We all do things we end up regretting. Sometimes right away after a moment of madness, sometimes in the future after we’ve had time to reflect.
A lot of people struggle to let go of the past. They dwell on what happened, and can’t move forward without feeling bad about it.
If you’ve hurt someone you care about, or done some damage that haunts you, you’re not going to feel at peace until you let go and move on.
There is nothing wrong with moving forward and letting go, it’s certainly better than holding on to the regret and not living your life to the fullest. We all make mistakes, it’s a part of life and learning.
There are a few different ways you can truly let go and find forgives, not just in yourself but with the other person or persons involved. By going about these in a sensible and careful manner, you can make things right with yourself.
Here are 5 steps to letting go of the past
Face up to What Happened
Before you can forgive yourself and really mean it, you need to face up to what happened. This means revisiting the incident in your head. Even writing down on paper what you remember from it.
Look at the whole incident from a fresh and unbiased perspective, ask yourself how you acted and why you acted the way you did. You will be surprised how differently you see the incident after some time has passed.
Don’t blame the incident on external forces that were out of everyone’s control, take responsibility for your involvement. You will feel vulnerable when doing this, but that ok. These are the steps you need to take.
I have been involved in situations where people emotions and anger took other, resulting in things being said that both parties didn’t mean. On reflection it’s easy to see how it happened, and that it never would have happened with a timeout and cooler heads.
Ask for Forgiveness
After you evaluated the situation you are likely in a situation where being forgiven will lift a heavy weight off your shoulders. Asking for forgiveness is extremely difficult, and a reason why a lot of people never do it.
But it is the most important part of being able to move on and stop all of those negative emotions. You will truly be set free if you seek genuine, real forgiveness. You can only do this when everyone is ready, and should always do it in person.
Each individual situation will need to be handled appropriately, and carefully. Remember that the other person may still be more hurt than you are, so approach with caution. Take full responsibility too, avoid blaming anyone or making up excuses.
Explain why you want forgiveness, what you have learned from the whole experience and how it has changed the way you think about certain things.
Learn to Forgive Yourself
Sometimes we struggle to forgive ourselves, even when we have been forgiven by the others involved.
Carrying this guilt can harm many aspects of your life. It’s easier said than done, but you absolutely have to find peace within yourself. There are many ways to do this, but without taking action it will never happen.
It’s a gradual process too, don’t expect results overnight. Every time you have a negative thought take a deep breath, try and clear your mind and do something you enjoy. Take your mind off whatever it is by doing something else.
Don’t Hide Away
The easiest thing to do when you’re feeling guilt or shame is to hide away. But this will compound all your problems, and can lead to more mental anguish. Normal life needs to resume, otherwise you will lose the closeness of friends and family.
The support from loved ones is an important part of the healing process, don’t push them away. If you face up to your fears and face everyone, more often than not it’s not as bad as you thought it would be.
You can’t change the fact that what’s happened has happened. But you can change the way you and everyone else deals with what’s happening now, and in the future. So be strong, dust yourself off and show up as you normally would.
Learn from Your Experiences
This is really important. Mistakes are learning experiences, and although painful they add to the person you are. A person who has made a dozen mistakes and learnt from them, is wiser than person who has made none.
I have learnt and grown from many incidents in my own life. There have been some pivotal incidents that changed the way I think and live my life. When I look back now I can see how I have grown as a person, and how I will no longer make the same mistakes.
Remember, mistakes will happen, we are only human. But making the choice to learn from them makes us the individuals that we are.
The whole topic of letting go of past mistakes is not an easy one to deal with, but by following these steps to letting go of the past you should be able to move forward.
This is why many people carry a burden with them, sometimes for the rest of their lives. Maybe this is you, or someone you know. If you’ve seen it first-hand you will know how damaging it can be.
If you are ready for forgiveness, you are ready to be forgiven. If you are ready to be forgiven, you are ready to let go and be free of the guilt.
Start working though these steps if you have something weighing heavy on your mind and heart. Make right what happened, and resolve what happened in the past.
Phil lives in England, UK, and has around 20 years experience as a professional life, career and executive coach. He started this blog to help others find and define their own self development journey. Blogging about a wide range of topics to help facilitate a better future.