We all have things in our past that make us cringe—things we wish we could take back or erase completely. I’m talking about those big mistakes that feel too awful to forgive. The ones that make you feel like a terrible person who doesn’t deserve forgiveness. I’ve been there myself more times than I can count.

But here’s the deal: beating yourself up forever helps no one. The past is done, but your future doesn’t have to be defined by those mistakes. In this article, I’ll walk you through my personal step-by-step process for learning self-forgiveness, even for the unforgivable. With time and commitment, you can get to a place of self-compassion and be at peace.

Defining the Unforgivable: What Makes Something Seem Unforgivable?

For me, something feels unforgivable when I believe it crosses a moral line and causes irreparable damage. The hurt feels so deep that I don’t think I can ever move past it. But the truth is, the unforgivable is subjective and defined by our own perspectives and experiences.

What I consider an unforgivable act may not seem that way to someone else. We all have different moral codes and limits. Some offenses, like abuse, betrayal or cruelty, can seem particularly egregious and unforgivable to many of us. But at the end of the day, whether or not I can forgive depends on how I choose to view the situation and whether I’m willing to find compassion.

The unforgivable often feels that way because it taps into my deepest wounds and insecurities. It validates my worst fears and makes me feel unloved or not good enough. But these feelings stem from my own perceptions, not the act itself. The offense becomes a symbol for all the hurt I’ve experienced, and I project that onto the person who wronged me. They become the embodiment of all that pain.

To move past the unforgivable, I have to gain awareness of how my own experiences and biases influence my view of the offense. I need to consider the other person’s humanity and motivations, not just their actions. I also must accept that I cannot control others or prevent them from hurting. Pain is an inevitable part of life and relationships. Forgiveness is about letting go of resentment and anger, not excusing the act. It’s a gift I give myself so I can find inner peace.

Though the unforgivable seems impossible to move on from, I have the power to change my perspective. I can choose to view the offense with more compassion and less judgment. This allows the pain to soften and forgiveness to emerge in my own time. The unforgivable is only unforgivable if I believe it to be so. In truth, with conscious effort, I can learn to forgive the unforgivable.

How to Forgive Yourself for Something Unforgivable

Feeling like you’ve done something terrible can be crushing, but self-forgiveness is an option even when it seems impossible. Here’s how to begin:

1. Define What You Did That Feels Unforgivable

Define What You Did That Feels Unforgivable
Define What You Did That Feels Unforgivable

The first step is to identify exactly what you did that you’re finding hard to forgive yourself for. For me, it was lashing out in anger at a loved one. In the heat of the moment, I said some very hurtful things! instantly regretted but couldn’t take back.

My words cut like knives and tore open old wounds. Even though I apologized profusely afterward, my actions left deep scars. I knew my behavior was inexcusable, no matter what led up to that point. The guilt and shame I felt in that moment threaten to consume me still. But I’m working to change that.  

Acknowledge the pain you caused. It’s critical to face what you did and truly understand the harm it caused. I replayed that night over and over in my mind, seeing the hurt in their eyes and hearing the pain in their voice. I had to stop making excuses for my actions and fully own up to the damage I inflicted with my reckless rage.

Taking responsibility for your mistakes is never easy but it’s necessary for forgiveness. Make a genuine effort to comprehend how your actions impacted others. Don’t diminish or justify what happened. The truth may be hard to accept but running from it will only make you feel worse in the long run. Forgiveness starts with accountability.

Commit to positive change. While you can’t change the past, you can determine how it shapes your future. I vowed to get counseling to better manage my anger issues and strengthen my communication skills. Making a commitment to grow from your mistakes shows your sincerity and desire to do better. It’s how you start rebuilding trust in yourself and your relationships. Forgive yourself by proving you’ve become. someone worthy of forgiveness. Let your actions speak for you.

2. Understand Why You Did It

We all make mistakes, but some feel unforgivable. The truth is, there’s usually a reason why we did what we did, even if we can’t see it.   Looking Deeper

For me, it helped to reflect on what led up to my mistake and what I was feeling at the time. I realized i was under a lot of stress and not thinking clearly. That doesn’t excuse what I did, but it helped me understand how I ended up in that situation.   Ask Yourself Key Questions

Ask yourself things like: What emotional state was lin? What pressures was I facing? How could I have handled things differently? Was there another perspective I failed to see? These kinds of questions helped me gain insight into my own actions and motivations.

