Friday, December 30, 2011

Self-Forgiveness Is Key to a Strong Self-Image

When someone else inflicts physical or emotional pain on you, you may react in a variety of ways: anger, lashing out, silence, or withdrawal. If you’re not careful, a deep-seated resentment can take hold. And when that happens, your relationship suffers a potentially devastating blow.

The secret to moving past the pain is forgiveness, recognizing that the other person is fallible and deserves to have another chance.

Unfortunately, we often don’t treat ourselves with the same compassion when we make mistakes or fall short of who we want to be. If you’re not careful, you can hold a lifetime grudge against yourself that keeps you from achieving your potential.

It’s not always easy to detect when you’re doing this, but here’s one thing you can start doing now: Monitor your thoughts and self-talk.

Ever watch a football game on TV and get tired of them re-running the same play while the officials are reviewing the call? They show the play from different angles, and the announcers declare what the officials should decide before the final judgment is announced. Sometimes I want to shout, “Enough already!”

Actually, that’s a pretty good phrase to use on yourself if you find that you’re mentally replaying a scene from your own life ad nauseam.

Let’s say you’ve said something hurtful to someone you care about, and you wish you could take the words back…

Or you didn’t stand up for yourself when another person criticized you in front of others…

Or you wanted to make a positive impression on an individual or a group but didn’t come across the way you wanted to.

The list could go on, because it’s easy to identify situations where you didn’t perform the way you wanted to.

You could expend a lot of time and energy thinking about what happened and berating yourself for not living up to your personal ideal standards. But doing that only serves to damage your self-image, and you don’t learn anything from the experience.

So what’s the alternative?

Each time you find yourself rehashing an event from your past, ask yourself these Five Magic Questions and write down your answers. This brief activity will help you reflect on what happen, take away the lessons and move on.

1.  What happened? Describe the sequence of events.

2.  Why did it happen that way? Identify what contributed to the outcome.

3.  What were the consequences? Describe the impact of the event.

4.  How would you handle a similar situation in the future? What lessons can you take away that you can apply if this happens again?

5.  What will you do NOW? What is your next step?

We call these “magic” questions because they can transform YOU and the way you see yourself. Maybe your next step is to make amends to another person, or maybe it’s simply to let go and forgive yourself regarding this incident.

Because the simple truth is, you can’t change the past. It’s DONE. What you can change are your thoughts and behavior going forward.

If you stay stuck because you feel bad about things you cannot change, you’ll miss out on the present moments that are unfolding before your eyes. And you won’t even see the opportunities on the road in front of you because your mind and eyes are focused on the rearview mirror.

Take to heart this wisdom from Maxwell Maltz in The New Psycho-Cybernetics:
“You cannot see your future with optimistic eyes if you cannot view your present and past with kind eyes.”  


  1. We make so many mistakes in the regular course of living that we'd be in terrible shape if we failed to forgive ourselves! But for many the pattern of self-blame is ingrained from childhood, when we made even more mistakes! Your advice is great...learn from the mistakes instead.

  2. Meredith:
    Keep up the good work. The year is long. You do good things. Keep it up - Wayne

  3. Denny, you make a very important point about self-blame starting as a pattern at a young age. We have to consciously break the cycle when we got older.

    Wayne, thanks for your positive feedback and encouragement!

  4. This is very enlightening. Thanks for sharing this.

  5. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  6. I appreciate your positive feedback, Joshua. Thank you!


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.