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"Why Can't I Forgive Myself For My Mistakes?

By Dr. Margaret Paul
July 29, 2013

Do you judge yourself for the past? Discover why and what to do about it.

Brianna wrote to me, asking:

"I am having a difficult time forgiving myself of past mistakes and it feels like it haunts me every morning and I get bogged down in swirling thoughts which only holds me back from focusing on what I need to do. I know this is my responsibility, but I am truly struggling with focusing on the things I'm grateful for, my strengths, the good things I have done, etc. I didn't even know any better than to make the choices that I made and I can't seem to forgive myself and let it go, even though I know I only did the best that I could and wouldn't even judge anybody else for those mistakes (I stayed in a relationship too long and now I'm really hurting...I would have let this man go long before if I knew now what I have subsequently read about men and relationships but I kept on trying to make it work for two years and I still feel terrible that I couldn't figure out how to make him love me....and I know that I need to learn how to love me better before anyone else could ever love me)."

Brianna, the questions to ask yourself are, "What am I trying to control by judging myself for my past choices?" and "What am I trying to avoid feeling right now by judging myself for the past?"

Focusing on past mistakes and judging yourself for them is an addictive process that your ego wounded self has learned to do to avoid present feelings and to attempt to have control over not making the same mistake again. However, judging yourself doesn't lead to any new learning – it just keeps you stuck.

What do you need to learn from the choices you made? There are good reasons you made those choices – your fears and beliefs – and this is what needs exploring.

The telling statement here is "I still feel terrible that I couldn't figure out how to make him love me." This indicates that you are operating from a major false belief that says, "I can control whether or not someone loves me. If I do it right, then I can make him love me."

While you might be able to sometimes have control over a person's actions, you never have control over another's feelings. Whether or not someone loves you actually has nothing to do with you! I know this might be hard to understand, but we each love according to our own heart and our own intent, and no one else determines this. In fact, trying to get someone to love you can often have the opposite effect. Most people hate to be controlled, so when they experience the other person trying control their love, they may go into resistance and shut down their feelings.

If you weren't judging yourself for the past, what would you be feeling right now? Lonely? Heartbroken? Helpless over your ex-partner? These are all hard feelings to feel, and the ruminating about the past is a way to avoid feeling these core painful feelings.

I suggest you lovingly and compassionately embrace these painful feelings and allow them to move through you. When you judge yourself rather than feel your feelings, you keep them stuck in your body.

Our ego wounded self loves to avoid the present by focusing on the past or the future. Yet it is only by being present that we can feel and lovingly manage and learn from our feelings.

Brianna, there is much for you to learn about your false beliefs about control. This is what will allow you to let go and move forward in your life.

Join Dr. Margaret Paul for her new 30-Day at-home Course: "Love Yourself: An Inner Bonding Experience to Heal Anxiety, Depression, Shame, Addictions and Relationships."


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