How to Forgive Yourself - A Step-by-Step Guide to Self-Forgiveness

By Barbara @ Follow Your Own Rhythm

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Self forgiveness has been an INTEGRAL part of my personal transformation and I realized that without self-forgiveness, we’re incapable of healing our inner wounds comprised of shame, doubt, guilt, and self-hatred.

I also realized that self-forgiveness is about more than just letting go of the past and negative emotions. Self-forgiveness is about unconditional self-love and self-acceptance.

When we forgive ourselves, we energetically say to ourselves “even though I made this mistake and even though I’m not perfect, I still love and accept myself.”

Blaming yourself, hating yourself, and feeling ashamed and guilty does you no good. How does that help you?

Maybe you haven’t been able to forgive yourself because you feel like you don’t deserve forgiveness. Or maybe you feel that you have to suffer for the pain that you caused someone else.

But does that make any sense?

Is there a reason to keep hurting yourself through self-hatred and guilt?

Do you know that when you live with these negative emotions, they get projected onto the people you love through your words, conversations, and behaviors?

So really, by holding onto these emotions, you’re unintentionally hurting the ones you love as well. So why create more pain and suffering? Why not heal and spread more love?

In case you needed to hear it from someone else, you deserve forgiveness no matter what you’ve done.

YOU are in charge and you make the rules. You can decide the rules of your life.

You can decide whether or not you deserve forgiveness. And you can decide whether or not you should suffer.

There is no person, belief system, religion, or authority figure that can tell you when you can be forgiven and when you should suffer. If they do tell you, you can choose to not let it in and decide for yourself.

So do you want to forgive yourself?

Of course you do! Because self-forgiveness is the path to healing, self-growth, and unconditional self-love.

self-forgiveness quote

Now you might be thinking “if I forgive myself, doesn’t that mean that I’m okay with what I did?”

No. By forgiving yourself, you are not agreeing with your past behavior and you’re not forgetting it either. By forgiving yourself, you’re simply letting go of the associated negative emotion and belief, and moving forward more lovingly.

Self-acceptance simply means to accept yourself as you are, in that moment, and to love yourself anyway.

Now it doesn’t mean that just because you forgive yourself that you allow yourself to continue to engage in the behavior. No. 

It means that you forgive yourself for being human and for having weaknesses and flaws, but instead of moving forward from a place of self-hatred, you move forward from a place of self-acceptance and love. This is what is going to help you align with your Highest good.

Tips for making it easier to forgive yourself

  • Stop overanalyzing everything you do

  • Stop judging and criticizing yourself

  • Stop the negative self-talk

  • Own up to what you did, but don’t beat yourself up about it

  • Laugh at your mistakes

  • Accept that you’re human

  • Give yourself the benefit of the doubt

  • Appreciate yourself

  • Celebrate your successes

  • View yourself as your own best friend

If you’d like to learn more about what forgiveness really means and why it’s such a powerful healing tool, check out part 1 of this series: The Power of Forgiveness. And if you would like to learn a step by step process on how to forgive others, check out part 2 of this series.

Obviously, an important aspect of forgiving ourselves is to know what to forgive ourselves for.

Sometimes the pain that we’ve caused others and the things we’ve done wrong, we’re not even consciously aware of. We’re not aware of how this wrongdoing has affected our belief system, programmed our subconscious, and created negative emotions within us that we still hold onto today.

Similarly, we might also think that we have already forgiven ourselves and let go, only to discover that we still unconsciously carry immense guilt within us.

So in order to free ourselves, it’s crucial that we bring these deeper feelings to the surface so that we can let them go.


If you can’t consciously remember anything that you did wrong in the past or if you want to go deeper into how you feel about what you did, try this exercise! It’s going to bring your deeper feelings to the surface and trigger memories that live in your subconscious.

  • Get into a relaxed state of mind by sitting comfortably, closing your eyes, and breathing deeply while focusing on your breath as you inhale and exhale. Do this for about 2 minutes.

  • When you feel calm and relaxed, ask yourself the following questions and see what comes up. Whatever memories, feelings or insights arise, this is the wisdom of your intuition and subconscious mind speaking to you.

  • Who have I hurt in the past and how?

Then, pay attention to the feelings that arise and the memories that pop up.

  • What have I done that I still blame myself for?

Pay attention to the feelings that arise and the memories that pop up.

  • What do I still feel guilty and shameful about?

Pay attention to the feelings that arise and the memories that pop up.

When you’re done, grab a journal and write down any insights you gained.

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Now that you know what to forgive yourself for, let’s go over the step-by-step guide for forgiving yourself.

8 Steps for Forgiving Yourself

1. Make a list of everything you cannot (or want/need to) forgive yourself for.  

These are people/living things you have harmed, things you did that you’re ashamed of, guilty of, or regret doing, mistakes you’ve made, bad things you’ve done, etc.

I have hurt/harmed _______ by ____________________.

2. Choose one thing that you want to focus on.

I find it easier to go through the process of self-forgiveness if I focus on one thing at a time.

The thing I need to forgive myself for is:

3. Identify the limiting beliefs or negative emotions it created within you.

Did you develop a certain negative belief about yourself from hurting someone else? Often times when we do something wrong or hurt people in some way, we develop an idea in our head about who we are such as “I’m a bad person, I don’t deserve happiness, I’m not a good mom, etc.” or we harbor negative emotions such as self-blame, self-disgust, disappointment, guilt, and shame.

The limiting belief or negative emotion this wrongdoing has created within me is:

4. Identify why you did what you did

A really effective way to start to forgive yourself is to get to the core of why you did what you did.

Identify the causes and conditions by understanding where the behavior came from and what factors might have influenced you.

