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How to Forgive Yourself and Stop Self-Blame

Stop self-blame and move forward.

By Flaivoloka on Freeimages
Source: By Flaivoloka on Freeimages

“We can never obtain peace in the outer world until we make peace with ourselves.”

—Dalai Lama

“Your past mistakes are meant to guide you, not define you.”


All of us make mistakes. When you look back at your past deeds, perhaps there were decisions or actions you regret. There may have been unfortunate errors in judgment. You may have caused harm to yourself and or others. You may have unwittingly “allowed” others to trespass against you.

As you recall these past events, there may be an accompanying sense of self-blame at the blunders made, damage done, or opportunities missed. You might think of yourself as a “bad” or “flawed” person and wallow in guilt. During these moments, it’s important to be compassionate with yourself, knowing that now that you’re more aware, you have a chance to avoid repeating past mistakes and to make a positive difference with yourself and others.

Here’s an exercise that may help you let go and move on:

  1. Think about a regrettable past event for which you still blame yourself.
  2. Consider the sentence completions below. In writing, relate the past event in question to any number of these sentences that may apply, and complete the statements. Elaborate constructively as needed:
  • ​​​​​​​“I did the best I could when I…”
  • “I made an honest mistake when I…”
  • “I had much to learn yet when I…”
  • “I didn’t know any better when I…”
  • “I learned some important lessons when I…”
  • “It wasn’t easy for me when I…”
  • “I am sorry about when…”

See Your Life as a Work in Progress

Instead of self-blame, see yourself (and your life in general) as a work in progress, and each difficult experience as an opportunity to learn, grow, and evolve. Without the trials and tribulations that are a part of every human experience, you would not be able to progressively realize your higher potential, signified by mindful self-acceptance, a meaningful life’s purpose, and the capacity to engage in truly healthy and loving relationships (with both yourself and others).

Acknowledge past regrets. Allow yourself time to grieve and heal if needed. Right any wrongs if possible (this may require moral courage, but can help you find resolution, closure, and peace). Process your experience with a counselor or therapist if necessary. Absorb the life lessons mindfully, and use them to make a positive difference with yourself and others—this is your wisdom in action. Do what it takes to help yourself let go and move on.

© 2018 by Preston C. Ni. All rights reserved worldwide. Copyright violation may subject the violator to legal prosecution.


Gendlin, E. Focusing. Bantam (1981)

Thich, N.H., The Path of Emancipation. Parallax Press. (2000)

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