Six Steps to Forgiving Yourself: Learning to Move Forward

This Article Was Published On 09-08-2019

There’s no quick solution to forgiving yourself. At times, it can seem much easier to persecute yourself for days on end instead of adopting the realisation that forgiving yourself will make your life much easier. Even now that mental health is moving further into the public perspective, forgiveness, resilience and the way we apply these skills to our own selves is a process we all need to go through and develop. There are plenty of things we can do to support our clients with adopting forgiveness. So why is forgiving yourself so vital in recovery and how can we begin building these skills? 


six steps to forgiving yourself: learning to move forward

Why is forgiving yourself and others important? 

Forgiving yourself is a skill that needs developing because poor choices are a daily occurrence in active addiction, and very evident in early recovery. Using tools like this to assess these poor choices begins the process of moving forward. Without this skill, clients, like a parched locomotive, will eventually run out of steam, and with it,  run out of self-esteem and so run out of the self-belief that they are worthy of their recoveries.

Sometimes, all anyone needs to keep going is an understanding that they are human and that forgiving yourself is okay. Forgiving yourself is also vital for helping us to move forward after a lapse, an aggressive outburst or an error of judgement. We tend to focus on many tools in the race for recovery, but sometimes the most simple are overlooked. Forgiveness is a very simple, but very effective tool, but forgiving yourself is built on a range of underlying skills, all of which are crucial to recovery, and which can sometimes be tricky to overcome. 


How can we help nurture this process? 

As practitioners, we encourage acceptance, we nurture growth and promote realistic expectations. Despite building these skills, we can be vulnerable to failing to recognise that clients will not employ those tools unless they have first developed the skill of forgiving themselves. This could be because of the more traditional connotations that forgiving yourself has. Forgiveness holds such religious connotations in our largely non-secular society that it can be a challenge to separate forgiving yourself as a valued process, and recognise how central to recovery it can be. Alternatively, forgiving a poor choice can sometimes be easily conflated with excusing the behaviour, rather than working through your poor choices. Teaching clients that forgiving yourself is not making a behaviour acceptable, but instead simply accepting that it took place, helps them realise the importance of reflecting, learning and moving on. 

There are more bumps in recovery and the process of forgiving yourself than there are potholes in the country lanes of our counties. Mistakes and errors are a normal aspect of recovery. Rather than viewing mistakes as a pitfall, forgiving yourself the problems you come up against leads you to many more opportunities that you can learn from, and grow further as a result of. 

So next time your client is stuck and needs a nudge, tell them to give the superhero act a day off, remind them that they are human, mistakes are part of life and that the more mistakes you make, the more it shows that you are trying. It may be the quick answer they need to move forwards. 

Six steps to forgiving yourself: learning to move forward

What are the six best steps for forgiving yourself? 

1: Recognise that forgiveness is a choice and the alternative is choosing to persecute yourself

2: Accept that you are human and will make mistakes as part of moving forward. 

3: View mistakes as part of learning.

4: Choose to learn and grow instead of persecuting yourself.

5: Practise self-reflection by identifying what you intended to do and how well you accomplished your intentions. 

6: Then learn by identifying one thing you will do differently tomorrow instead.


Forgiving yourself is a tough skill to master and yet it is necessary to moving forward in all aspects of recovery. If you’d like to learn more about the processes aiding recovery, please feel free to get in touch.