FORGIVING YOURSELF IS THE HARDEST PART
If you were able to catch episodes #126 and #127 of Happiness Abound The Podcast this week, you know that I spent some time this week trying to overcome my fear of meeting new people. While my fear is not 100% extinguished, I do feel better prepared to meet new people and focus on how to approach uncomfortable (for me) situations. That said, I've gleaned one more thing from the experiences I've had this week that I believe has brought my little experiment full circle.
Can you forgive yourself?
When you say something that maybe wasn't perfect or came out sounding harsher than you may have intended, can you forgive yourself? If you stumbled over a sentence or made a mistake in the facts, can you forgive yourself? I found that as I faced my fear of other people, I'd look back and start to rate and criticize my performance. In some cases, I'd do it right after I stopped talking!
"Did I talk too much about Disneyland and take over the conversation?"
"I said we mentioned testing a project one way but wasn't sure if we could do it... now, do they think I don't know what I'm talking about?"
"I interrupted that person, I shouldn't have done that."
And while I think we all judge ourselves (I hope I'm not alone!), I discovered that I'd harp on it in my own mind for a long time. It was like I couldn't forgive myself for not being perfect.
Everyone is human.
As you know, one of the core ways to overcome my fear was to remember that everyone is human and not perfect– to remember that everyone is trying to do their best. But I wasn't remembering it for myself! I would ruminate on what I said, analyze how I said it, and worry about how it may have come across. No wonder I was afraid of people! If I couldn't learn to forgive myself for any "mistakes" I made, how could I expect other people to?!?
But here's what I've come to think. I don't know if other people analyze me the way I think they do but I do believe that they probably aren't. They probably are reviewing what they said and going through the same critical cycle of themselves. But either way, I doubt they are judging me as harshly as I'm judging myself. After all, it's human nature to look more critically at ourselves than others.
Forgiving the flaws.
But here's the trick, if I can forgive myself for my minor flaws, I find I also don't care so much what I think others might think. And when I'm not wrapped up in worrying what they think, I am less afraid of them. So how do you go about forgiving yourself for your mistakes? By asking yourself these questions:
- Did I do my best with what I knew at the time?
- Is what I said actually detrimental to what I'm trying to accomplish?
If the answer is no to the first question, then you need to decide to do your best and move forward with that attitude. Forgive yourself for not trying as hard, and focus there instead of on what you said. If the answer was yes, then understand that you couldn't have done better and beating yourself up won't help.
If the answer to the second question is no, then you can give yourself permission to let it go because it wasn't critical to your success, hopes, or dreams. If the answer was yes, reach out to whoever you were speaking with and discuss what was said. Then forgive yourself, ask the other person for forgiveness, and adjust for next time.
The hardest part.
While this experiment started out as an exploration in facing my fears, I have found that the hardest, and maybe most important part, is learning to forgive yourself for any perceived mistakes you may make in the process of talking to other people and frankly the adventure of life. But a good first step is to logically ask yourself if you did your best and if it is detrimental. Then you can take the next steps to fixing the situation and forgiving yourself. And if the situation doesn't need to be fixed, then you save yourself a lot of internal pain and guilt over nothing.