As yoga practitioners, we spend our lives striving to be better to others--thoughtful partners, loving parents, loyal friends--yet we often neglect to apply the same kindness to ourselves. We love others unconditionally and work at forgiving even grave mistakes, but we beat ourselves up over the smallest errors.
We over-analyze the things we say and do, replaying our perceived mistakes over and over in our minds, but when a friend says or does something thoughtless, we shrug it off (maybe after a bit of annoyance, but we eventually let it go).
Why can’t we apply that same thinking to our own mistakes? Why can it be so difficult to be kind and forgiving to ourselves?
Whatever the reason may be, the key to changing that critical inner dialogue is focusing on treating ourselves with the same compassion we bestow upon our loved ones, and trying our best to live in the present moment and stop obsessing about past mistakes. Easier said than done, so below are four concrete ways we can begin to practice self-forgiveness.
1. Allow yourself to accept forgiveness.
We all make mistakes, and none of us are perfect. If we can believe and remember those two truths, our mishaps hopefully won't seem so horrifying.
2. Live in the present moment.
Our mistakes are in the past; we cannot change them. Instead of wasting energy worrying about what already happened, let's instead focus on diverting our energy to the present moment and avoiding making the same errors in judgment.
3. Earn some karma.
If you are unable to let go of a past mistake, despite asking for and receiving forgiveness, try paying it forward by spreading positive energy. Whatever perceived wrong is causing you guilt, you will surely feel better after performing kind, selfless acts.
4. Treat yourself with kindness.
The next time the crazy monkeys in your mind start their nonsense, take a step back and think how you would feel if someone was saying those things to your child/partner/friend. Then try practicing ahimsa--letting go--and focusing your energies on something positive instead. If we allow our minds to be focused on positive instead of negative, we will in turn internalize and project that same productive energy.
Our mistakes do not define us--nor do they define our loved ones. Forgive yourself just as you would forgive another person in the same situation. Allow yourself to acknowledge your blunder, vow to not repeat it, and then move on. Let that sh*t go.