Talk to someone you trust. Speaking to someone who knows and cares about you can provide a different perspective. A friend pointed out that I tend to be too hard on myself and set unrealistic expectations. Hearing this from someone else helped me realize I needed to be kinder to myself. Their support and forgiveness also encouraged me to find forgiveness within.

Look for the lesson. Every mistake, no matter how terrible, contains a lesson. Look for what you can learn and how you can grow from your experience. For me, I learned that I need to better manage stress and be more attentive to my emotional state. I also learned to appreciate how much my actions affect others. Focusing on these lessons helped me feel like I was making progress, even in my darkest moments. Forgiving yourself is a process. Be patient and remember why you deserve forgiveness. Learn from your mistakes and work to become a better person. In time, you’ll find inner peace.

3. Accept Responsibility Without Self-Judgment

Accept Responsibility Without Self-Judgment
Accept Responsibility Without Self-Judgment

Accepting responsibility for your actions is an important first step, but it’s easier said than done. I know I had a hard time taking ownership of my mistakes without also attacking myself in the process. The key is to acknowledge your role in what happened without making negative judgments about yourself.

Take an honest look at your actions. Look at the situation objectively and identify specifically what you did-or didn’t do that contributed to the outcome. Don’t make excuses or blame others. Just focus on your part. This is about gaining awareness, not punishment.

Forgive yourself for being human. You made a mistake. So what? We all mess up sometimes. Forgive yourself for not being perfect. Your worth isn’t defined by any single action. Let go of unrealistic expectations you have for yourself.

Commit to doing better next time. The only thing you can control is what you do now and in the future. Pledge to learn from your mistakes and handle similar situations differently going forward. Be specific about what you’ll improve and how. This gives you a constructive path to follow, rather than remaining stuck in the past.

Be kind to yourself through the process. Speak to yourself with compassion and encouragement, not harsh self-criticism. You deserve to be happy and at peace. Forgiving yourself is challenging work; support yourself with patience, understanding and self-care. Over time, the negative feelings will fade, and you’ll be able to remember the situation with grace and wisdom instead of guilt and regret.

Forgiving yourself for the unforgivable takes conscious effort and practice. But with time and nurturing self-compassion, you can move on from your mistakes and reclaim your joy. You’ve got this!

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4. Apologize and Make Amends

When I’ve done something unforgivable, the first step towards forgiving myself is to apologize. Apologizing helps me take responsibility for my actions and begin making things right. I find the courage to say, “I’m sorry to anyone I’ve hurt, whether in person, over the phone, or in a heartfelt letter.

Acknowledge the Harm In my apology, I acknowledge the specific harm I caused. I don’t make excuses or blame others. I speak from the heart, without reservation. Admitting my mistakes openly and honestly is difficult, but it’s necessary for forgiveness.

Make Amends If Possible. If there’s any way I can make right what I did wrong, I do it. Whether it’s repairing something I broke or committing to change hurtful behaviors, taking action helps alleviate feelings of guilt. Making amends, no matter how small, is an important step in forgiving myself.

Accept that I’m Human. Unforgivable acts often happen when we lose our way and make poor choices. The key is accepting that I’m an imperfect human, prone to messing up. Holding myself to an unrealistic standard of perfection only breeds more self-loathing when I inevitably stumble. I have to embrace both the light and dark within me.

Finally, I forgive myself. I say the words “I forgive you” to myself sincerely and without judgement. Forgiveness is a gift I give myself to release feelings of shame and regret over what I did. Though the memory may remain, self-forgiveness allows me to make peace with my mistake and move forward. The path to forgiving myself isn’t easy, but it’s one I must walk to find inner peace. Apologizing, making amends, accepting my humanity and ultimately forgiving myself are the stepping stones that help me cross the river of guilt and shame. On the other side, there is a place of compassion and grace.

5. Practice Self-Compassion and Self-Forgiveness

Practice Self-Compassion and Self-Forgiveness
Practice Self-Compassion and Self-Forgiveness

Forgiving myself for something unforgivable has been one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do. But I’ve learned that self-compassion and self-forgiveness are so important. Be gentle with yourself; you’re only human, and humans make mistakes.