Maybe you made this mistake or committed this act because you were too young to know any better, you were careless, you weren’t paying attention, you weren’t present, your mind wasn’t in the right place, you were unconscious (spiritually), your priorities were off, you did it out of fear or selfishness, it’s what you were taught to do, you did it to get revenge, you did it because you were in pain yourself, you wanted to feel superior, or your life situation or environment caused you to do it.

Whatever the reason, it’s important to be super HONEST with yourself about what motivated you to do this.

What I did:

The true and real reason for why I did it:

Knowing the true reason for why you did what you did doesn’t excuse you from doing it, it simply creates understanding, and understanding creates compassion.

Notice that the limiting beliefs that you identified in step 3 came from your wrongdoings or mistakes that you made and aren’t necessarily true about yourself. When you see that you decided to believe certain things about who you are based on how you behaved, it’s so much easier to change the beliefs and forgive yourself.

For example. Let’s say that you had an abortion when you were young and the guilt has been eating away at you. Maybe you unconsciously developed a belief that you are a bad person or a bad mom.

Now, you can look at this situation from a more rational point of view and see that having an abortion doesn’t make you a bad person, it was a choice you had to make at the time and that choice was based on your current mindset, life situation, level of understanding, knowledge, and wisdom, and your level of consciousness. At the time, you simply didn’t know any better so how can you blame yourself and hold onto the guilt for the rest of your life?

self-forgiveness quote

However, it’s important to note that when we do bad things or hurt other people, it’s not enough to just say “the past is the past-I forgive myself,” we must also reflect on what we did wrong, why we did it, and how we can learn from the experience and improve ourselves…which brings me to the next step…

5. Resolution

Is there anything you can do today to resolve this situation? Do you need to apologize to someone, make amends, or take specific action?

How can you change your actions to not repeat these mistakes?

What can you change and improve about yourself?

The point is to take responsibility for your actions and own up to what you did, avoid making the same mistakes again, and then do what you need to do to heal.

6. Adopt a new paradigm

Now that you see the factors that have caused you to behave in such a way, and now that you know what you need to do to RESOLVE this guilt and shame, remember this truth and read it to yourself over and over again until its engraved. 

People do things in any given moment from their current level of consciousness, including you.  People behave based on their past experiences and traumas, inner wounds and pains, current level of knowledge and wisdom, and how they were programmed and conditioned by society, parents, teachers, etc.  Above all, most of the programming that you were exposed to was based in a HIGHLY unconscious and ego based mindset and belief system, therefore, the reason that you made these mistakes is not because you’re a bad person, it’s because you weren’t conscious and aware (not a fault of your own-it’s a byproduct of living in this world). You were disconnected from your true self, attached to the false self or the ego, and you did what you did from that place. Or if you did what you did when you were young (such as bullying someone), understand that you were a child and you were projecting onto others the pain you felt inside based on your unmet childhood needs. Now that you recognize that, you can choose again each day to operate from love, kindness and awareness.

self-forgiveness quote

7. Let go of the old beliefs

The belief that you are a bad person, bad mom, undeserving of happiness, unworthy of good things, etc. is not true and no longer serves you. In order to forgive yourself, you have to let go of the negative beliefs you’ve created about yourself due to this thing that you did.

Say to yourself: What I did was wrong and unkind, but it doesn’t make me a bad person (or fill in with other limiting belief). I am truly sorry for the pain I caused _______ by ________, and I have reflected on my actions and learned from that experience. The belief that because of what I’ve done I’m (fill in limiting belief) is not true and it no longer serves me. I know that today, I am a good person, someone who is loving, caring, kind, helpful, and compassionate and I do my best each day to bring joy into people’s lives. While my actions were wrong, who I am as a person is not defined by those wrongdoings. I am a good person, I forgive myself for what I did, and I love and accept myself unconditionally.

In addition to repeating this statement, you should also embody the energy of love and forgiveness, as well as look for evidence in your daily life of how you have helped others, and how you are a good person to solidify the belief.

8. Forgive yourself

It’s now time to physically, emotionally, and energetically forgive yourself. It’s time to let go and heal from the guilt and shame.

To make it easier to do this step, I made you a self-forgiveness recording! All you have to do is listen to it everyday while truly feeling and believing the statements and affirmations, and visualizing how you would be if you fully forgave and accepted yourself. You should listen to the recording for at least 21 days or until you feel at peace with what you did.

Listen to the guided meditation and exercise below!

If you prefer to say the statement from the recording to yourself, here is the script:

“I am willing to forgive myself for the pain I’ve caused others.  I am ready to let go of the guilt and shame I hold within.  I forgive myself for making mistakes, getting angry, hurting others, hurting myself, and doing things that go against my values. I know that at the time that I made those mistakes, I was doing the best that I could and I forgive myself for that. I know that by forgiving myself, I make it easier to forgive others as well.  I love and accept myself unconditionally, no matter how imperfect I am.  I love myself and by loving myself, I make it so much easier to love others as well.  I’ve made peace with my past and with what I’ve done, and all I can do now is make amends, release the shame, and find peace within.  I completely and wholeheartedly forgive myself, and I love myself unconditionally.  Even though I caused pain to others, I know that I would never willingly and intentionally hurt anyone today.  If I unintentionally do hurt someone with my words or actions, I am sorry, and I forgive myself. I learn from my mistakes, I’m conscious of my behaviors, and I act in accordance with my highest self. I forgive myself in each moment so that I can be at peace, and from that place, I can spread peace to others.  I forgive myself.  I accept myself.  And I love myself unconditionally.”

Just a recap of how to forgive yourself:


Thank you for reading, I hope you enjoyed!

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