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Forgiving Yourself


'I wish I had' is a phrase I've heard many times. Don't we all wish we had known better at specific points? If we did, things would have turned out differently, and well, you get the idea.


Once you've moved through any trying event, struggle, or new situation, you've done it and gained knowledge and experience. Afterward, it's easy to engage our hindsight and critique our past performance to identify how we might have done something differently. In the moment, however, things are not always easy. Looking back at times when I feel like I should have known better, I recognize that I didn't always have the wisdom to understand better. Being human comes with many beautiful moments; it's also laced with mistakes. The time for forgiving yourself for not knowing what you didn't know is now.


Without that realization, we carry guilt or shame with us as a ball and chain of anxiety that can affect all our relationships, including our relationship with ourselves. Facing those heavy feelings and dialoguing with ourselves acknowledges that something happened and gives us that space to forgive ourselves. After all, if we can't forgive our fumbles, we will likely find it even more challenging to forgive others when they make mistakes.


No one is fault-free, yet as caregivers, we carry an extra measure of that guilt. We are responsible for the well-being of another human, and when things go awry, the burden of a perceived mistake can weigh heavily upon us, even years after the fact.


So how do we move past the "I wish I had?"

To begin with, practice a different way of thinking. Focus on what you've done right vs. what's been done wrong. Learn from your mistakes, but sometimes things are out of your control. Don't put the burden of being right and going through your days without errors. I understand that there might be a fear of repeating mistakes. But remember, each mistake is a learning opportunity. It's not about never making a mistake again; it's about growing and learning from each one.


An exemplary process for this is:


  • Accept your mistakes.

  • Be gentle with yourself.

  • If apologies are necessary, make them as soon as possible so you can clear the air.

  • Ask yourself if other options were available – could you choose a different response method next time?

  • Let it go. (That last one is paramount!)


Only with forgiveness can we keep putting one foot in front of the other with steady steps and a healthy pace.



Cyndi Mariner

Breathing Spaces

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