Speak to yourself with kindness. Try talking to yourself the way you would talk to someone you care about. Say things like “I know you were doing the best you could at the time” or “Everyone screws up sometimes.” Give yourself encouragement and comfort.

Acknowledge the pain but avoid judgment.Recognize that what happened was painful, but try not to judge yourself harshly for it. Say “that was such a hard time” rather than “I was so stupid.” Be compassionate and focus on the suffering, not the perceived character flaws.

Learn from your mistakes and work to do better. An important part of forgiveness is growth. Look for the lessons in what happened and commit to using them to become a better person. But don’t dwell on the past; look toward building a better future. Taking action to remedy the situation, if possible, can also help facilitate self-forgiveness.

Be patient and give yourself time. Forgiving yourself is a journey. Don’t expect to wake up one day and have forgiven yourself completely. Check in on yourself regularly and see if you’re making progress. Celebrate small wins along the way. With time and effort, self-forgiveness can happen.

Learning to forgive myself for something unforgivable was a challenging process, but by showing myself compassion, avoiding judgment, learning from my mistakes, and being patient with myself along the way, I was eventually able to find forgiveness. The same approach can work for you too. Be kind to yourself; you deserve it.

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6. Be Patient With Yourself in the Process

Forgiving yourself will take time. Don’t expect to wake up one day and feel completely at peace with what happened. I know I struggled with being patient in my own journey to self-forgiveness. I wanted that weight lifted from my shoulders immediately. But healing is a process that can’t be rushed.

Accept that there will be good days and bad days.Some days I felt optimistic and could see how far I’d come. Other days, the pain and guilt came flooding back as intensely as ever. The key is not to get discouraged on those hard days. Feel the emotions, but then continue moving forward. Progress, not perfection.

Practice self-compassion. Talk to yourself with kindness and empathy. Say things like, “I know you’re trying your best.” Give yourself the same level of compassion you’d show a friend. I found it helpful to think of my experience as something that happened to me rather than something I did. This allowed me to comfort myself instead of criticize myself.

Stay focused on the present.It’s easy to get lost in the past, replaying the events that led to your unforgivable act. But the past cannot be changed. The present moment is all we have, so make the choice in each moment to forgive yourself. When feelings of guilt or regret start creeping in, bring your focus back to the present. Take some deep breaths and do something kind for yourself, like going outside for a walk.

Celebrate small wins. Each step towards self-forgiveness, no matter how small, deserves to be acknowledged. Maybe you had a good cry, or you were able to think about the event without anger for the first time. Reward yourself for these milestones to stay motivated for continued progress. Forgiving yourself is a radical act of self-love. You deserve to celebrate that.

Overall, be gentle with yourself through this process. Slip-ups and setbacks will happen. What matters most is that you pick yourself back up and continue on the path to healing. Forgiveness will come, one day at a time.

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7. Learn and Grow from Your Mistakes

Learn and Grow from Your Mistakes
Learn and Grow from Your Mistakes

We all make mistakes in life, and often we’re our own harshest critics. Forgiving yourself for something unforgivable is hard, but it’s so important. I’ve found that the only way I can truly move on from my mistakes is by using them as an opportunity to grow.

When I’ve really messed up, I try to reflect on what exactly went wrong. Why did I make that choice? What was I feeling in that moment? Understanding the underlying reasons for my mistake helps me have compassion for myself. I’m only human, after all.

Then, I think about what I can do differently next time to avoid making the same error. Are there any new habits I can build or perspectives I can adopt? Even small changes can help me feel more confident that history won’t repeat itself.

Another thing that has helped me is talking to others who have been in similar situations. Hearing from people who have made comparable mistakes and come from the other side can make the process feel less isolating. I’ve found support groups online and connected with mentors who share their stories of failure and redemption.

Finally, I work to reframe how I view my mistake. Rather than labeling myself as a “failure” or “bad person,” I try to see my error as a single moment in time that doesn’t define who I am. I am so much more than any one choice or action. When the negative self-talk starts, I remind myself of my best qualities and the many things I have to offer.

Forgiving yourself is a journey, not a destination. Be gentle with yourself, learn from your mistakes, and know that you have the power to grow past even your biggest regrets. Every day is a chance to start fresh and be the person you want to be. You’ve got this!

