How to (Start to) Forgive Yourself for Small Mistakes

Photo by Richard Smith

Forgiveness has been on my mind this fall. It’s so much easier for me to forgive someone else for making a dumb mistake than it is to forgive myself.


There’s no possible way for me to control the decisions other people make. I can ask them to do (or not to do) something but ultimately it’s up to them whether or not they want to listen to me.

I can control what I do, though. In the past I’ve been pretty hard on myself over what ultimately turned out to be small bumps in the road. These things never should have stressed me out as much as they did. I don’t want to sound like I have this all figured out – there are still days when I expect much more from myself than I would anyone else. But I am learning to relax a little.

Here are a few questions that help you figure out if it really matters:

1) How would you react if a friend or family member did this? Usually my response would be a warm hug and something like, “it’s really going to be ok. Everyone makes mistakes.”

2) Will it matter in six months? And will you even remember it then? Most of the time there’s a world of no in both of these questions.

3) Is there anything you could (realistically) do to avoid similar events in the future? The answer to this one varies. Sometimes certain mistakes can be reduced or eliminated in the future by double-checking your work. At other times, though, short of developing superhuman abilities there’s nothing a reasonable person could have done to avoid whatever it was that happened.



Do you have trouble forgiving yourself? Is there anything you’ve learned that helps one feel less guilty for small mistakes?


Filed under Uncategorised

4 Responses to How to (Start to) Forgive Yourself for Small Mistakes

  1. This really struck a chord with me because I also am much harder on myself than I am on anyone else.  Somehow I seem to think that I should know better, do better, be better even though I wouldn’t expect that of anyone else.  I like your three questions–I think they are spot on and I will try to remember them when I start beating myself up over something I did or didn’t do.  My therapist also says that it is impossible to show true compassion towards others until you show it to yourself.  I think she is right.  Great post!

  2. teresa s

    So this really makes me think! I tend to think I’m much harder on others than myself?! What does that say about me? I don’t care about ‘me’ enough? I don’t love myself enough? Not sure, really. Then again, maybe the fact that I don’t hold myself responsible for some things IS actually a form of forgiveness. I  do think that sometimes I’m just one big mess! LOL

    It’s very true that a family member is  given slack quicker than someone outside the family, simply because you will be coming in contact with that person on a more consistent basis. It’s always easiser to have unforgiveness when you won’t see that person face to face. Makes me think that ‘love’ has something to do with forgiveness…because the people I really have love for are easier for me to forgive…hmmmm

    • ” I  do think that sometimes I’m just one big mess! LOL”

      I have those days, too!

      I hadn’t thought about the connection between love and forgiveness. Maybe love (and the positive memories/emotions that usually go along with it) greases the wheels of life, so to speak, and makes it easier to overlook big and small offences? What do you think?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *