Forgiving Yourself For The Past

Forgiving Yourself For The Past

There have been many moments when I’ve thought, why did I throw away so many years on yo-yo dieting and yo-yo exercise? On fat talk and the fallacy of thinness. On letting others’ opinions of me steer my self-esteem and my life. Why did I let the shame of not being skinny, of deep insecurities, affect how others treated me? In other words, why did I let people treat me like crap? And, just as important, why did I let myself do the same? Often I wonder, what the heck was I thinking? If only I could go back. Go back and change it all. Stand up for me when I should have. Practice self-compassion and self-love. Have fun with exercise. Eat without guilt.

Margarita Tartakovsky is an associate editor at PsychCentral.com, an award-winning mental health website, and the voice behind Weightless, a blog that helps women deal with body image issues and disordered eating. She also writes a monthly feature for Beliefnet.com, covering topics such as patience and procrastination.

Editor: Muhammad Talha

Realize who was a true friend and who wasn’t. Who had my heart in mind and who didn’t. And then I realize – after the important discovery that time-traveling isn’t an option – that many of us have been there. And if I’d tell a good friend to forgive herself for those murky, painful, embarrassing moments that I should say and do the same for myself. Yesterday, Sui, from the blog Cynosure, published an incredibly powerful and poignant post on forgiveness. In it, she wrote herself a letter entitled “I forgive you.” Her post will no doubt resonate with many readers, especially if you’ve felt the slimy, slithery fingers of regret.  (Note that some parts may be triggering.) Here’s an excerpt:

Dear Me,

I forgive you. I forgive myself.

I forgive myself for every time I might not have eaten healthily or done the best for my body. All the times during my eating disorder, and every time afterward. I forgive myself for having an eating disorder. For consuming nothing but water and then stuffing myself until I was sick. For the times in high school when I would eat five packets of microwaveable instant oatmeal, one after the other, at three in the morning. I forgive myself for blaming myself when I was sexually assaulted. I forgive myself for being there; I couldn’t have known. I forgive myself for liking boys with girlfriends, liking boys who didn’t deserve me, liking boys who stamped my heart.

I forgive myself for having sex with boys I didn’t really like. I forgive myself for using sex as my only way of communication because I didn’t know how to love others and I didn’t know what to do with my body. I forgive myself for lying and for not being true about my feelings to myself and others. I forgive myself for not being able to tell him how I felt for five years. I forgive myself for not being as honest and as open as I wanted to be. I forgive myself for not always knowing what is right for me. For not always doing what’s best for me, even when I know the right path. I forgive myself for being ignorant and silly and stupid sometimes. I forgive myself for making mistakes. I forgive myself for not making mistakes and being paralyzed with fear. I forgive myself for all the times I didn’t act when I knew it was better that I should.

I forgive myself for every time I gave into that voice, that voice of resistance, the lizard brain, fear. I forgive myself for every time I didn’t do something because of fear. I forgive myself for procrastinating and for not doing my work. I forgive myself for avoiding the true passions of my life for so long. I forgive myself for being blind and asleep. I forgive myself for blaming myself for so long. For blaming myself and not knowing why I felt so guilty, so shameful for just being alive. I forgive myself for not forgiving myself for certain things until now. I forgive myself for not letting go of certain things until now. And I forgive myself for all the things I forgot to forgive myself for. I forgive myself for forgetting sometimes. Forgetting to breathe. To relax. To love. To just be. I forgive myself for giving myself a hard time sometimes.

Hey, lovely…

I forgive you for everything.


When I try to sink to the bottom of the cave that is these moments, I realize that at the core is something, according to Brene Brown, in her book, The Gifts of Imperfection: Letting Go of Who We Think We Should Be and Embracing Who We Are, that all of us experience: shame. (Self-pity is definitely there, too.)

As Brown writes, “shame is basically the fear of being unloveable – it’s the total opposite of owning our story and feeling worthy.” More specifically, according to her research definition, shame is “the intensely painful feeling or experience of believing that we are flawed and therefore unworthy of love and belonging.”

Umm, yes, this sounds very familiar.

Forgiveness, I think, is also about owning our stories, and doing so with self-compassion (stay tuned for a post on this, too).

I have to remind myself that in those moments that I wish so badly to take back, I was doing the best I could with the information and awareness that I had then.

Now, I do know better. Now, I’ve grown. Now, I’m in a better place.

And, now, I try my best to forgive myself.

I hope you will, too.

What do you forgive yourself for? If you’d rather not share, consider writing a letter like Sui.

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