July 1, 2023
Self-Forgiveness
Here at Life Design, we love to talk about the light and airy subjects of expansion and inspiration and what motivates us. What lights us up and what gets us feeling really good in our bodies. That said, it is really important that we stop every once in a while and look at the more difficult emotions, such as shame or guilt or jealousy or anger. You know, the ones that make us feel a little itchy and scratchy inside. The ones that kind of stir us up in some type of way. 

Here at Life Design, we love to talk about the light and airy subjects of expansion and inspiration and what motivates us. What lights us up and what gets us feeling really good in our bodies. That said, it is really important that we stop every once in a while and look at the more difficult emotions, such as shame or guilt or jealousy or anger. You know, the ones that make us feel a little itchy and scratchy inside. The ones that kind of stir us up in some type of way. 

It's my belief that it's those emotions that uncover our strengths, tools, and resources. This inner gold mine for us to be able to move forward and expand with more alignment, more integrity, more grit, and more capability. If we don't look at those really difficult emotions, if we don't look at those itchy scratchy parts of ourselves and those experiences that we might be pretending to forget, trying to forget, or actually, just running under our subconscious; we can let those emotions inform how we show up in our lives, how we respond to others, how we relate to others, how we connect or don't connect, how we relate to ourselves, and our level of confidence or lack of confidence. But if we turn towards them, and look at them with honesty, compassion, and kindness, there is so much that we can gain. 

It's like scar tissue. There's a wound that's there and until you tend to it, it's just going to stay open. There's even a quote that says if you don’t heal the wound, you'll bleed all over everyone. We don't want to do that. We want to build scar tissue, which is actually the strongest type of tissue in the body.

If you never heal from what hurt you, you’ll bleed on people who didn’t cut you. - Anonymous

So today, with all of that in mind, we are talking about self-forgiveness. Not talking about forgiving others, although self-forgiveness can help us to cultivate the tools to be able to forgive others, but we're really talking about when we've done something and it's time for us to look at our own actions, acknowledge what we did wrong to ourselves or to others, and find a little bit of that release, relief, and forgiveness. 

A lot of times we think about forgiveness as this big, light, airy, expansive kind of emotion. And it can be. Stepping into that healing, or the accomplishment of healing, is kind of like the end result of the healing journey, but it's important to remember that forgiveness only arises as a practice and a process because of something that has been damaged. 

Forgiveness is not just “oh, I've forgiven you. Everything is alright. We can move forward with much more ease and clarity and love.” There is also the experience of forgiveness, of being able to reconcile what has been harmed. To acknowledge what was done wrong, to apologize and make amends, take action, and apply compassion. 

I want to share a personal experience that I've had to reconcile over the last several years as a form of inspiration for you to perhaps acknowledge where you might be harboring a little bit of shame or guilt, or, maybe, there is a space in you that needs a bit of that salve of the forgiveness process. 

Several years ago, I was approached by a woman to partner with her to open a yoga studio in Ridgewood, Queens. At the time I was 28 years old, and I was thrilled. It had been a dream of mine to open a yoga studio, but I never thought that it would be possible in the New York area. I went into the experience with big, big eyes and with so much enthusiasm, because this dream of mine was being made manifest. I was not just excited to create a community that was going to be so full of heart and healing, but I also was excited to be a leader – to be in the driver seat of something that could make that kind of impact and be the person that made it all happen. 

Lost in the excitement, I found myself in a business partnership that was really, really unhealthy. It was completely unbalanced. My business partner ended up being a bully and I did not have the tools or resources at the time to stand up for myself or stand up to her. I also struggled to acknowledge what was happening to me, how I was being bullied, and how I was being hurt, because I was just so excited about this dream that I was building. So, I overlooked a lot of my body signals and needs, and in the process, I ended up getting a lot smaller. I just didn't have the strength to stay whole. 

