How to Forgive Yourself for Past Mistakes

You can learn how to forgive yourself for past mistakes, even if you don’t feel you deserve forgiveness yet.  It will take patience and repetition, but self-forgiveness is worth it.  It is tied into our self-esteem, mood, outlook, and how you live your life.  You can learn how to forgive yourself for past mistakes and create a new future.

“Wait, CAN I forgive myself?  Should I?”  

Well, let’s see if you can or should learn to how to forgive yourself before you actually learn how to forgive yourself.  All you need to do is answer these three questions:

–Can you accept that because you are human, you make mistakes? (Everyone of us has mistakes and/or regrets in our pasts.)

–Can you remember anything you learned from any of your mistakes? (You know what follows a mis-take, right?  A re-take!  Learn from it and take another shot!)

–Can you accept that it is impossible for you to be perfect?  Because you are not superhuman?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, then YES. You should forgive yourself and you CAN forgive yourself!

“How?  HOW can I forgive myself?”

It’s simple, but not easy, and it often comes down to how you talk to yourself.  Take steps toward forgiving yourself with these two sentences:

I forgive my toddler self for not growing up to be perfect.

I forgive myself for not knowing what I didn’t know before I knew it.

You can choose to work with both self-forgiveness statements together, or to go through the steps with only one at a time.  It’s simple, but it’s not easy.

Immerse yourself in these self-forgiveness statements.

Read them. Write them. Say them. Think them. Put them on sticky notes on your bathroom mirror, on your car dash, on your pillow. It doesn’t matter if you believe them yet.  Just get used to the shape of the words on the page, in your fingers, on your tongue, in your thoughts.  Once they feel more familiar and less alien, take it to the next step. Which is to…

 Remember your much younger self.  Picture what you looked like, what interested you, the quirks you had.  Now go back even further in time and imagine what you were like as a toddler.  Hold that image of toddler-you in your mind and feel how much easier it is to feel compassion and understanding and forgiveness for this younger more innocent you.  Think, then say these self-forgiveness statements toward your past self, while feeling all the good towards your little self you can muster.  Then do it some more.

If you have photographs of your younger self, spend time looking at them, remembering how young you were and how little you knew.  Or how young you are and how little you know. Ah, we humans. Slow growers we are.  (If you don’t have photos and need to skip this step, it’s okay.)  Do this every day until it’s easier.

Then, look in the mirror and make eye contact with yourself.  This can be intense, so it’s okay to go slow.  Think the words while making eye contact.  Think the words like an inner mantra.  It’s okay not to believe them yet.  Keep doing this until it is easier.

Then open your mouth and speak them to your reflection.  Look right into your own eyes and say to yourself:

I forgive my toddler self for not growing up to be perfect.

I forgive myself for not knowing what I didn’t know before I knew it.

This may feel anticlimactic, or it may be incredibly powerful.  You may shrug and roll your eyes, or you may burst into tears.  You may laugh or you may feel numb.  There is no right or wrong way to react. Say these self-forgiveness statements to yourself every day until they come more easily.  You are rewiring your brain and you will start to feel them and believe them.  Some of the time.  Then most of the time.  Keep doing it.  It gets easier.  You will quiet the guilt and shame and self-loathing—they may get rowdy again from time to time, but now you have the skills to soothe them again.

It’s important not to rush this process.  It’s okay to spend days or weeks on each step, and once you master the final step, you will need to reinforce it from time to time.  Like practicing an instrument, or yoga, or juggling, you must continue to practice to keep your skills sharp.  And like any other practice, it’s hardest at the beginning.  Keep going, and you’ll find it comes much easier.

“Lather, rinse, repeat. Lather, rinse, repeat.”

You can learn how to forgive yourself for past mistakes.  For hurting someone, lying, cheating, making a mistake, being hard on yourself, and more.  If you find that you want forgiveness for not being a good enough human, then it would be helpful to work on changing your inner voice. Remind yourself that none of us come with user manuals and we are all just winging it through this life.  You are just as worthy to be here as anyone else.  We all make mistakes.  You deserve to forgive yourself for your past mistakes, learn from them, and keep living your best life.

Read on: Self-Care Activities – Take Good Care of Yourself

Have you found ways that have help you let go of past regrets and become more forgiving of yourself?  Please share your thoughts in the comments.

11 Replies to “How to Forgive Yourself for Past Mistakes”

  1. I highly agree with you that it’s not possible to be perfect and we ALL make mistakes, even the ones you THINK are “perfect”.

    And Wow, that sticky note trick is a great idea, why didn’t I think of this earlier. If we all stuck to implementing something like this, we can always improve ourselves and grow as a person. But only those who wish to be a better version of themselves will try it and reap the rewards and benefits that you will gain from doing it.

    Thanks a lot!


    1. Brandon, I’m so glad you connected with this. We are all works in progress, and I bet every one of us could find a way to make use of sticky note therapy. 😉

      Thanks for reading and commenting!

  2. What a great way to forgive self. Once the toddler is out of the way then the adult can make some adult decisions. I the sticky notes quite often, to remind myself of affirmations. This is another one I can add to the list and I know how freeing it can be when forgiveness work is done. Great article thank you.

  3. Great post.

    It is hard to forgive others if we can’t forgive ourselves. Love your sticky note idea! Its great. I also use meditation to centre myself and give myself space to forgive without my mind racing all over the place.

    Keep up the great work. Love your website,

    Best wishes,


  4. Great Post and very important for self improvement! No one is perfect but sometimes we tend to forget this and have high expectation for others or set high expectations for ourselves. Not thinking that in the process you may have hurt some ones feelings.
    Most of the times we don’t always mature with our age but with life experiences. You can have a 31 year old man or woman behaving like an immature 18 year old on relationship level. The sticky notes idea is definitely great. I would go a step further and at it to a goals board so its visible to me everyday

  5. I forgive my toddler self for not growing to be perfect. thais great. Never thought of it that way. there is obviously truth to the whole ‘inner child’ thing that we should all work on. I got into the self growth niche as far as a website just recently but been working on myself for a while plus I have a 3 yr old in my house that I am trying to make sure doesn’t have to go through what we are dealing with now. which is tough.

    Anyways, I find your site to be very refreshing and a new look on self therapy and I plan to study your site further as I am always looking for a fresher POV. Thank you for sharing. I see that you just joined and I wish you the best. I hope to see you around more. I also hoped you enjoyed my site.


    1. Aww, thanks so much for the kind words! A useful phrase to use with little ones is a reassuring “That happens sometimes” when they make mistakes or accidents happen, teaching them early not to be too hard on themselves. Three-year-olds are learning so fast!

      Thanks for being here, Brent. Namaste. 🙂

  6. That is another great article! It is very important to understand that we are humans and we make mistakes! No one is perfect and we have to accept that in order to move on! Of course, we have to understand that we are responsible for our actions and that we have to pay the price if we want to change something bad about our behavior! Good job! Thanks for sharing that! 🙂
    Best wishes,

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.