself in the mirror.
  • Gaze into your own eyes with compassion as if you were looking into the eyes of a child.
  • With love and kindness, say out loud: “I see you, (insert your name). Thank you, I know that you did the best that you could. I love you and I’m sorry. I forgive you and I trust you.”

Questions for your journal:

  • What things trigger your “Shark Music”?
  • How do you feel your “Shark Music” in your body?
  • What past self-learning injuries do you need to forgive yourself for?

Reading is educational; however, it is only when we put some of what we have read into practice that we start to heal. A new feature of this blog for 2022 is to give you something to take away and reflect on.

Did you find this blog post helpful? Please leave me a comment.

The Feminine School of Unlearning is an online community for Soul-Led, Midlife Women who are on an awakening journey.

Together, we are on a mission to support each other through the ups and downs of midlife, share what brings us alive and unlearn beliefs and behaviours that no longer serve us so that we can discover what it means to be the Queen of our own lives.

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