At the same time, I found myself in a romantic relationship with somebody who was very much like my business partner. It was a very manipulative relationship and both people put me in a position where I felt like I was being controlled, or they were holding power over me. Even after I left both relationships, many people close to me told me it was like I had been body snatched. It was like a Russian doll experience where I was still inside, but I was very, very, very small. Meanwhile, this other person was operating my body making these choices. It was me, but it was also not me. And if you've been through this kind of experience, you'll know what I mean. It's like your consciousness and your gut and your intuition are there and they're screaming at you, but they're screaming from really far away or into an echo chamber where they can’t be heard. And that was me. 

During that time I made a lot of choices and decisions that did not align with my integrity and who I know myself to be. As hard as I was fighting for myself on a certain level, I was also betraying myself over and over by staying in these relationships and contracts that I had made, literally and figuratively. 

Looking back, I can see the ways that I betrayed myself and other people at the time. Some relationships were able to be mended, but a lot were permanently damaged. I've lost a lot of relationships, which is obviously not something that I feel good about in any way. 

Additionally, I lost a lot of trust in myself and my ability to listen to my own instinct, my own gut, and my inner knowing. In that sense, I really lost a lot of my ability to know that I'll make decisions that are not harmful to myself and to others. But in the process of acknowledging this experience, I've been able to gain a new level of strength – of understanding when and how and why I'm being put in a position where I might be compromised, and how I can act to not let that happen again.

I would not have that awareness if I was not able to look back on the experience of opening that business or being with that person. To be able to also see the whole picture. That's the first step. 

1. Apply context

Acknowledging the whole picture and putting it all into context is key. There are many reasons why we do the things that we do, and it can be really easy to isolate a single decision, action, or even a single sentence that we’ve communicated. When we put it in the context of the larger situation, we can recognize that there is a whole story-line happening here that we are contributing to and being shifted by. Not to relieve ourselves of responsibility, but to understand that there was a reason and there was a flow. There was a sequence of events that led us to doing what we did, and that, in itself, can be relieving. We can recognize where we didn't have the tools, the knowledge, or the awareness to make a better decision. 

I think a lot of us walk around feeling like we should have known better. Or we should have done it differently, but really, that's unnecessary. We didn't have the tools or the lived experience to inform us to do otherwise. So that's step one. A little bit of context can go so far. 

2. Apologize

The next step is to apologize. Apologize to the people that you've harmed if this is a relational experience or is something that has happened with other people. It is so powerful to acknowledge to them that you were wrong – that you did something hurtful to them and to humble yourself in that way. This provides the space for reconciliation, and reconciliation is the beginning of knitting together the scar tissue. It's the bonding. 

If you think about it this way, if anyone has ever harmed you and they come and apologize, isn't there a weight lifted off you when you recognize that they know that they did something wrong? And it's powerful for you as the receiver of the apology. It's a heart-to-heart exchange when it's done with heart, right? There are lots of times people give empty apologies, but I'm talking about a real, honest, sincere apology. 

But then, I'm also talking about apologizing to yourself, because our first relationship is with ourselves. If we've done something to betray our own integrity, sense of self, and who we know ourselves to be, that's damaging as well. That can feel like a really, really personal betrayal. 

What is also so powerful about the apologizing process is that words have weight. Words are vibration. We're all made-up of vibration, and when we speak the apology out loud, whether it's to ourselves or to the other person, there is a cathartic experience of that vibration moving through us. There is resonance that is felt in our own bodies and felt in the bodies around us. And there is a relief, a healing that comes from that expression. It's also kind of like journaling. Sometimes when we start to express, things can come out that we didn't even realize were there. Thoughts and beliefs can come out. Being able to hear them and put them in a concrete space where we can acknowledge their existence, makes it much more manageable to work with than the ephemeral experience of guilt, shame, or pain that we're holding in our bodies. 

