Journey from Guilt to Self-Love
There is a story that weighs heavily on my heart and demands to be written, but NOT TODAY! I’m not ready. Instead, I will dance poetically around the “bush.” Tiptoeing my way to the core through short bursts of writing until I have the guts to share. Like any good story, it has everything to do with big mistakes, guilt and forgiveness.
Today, I start my journey to self-love through forgiveness. I assume that almost everyone has had a situation or two in their life where they have been wronged and struggled to let conflict go. We feel victimized, hurt and angry. All natural. But what happens when we are the person in the wrong?
I have been both the victim and wrongdoer in many a conflict throughout my life. The memories that stick with me the most tend to be when I am the villain. In my situation, the only person I need to forgive is myself. I have healed from all the drama caused by others, but my own shortcoming are harder to let go.
What Happens When You Carry Around Guilt for Years?
Guilt can have some long-lasting effects on the body. Guy Winch wrote a great article about the physical effects of guilt and why we should deal with this damage.
“Feeling guilt increases our subjective body weight” -Winch
His research lists a multitude of issues that arise from our guilt:
- feeling physically weighted down
- a loss of focus
- prevention of earned enjoyment
- inducing self-punishment
Carrying around each piece of guilt feels like piling stones in a backpack and trekking up the mountain of life. NOT EASY.
Winch’s article opened my eyes to the fact that guilt is a “psychological injury,” too. It requires healing but can hold us back from the very kind of activities and interactions that help up in the healing process.
“Feeling weighted down and perceiving physical tasks as being overly effortful might undermine our sense of initiative and make us even less likely to take the very kind of proactive and reparatory steps that could absolve us of our guilty consciences.” -Winch
Finding the Path Back to Self-Love
When you have no one else to blame but yourself, it is difficult to find the path back to self-love. Tony Fahkry wrote a moving Medium piece on forgiveness. He points out that the potential for self-growth flourishes in forgiveness.
“I saw the greater lesson of my experiences which was guiding me towards self-love.” -Fahkry
This resonated with me. The fact that our wrongdoings can be a lesson guiding us to a better outcome of acceptance and self-awareness of our need for love.
With all that said, this journey through guilt to self-love by forgiveness is not easy. It isn’t easy to forgive those that wronged you, it’s twice as hard to genuinely forgive and trust yourself again.
For me, guilt and self-love are natural enemies. How can you love yourself if you hate your actions?
Forgiveness, Not Excuses!
In my endeavors to understand my own mind, I have found that I cheat forgiveness. Pretending to let go of my past transgressions by making excuses for my actions. I justified my wrongdoings as reasonable or necessary, given the circumstances.
Knowing, deep down, that is not true forgiveness. These excuses are roadblocks to truly loving who I am and returning to happiness.
“We are human. I am human. Humans make mistakes.”
As comforting as this statement is, this is my biggest go-to excuse. Regardless of my human state, I chose to make mistakes driven emotionally by rage, loneliness or what some may call instinct. There is no excuse, I’ve done wrong.
Difficult though it may be, I am starting to take each stone of guilt out of my backpack. Looking at each mistake in the clear light of day. No excuses. Acknowledging what I have done, then letting it go. Forgiveness.
Once a stone is removed, there is a lot more room in my life to fill and focus on the things I love about myself and others. Guilt can be a selfish thing if it blocks us from the healing and helping of others.
Is there any small stone of guilt you can forgive today? Can you replace it with a positive glimmer of progress? Give yourself (your toughest critic) the day off and try on some self-love.