What is the first thing you do when you realize you’ve made a mistake or let yourself down?

Maybe you said you would be somewhere for someone, and then forgot. Or, you want to lose weight, but you couldn’t resist that piece of chocolate cake before bed. Or maybe, you’re trying to reconcile a relationship, but the last time you got together you said something you regretted.

We’ve all been there.

If you’re like most of us, you spend the next few minutes (or more) criticizing what you did wrong, telling yourself how bad you are, how you should have acted differently, feeling guilty and punishing yourself one way or another.

What is the impact on your self-esteem when you react this way?

Somehow we believe if we punish ourselves, it will make us a better person. Like beating yourself up will get you to do a better job the next time. But does that really work? Never.

In fact, when you spend your life feeling guilty, ashamed or humiliated inside, you are actually creating more circumstances to prove you are right. It actually lowers your self-esteem, so you feel less lovable.

When you feel less lovable, you push love away. If you want more nurturing and love in your life, you must nurture and love yourself.

What if, instead, it was your child or your puppy that had made the mistake? For example, if your daughter gave an incorrect answer aloud in school and the other kids laughed at her. When she walks in the door that afternoon, still in tears, are you going to tell her how stupid she was? Would you say, “Aren’t you ever going to get it together? You’ll never make friends that way!” Of course not … You would encourage her to believe in herself and try again!

So, why do we reach for the critical parent when it comes to our own learning? Where does that nurturing parent go when we need her for ourselves? Why do we save her for others, yet believe we deserve to be punished and shamed?

When you nurture yourself, you love yourself. When you love yourself, you have more love to give the world. When you give love into the world, the world loves you back.

The next time you make a “mistake” or discover you’ve done something you regret, try this:

* Recognize your immediate response and stop. This can be in the form of a thought, an emotion, a word or an action.

* Acknowledge the impact this is having on you. How do you feel?

* Make a choice – Instead of reaching for your inner critical parent and putting your self down, reach for that nurturing parent within and talk to yourself like you would talk to someone you care about.

* Forgive yourself. Instead of slapping your forehead and asking, “What was I thinking?” breathe and ask yourself the kinder question, “What am I learning?”

To make lasting change, you will have to “stay awake.” Beating yourself up and feeling guilty has probably become a habit. Just noticing is the powerful first step to change.

As you recognize, acknowledge, and forgive yourself, you begin to change yourself.  As you change, the world around you reflects that change. Your world becomes a softer, friendlier, more forgiving and loving place.

Forgive and nurture yourself today. It’s a powerful step to finding more love in your life.

Have you mastered the art of self-forgiveness?  If yes, how have you managed to do this?  Please share your thoughts here.

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