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6 Things to Forgive Yourself for Right Now

If you’ve been hard on yourself for any of the all-too-human ‘mistakes’ on this list, it’s time to let judgment and regret go.

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Keisha Okafor
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It’s crazy. If a friend offends us, what do we do? Get ticked off and grumble. Then, eventually, accept their apology and forgive them. Yet when we transgress against ourselves, letting bygones be bygones is way tougher. We chastise ourselves, soak in guilt and hold a grudge.

Among the reasons self-forgiveness can be so hard is “trauma related to navigating this country as a Black woman,” says Jasmine Reed, Psy.D., a psychologist and owner and CEO of Ubuntu Psychological Services in Corona, California. Society cuts us so little slack, we tend to follow suit. “We have to do more just to get on the playing field that’s not [level].” With that and our desire to reach our potential, we sometimes overlook being compassionate toward ourselves, she says.

Although it can be difficult, forgiveness — even of oneself can help improve heart health and reduce stress, anxiety and depression. Nurture your well-being by making peace with yourself about the following.

Staying in a relationship longer than you should have

Andrea,* 40, has trouble forgiving herself for dating choices. “There were times I was ready to go but stayed because of the kids or not wanting to be alone,” she says. She regrets not following her intuition. “I struggle to forgive myself because I put myself in the situation, so the hurt I’m feeling and pain I’ve been through is really my fault.”

Dr. Reed says the path to self-forgiveness for relationship choices is to be kind to yourself and view them as learning experiences. She asks, “What did you learn? Do you see things you could’ve done differently? What areas did you ignore to continue the relationship even though it wasn’t good for you?”

Andrea worked with a therapist and vows that, with future relationships, “I’m not second-guessing myself. Any red flags that I see, I’m gone.”

The road not taken

Dr. Reed passed on an opportunity to start a business fresh out of school. If you’ve got a similar regret about a decision-making crossroads, let it go. In hindsight, Dr. Reed realizes she hadn’t been emotionally ready. “I’m a strong believer in what’s for me is for me,” she says. Likewise, an opportunity may not have been right for you at the time. That said, don’t let fear hold you back from living your best life.

Not taking better care of yourself

When Vanessa* was younger, she could eat whatever she wanted and maintain a whittled waist. As the years went by, she knew she needed to exercise and eat better. But while she pumped up the beans, greens and whole grains, she couldn’t shake her fondness for cookies and premium ice cream. Now, in her mid-50s, overweight and prediabetic, she wishes she’d made more effort.

It’s easy to think about not-so-good health decisions. Apologize to yourself. Then focus on the positive. “You still have time,” Dr. Reed says. You can make lifestyle changes to have a healthier future.

Mistakes you made as a parent

This is my butt kicker. Parenting is one of my writing specialties. So, you’d think I had it all figured out. However, now that my son is an older teen, I worry that my husband and I were too lenient in some areas and too strict in others.

Listen (and I’m talking to myself, too). Perfect parents don’t exist. Recognize that you were likely doing the best you could with what you had at the time, says Dr. Reed. If a particular mistake bugs you, apologize. Admit Mama messed up. Then, do better (regardless of whether your children are young or adults).

Putting yourself first

Sometimes I feel bad when I do my nails or camp out in the bathroom to be alone. Why? That’s time I could’ve been tending to my husband, kid, dogs, house, work, whatever. Andrea says she’s even felt guilty for buying herself underwear because, as a single parent, she could’ve used the money toward something for her kids.

Dr. Reed’s advice? Ditch the guilt ASAP. “Whether [as] a mother, sister, spouse or in your work environment, it’s difficult to be a good anything if you don’t take care of yourself,” she says. Take a break. Set boundaries. Make self-care a priority.

Not being Superwoman

As Black women striving for excellence, we often feel we must do it all and meet unnaturally high standards. Be great! But don’t kill yourself trying to reach perfection. It’s not happening.

As Dr. Reed points out, no one gets through life without making mistakes. When you do, learn and grow from these experiences. And forgive yourself. You deserve it, sis.

*Name changed.