8. Move Forward With Purpose and Meaning

Now that you’ve forgiven yourself, it’s time to move forward with intention. I had to figure out how to channel my energy into something positive so I didn’t dwell on the past. Here are a few steps I took:

I started by doing some soul-searching to determine what really mattered to me, which gave me a sense of purpose. For me, it was helping others who had been in a similar situation. I began volunteering my time for a local charity and found that it filled me with meaning and joy. Helping others in need allowed me to shift my perspective and focus outward instead of inward.

I also committed to self-care and nurturing my physical and mental health. Exercise, meditation, and journaling became priorities as they boosted my confidence and mood. Engaging in acts of self-care releases feel-good hormones that combat negative feelings of guilt or shame. Make sure to schedule in time each day dedicated solely to yourself.

Another important step was setting small, achievable goals and acknowledging my progress. Don’t aim for major life changes right away. Start with small milestones to build momentum and a sense of progress. Celebrate each accomplishment, no matter how small. For me, it was going back to work or reconnecting with old friends. Take pride in your progress; you deserve it!

The path forward won’t always be easy, but stay determined and patient with yourself. Forgiving yourself is a journey, not a destination. Know that you have the strength and ability to create a meaningful life beyond your mistakes or regrets. Keep your head high—you’ve got this! Focus on self-improvement and being the best person you can be from now on. The past is behind you, so start each day fresh with purpose and meaning.

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The Dangers of Holding Onto Guilt and Shame

When we engage in behavior that goes against our moral code, it’s natural to feel guilt and shame. These emotions can motivate us to change and make amends. However, holding onto guilt and shame long-term can be damaging.

Some dangers of holding onto guilt and shame:

  • It prevents forgiveness for oneself and others. When we’re mired in guilt and shame, we’re unable to see our role in what happened with compassion. We judge ourselves harshly and find it hard to forgive. This also makes it difficult to forgive others who were involved.
  •  It leads to mental health issues. Constant guilt and shame can cause depression, anxiety, low self-esteem and social withdrawal. The negative self-talk becomes relentless.
  • it saps motivation and joy. Feeling unworthy due to past actions makes it hard to find meaning and purpose going forward. Life starts to feel devoid of pleasure.
  • It strains relationships. The negative emotions spill over into our interactions with others, causing relationship conflict and distance.
  •  It prevents learning and growth. When we’re stuck in guilt and shame, we’re unable to reflect clearly on our role in what happened. This hinders our ability to learn from mistakes and make changes.

The healthier approach is to acknowledge our mistakes, make amends where possible, and then find a way to forgive ourselves. We are imperfect humans who will continue to make mistakes. The key is to learn from them and keep moving forward. Over time, as we engage in more positive behaviors, the guilt and shame will fade into the background.

Rebuilding Your Self-Worth After Wrongdoing

When we make mistakes, our self-worth often takes a hit. To rebuild your self-worth after wrongdoing:

  1. Focus on positive qualities and strengths. Remind yourself of the good qualities you possess and the positive impact you have on others. Think of times when you helped or supported someone.
  2. Engage in self-compassion. Practice treating yourself with the same kindness and understanding you would show a loved one in your situation. Say affirming things to build yourself up.
  3. Take small steps forward. Set realistic goals for positive change and personal growth. Achieving them, no matter how small, will boost your confidence and self-worth.
  4. Do good for others. Helping those in need through acts of kindness and service can remind you of your humanity and innate goodness, lifting your spirits.
  5. Reflect on the bigger picture. Put what happened into the larger context of your whole life. Mistakes are just one small part. Your value extends far beyond any single action.
  6. Focus on the present. Guilt over the past only weighs you down. Center yourself in the here and now, where you can make different choices. The future is still unwritten.

With time and effort, you can rebuild your self-worth after wrongdoing. Forgive yourself, learn from your mistakes, and keep moving forward.

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Final Thought

Every person makes mistakes, and at times we may make choices that harm others. But that does not define who you are as a whole. Forgive yourself by focusing on growth, not guilt. Learn from your mistakes and resolve to make wiser choices going forward. You have the power to shape the rest of your story in a positive way. Redemption does not depend on others; it begins within yourself. Commit to the journey of self-forgiveness; it’s the first step toward rebuilding your self-worth and moving on from the past.


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