3. Take action

The next step is taking action. One way to take action to not do what it was you did before. So, from my personal example, I will 100% listen to when my gut is saying, “Don't trust this person. You are being bullied. Stand up for yourself. Stand up for your own heart, your own integrity. This is not who you are.” I will listen to myself. That is 100% what I am choosing to do differently moving forward from my experience. 

You can also take action around what was not done, or what you can do differently moving forward. What are the actual, tangible things that you can do to not have this happen again? It can be so simple. It could be not using a specific word, being conscious of someone's sensitivities, or simply bringing more awareness to a situation. There are so many subtle things that you can do depending on your experience to shift how you approach these types of situations in the future. 

4. Apply compassion

The last step is applying compassion. This is the allowance of relief. We don't have to continue beating ourselves up. We don't have to continue going through the guilt and shame spiral of ‘I should have done it better,’ ‘I should have known better,’ ‘I should have done it this way,’ ‘Gosh, why am I so stupid?’ Whatever those harmful phrases that we say to ourselves are, they can be relieved with a little bit of compassion towards ourselves. Knowing that we all make mistakes. 

I just listened to Mike D. from the Beastie Boys being interviewed by Dan Harris on the 10% Happier Podcast. He talked about how failure was the reason he had his whole life experience as a successful musician. We are 100% our strengths, the ways we show up with integrity, and in alignment and with our highest selves being radiated out into the world. But we are also 100% how we handle our mistakes, how we acknowledge where we have faltered, how we let our ‘failures’ realign. 

Coming back to the metaphor of the scar tissue, by mending that wound, we create something that is so much stronger than what was formerly there. There is more mindfulness that we bring into our actions because of those experiences. There is even more integrity. There is even more alignment. There is even more strength because we know we don't want to venture down that path anymore. We don't want to be that person, or say that thing, or do that thing because we know it hurts people. And we're not that person. 

Compassion is that final step to achieving that lightness, that relief, that ‘OK now we can move forward knowing better, doing better, and knowing there is love, there's heart, there's connection here.’ Compassion is the acknowledgement that there was a wound in our hearts, and we have mended it. We don't have to walk around with that gaping wound because it doesn't serve anybody. We are all wounded warriors, but we don't have to, for lack of a better metaphor, go on bleeding on everybody else. 

Reflection

  • I'd love for you to take a little time this month to think about ways you might not be acknowledging a little bit of guilt, regret, shame, or anger, and how you can forgive yourself using these steps of context, apologizing, taking action, and applying compassion in order to relieve yourself of that difficult weight. Weight that, perhaps, is unconsciously, or even consciously, informing a lot of your decisions. How can you create a little more space? This can be through actual action, by journaling how that might look, or how that might feel. 
  • If that's too much - if it already feels like the forgiveness process is too far out for you - just think about what it might feel like to forgive yourself. What would it feel like if you were unburdened with this weight? Not to excuse whatever it was that you did or didn't do, but to give yourself a little bit of hope, a little bit of that spaciousness again. It is amazing how just acknowledging the possibility of forgiveness can start to open the armor that we might have so tightly wound around our hearts. It can be the first step to break open a little bit of light and circulation so that there can be some more breath, more openness, and more curiosity. 
  • The other thing I would like for you to do is envision what it would look like if we all did this work. If this wasn't just an individual practice, but if the people in your life that you know are harboring that weight took the steps to forgive themselves. What would it look like for them to do that? How would it look in your interactions? How would they show up in their lives without that pressure? Without that baggage? What would it look like if we all did this work together?

_____

You know, just some light reading for your July. I hope that you found this journal to be helpful and to be cathartic. If there was any inspiration, insights, or any thoughts that you had about this theme, please reach out to us. I love to have conversations around these experiences, so if you have more that you would like to share please shoot us an e-mail or hit us up on the socials. We would love to hear from you. 

Thank you so much for reading, and wishing you all a beautiful July full of lightness, ease, relief, and a lot of space for healing in little and big ways. Catch you next time.

Relationships - Navigating Conflict

Work/Life Balance

Self Discovery