I am the bearer of guilt.
Not just growing up guilt that we are all given as children, but the guilt I gave to myself. I don’t believe that self-guilt is primarily a woman’s affliction. Women are the loudest about their burdens. We like to talk about them, regret things, and ponder them out loud for discussion.
While men tend to clam up and silently carry around their guilt. However, through the years I’ve come to realize some things are just not worth dragging around with me.
Learning to let go of things that are in the past is one of the hardest lessons I’ve ever had to learn. And honestly, I still struggle with accepting when it is time to forgive and forget.
I find forgiving myself even tougher.
1. Forgive yourself for some of the parenting mistakes you made along the way.
As they say, babies don’t come with handbooks. So you hope that you can rely on the parenting skills passed down from your childhood. But that’s tough too.
Because as a child, almost everyone I have ever talked to have a list of things that they swore they would never say or do as a parent, that at one point they have done.
But there have been moments in raising my children that I have found myself sitting behind the closed door of my room wishing I could have taken back that moment that went wrong.
Now that my children are all grown, I realized that yes, there were mistakes made. But, I am the one who carried around the guilt and weight of those mistakes far longer than they did. And at some point, I needed to forgive myself for them.
For me, it meant saying to my children “I am really sorry that I didn’t have better control of my emotions when…” or “Do you remember that time when… I am sorry I didn’t handle that better.”
Surprisingly, all of my kids have told me they understood, and they love me even in spite of what happened, some of them even forgot altogether.
The reality was that I needed to forgive myself for being human and making mistakes.
2. Let go of having the perfect body.
The truth is, we are human beings with real lives, real bodies, and trying to force your body into looking like a Barbie or Ken doll isn’t fair to the wonderful person you are.
Work hard to be healthy. Treat yourself like you would want your daughter to be treated.
You would never stand your son or daughter up in front of a dressing room mirror and point out their chubby bits, poke at their underarm fat, or tell them that they would be prettier if they hadn’t eaten that piece of birthday cake.
So why is it acceptable to do it to ourselves?
Be kind to your wounded body image. It’s taken enough punches from the media world trying to tell it what it should look like; it doesn’t need you tearing at it too.
I had to forgive myself for having the body of a 42-year-old mother of 5 when my teenage daughter called me out for my harmful body shaming of myself when I took her shopping one day.
I didn’t see that I was teaching her to doubt her own beautiful body when I would say that I was too old, too short, too bouncy, or too FAT for the things I saw in the mall shop windows.
Instead of trying to be a mannequin, it was time to forgive myself for spending more time on the floor playing with my kids, more time snuggling with my husband and enjoying us as a couple, and less time dragging myself away from everyone to go to the gym that I actually hated going to.
I learned to just be happy in clothes that fit, that makes me look good, and let forgive my body.
3. Let people go that made you cry.
Sometimes people aren’t meant to be there for a lifetime. We all have someone we had to let go, they hurt us over and over, but we hold on to that guilt and sadness of walking away.
Maybe it was a parent, a sibling, or a friend, but sometimes the relationship is just not working, and it dies and becomes toxic to everyone around us.
We don’t have to hold on to that relationship. No matter who that person is, if they make you feel bad about yourself or hurt those you love, they have to go.
Bye, Bye Felecia!
Don’t keep going back to a painful relationship.
Let it go. Move on. Allow yourself to be happy knowing you did something powerful for your wellbeing. Going back out of guilt or shaming by others isn’t allowing that wound to heal.
Merely say “This isn’t working out, I don’t want to keep pretending. I don’t think we should be friends anymore.” And then forgive yourself for moving on.
4. Forgive yourself for making your own road and not living up to what others thought you should have been.
I could have been a Marine biologist; I liked sea animals.
I could have been more successful in my careers and made more money.
I could have been a better daughter and sister.
There are a lot of things I could have done differently, maybe even better. But I had to make the choices in my life that were right for me. Even though I sometimes wonder if my Gram, my great-grandmother who raised me, would have been proud of the woman I became.
I see where I strayed from the things she and I talked about when I was a child. Following my dreams was always where she would point me, little did I know that my goals would change through the years.
I didn’t become someone famous, wealthy, or change the world. I became a wife, mother, and writer. And that’s okay. We all have to let go of trying to live our lives how others think we should have lived. I’ll never make matzoh ball soup, as well as my Mother in Law would have like me to. I make it my way, different… vegetarian. But just as filled with history and love as I feel that it should be. Don’t carry the weight of someone else’s dreams on your shoulders.
5. Lastly, forgive yourself for tending to your soul.
As adults, we are expected to work hard, keep a clean home, sometimes raise children, have healthy relationships, take care of our bodies, contribute to the world, etc. We spend hours and hours every day trying to keep up, get ahead, be more efficient, and yet rarely dedicate time to slowing down and tending to our emotional needs. Today I say, forgive yourself for drawing a relaxing bath and soaking in the bubbles with a few candles and much-needed alone time. Let go of the schedule and go outside to put your toes in the grass. We all need to find a way to reset and balance our lives without feeling guilty that we haven’t finished the laundry, skipped a soccer practice to have ice cream and just talk to your kids, or took a much-needed nap on the couch. It’s okay; I’ll forgive you… but will you?