Saturday, January 14, 2012

Learning to Forgive Yourself

Day 14 of Your Year to Wellness
21,41,51--Still Loving, Still Forgiving Myself

Today’s subject is a big one, but I do believe that it’s time we all had that talk with ourselves. I had planned on writing about dinning out without pigging out, but I can deal with that tomorrow. We need to celebrate the fact that we are 14 days into a new year and a new beginning and on a journey of wellness. By now you know that wellness is not just about the body but is about the spirit (or psycho-social self,) the mind and the body. The condition of the body is a reflection of our mind and spirit. While genetics play a tremendous part, we should not be too quick to blame our parents. A genetic predisposition is often like a switch that we turn on with our behavior. Which truly takes me to the point; I can’t constantly blame my behavior on what my mother did or did not do. While her upbringing may have predisposed me to acting a certain way, I have to take responsibility for what I do now and I have to forgive myself for what I’ve failed to do.

Being able to forgive yourself is a major hurdle in becoming well. The better you are at believing in your own redemption, the quicker you will heal.

I’ll start with the easy stuff and move into the harder talk in a bit. This week was not my best eating week. I’ve eaten foods that I have not had in years---no popcorn though. I didn’t overindulge or gorge myself on anything, but I had foods which I know I can’t stomach and I didn’t even enjoy. The next day when the headaches and joint pains set in, I was tempted to add insult to injury by scolding myself for my behavior. Instead, I did something that I have often told others, I searched for the why in my pattern, forgave myself and determined to do better the next day. “This is not a race.” I said to myself. “You have the entire year.” The bigger issue was whether or not I learned from my misstep and I had. I learned that chocolate chip cookies still taste like chocolate chip cookies, and that I truly adore but don't need the consistency of a Twizzler.

I would have told anyone that the cookies (I had three) were not a big deal and that beating myself up about them was ridiculous. The harder we are on ourselves, the harder it is to get back on the journey. The old voices and name calling come back and you begin to imagine bulges that aren’t there and don’t really matter even if they are.

Food is just the beginning of the battle and I believe that it is analogous to other areas in our life. So now that bigger talk; we all have things in our past that we wish we could have done better, but as M.T. Anderson wrote in The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing: Traitor to The Nation Book II; “Hindsight is cheap.”

When you look back and fixate on that thing you didn’t do right or the one you did wrong, you are ignoring your good and the possibility of the present.

As a mother, I often worry about what I didn’t get right and what I’m doing wrong. I fixate on the words spoken in anger and how I've packed the burden of my past onto my children’s lives. But as I told my friend who works at the grocery store (I love that when I go in for protein bars, I get a hug) our job is to take what our parents gave us, learn from it and try to do better. Our parents didn't get everything right and neither will we. But each generation gets to learn from the past and make its own mistakes. Each generation gets to do better from the mistakes that happened before. Our children will have their faults with us and their children will have faults with them but we all get to evolve if we don't wallow for too long.

Life must evolve, but without forgiveness it cannot.

To forgive is to forgo the need for punishment or restitution; that is all. When we forgive ourselves, we are saying, I don’t need to punish myself and I don’t need repayment for what I’ve done to me. Someone once told me that they hated when people said “Just let it go.” She could not stand that someone was suggesting that she drop the matter and move on. She told me that she needed to wallow in her suffering so she didn’t repeat the behavior. I asked her how that was working and she lowered her head and said it was not.

Here’s what I’ve learned about forgiving myself.

·         I deserve forgiveness—We all do. Love yourself enough to know that you deserve to see life as new with a clean start.

·         Hold it up—Just as you would for anyone else, hold up your undesirable behavior to the good that you’ve done and weigh them. (My cookie, twizzler run could never beat my wellness run.)

·         Check your ego—when you believe that you need punishment, you are being egotistical and literally standing in judgment of yourself.

·         It’s much healthier to forgive—when you forgive you lighten your load; literally. By letting go of the junk from your past, you are dropping the mental baggage that weighs down on your spirit and impacts your physical body---LET IT GO. When you fail to forgive yourself, you will lash out at others and your pain will be everyone else's sorrow. So for the sake of those around you, forgive yourself.

·         Time really does heal all wounds—As simple as it sounds, it’s true. Think about the folks who you could not stand to be around but have now become good friends with. The passing of time enables us to forget the pain and move forward. When you are well, your recovery time is much quicker than it is for a person who is unbalanced. The better you become, the easier it will be to forgive yourself and move forward.

Learn from your past, but don’t allow it to rule over your present.

Be you, Be well, Be forgiven.

Bertice Berry, PhD.

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