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Forgiving Ourselves

A while ago, I’m not sure why, maybe because I’m getting older, I found myself besieged by regrets from the long distant past and found myself wincing. The memories came thick and fast, in technicolour and I noticed I was starting to feel miserable – trapped in a regretful, punitive relationship with myself.

When I noticed what I was doing, I felt sad. With the 20 -20 hindsight of a woman in her 70’s, I was judging the younger me very harshly. So I took a few weeks to write down all my regrets. My commitment then, was from a deeply compassionate and loving heartspace, to forgive myself for all my past hurtful actions towards others and if possible to apologise and make amends for them. I was also committed to remembering the learnings from my mistakes and never castigate myself again. I then put all the regrets in a ‘cauldron’ and burnt them and scattered the ashes around my garden to help nourish the earth. This isn’t the end of them, but when they come into my consciousness, I recognise them for what they are and I don’t feed them any more.

Another way we can ‘rub the battery acid’ on ourselves is to hang onto negative images and beliefs about ourselves that we’ve picked up during our journey through life and which play out, often unconsciously, in profoundly painful ways. One of my favourite quotes is from Covey ‘It’s not the things we don’t know that cause the problems [we can usually find these out], it’s all the things we do know, that just ain’t true.’

I grew up with a very distorted image of myself, feeling I was fat, ugly and stupid – not an easy image at any time and especially as I was moving into adolescence. The fact that there was no evidence to support this belief about myself was inconsequential. Therefore I lived with a strong underlying feeling that I ‘was not enough.’ Enough for what, or for whom was unclear to me. Also unclear was how I would know when I had arrived at ‘enough.’

With a child’s logic, I made up these stories to make sense of my early experiences. The painful consequence for me was that for many years I continued to live these stories which limited what was possible for me in all areas of my life. As my sister, a poet and brilliant woman once wrote, ‘We were all born to be Moreton Bay Figtrees, and we’ve been bonsaid, to fit on dining room tables.’

At this stage of my life, I feel a great relief to have unconditionally forgiven myself for past hurts both to myself and others. I recognise ever more deeply that I was doing the best I knew how, with the resources I had at that time. I also take responsibility for learning and growing from my mistakes, rather than continuing to repeat them.

And I’m with Tara Brasch, when she says ‘there is something wonderfully bold and liberating about saying Yes to our entire, imperfect and messy life.’

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