How To Forgive Yourself

My eyes were opened recently to many of the ways in which I create my own suffering, including†how Iíve created this separation story that left me feeling lonely and disconnected for much of my life. Now that the blinders are off, I find myself driving on Highway 1 or hiking in the coastal hills or among the redwoods, with my mind drifting back to ways Iíve inadvertently hurt people, and through that unintentional hurting, how Iíve hurt myself.

Looking back is like a knife in my heart. Oh God, did I really say that? Did I really do that?† How could I have been so insensitive when I love that person so much?

It feels like grating my heart with a potato peeler.

I never meant to hurt my college boyfriend, who wanted to marry me before I was ready to get married and who wound up taking the diamond ring he bought me, placing it in an oyster shell, and setting it out to sea.† I didnít mean to hurt that friend who wanted more of me than I was able to give at the time. I didnít mean to hurt the people who tried to help me with my business before I was quite ready to be helped. I didnít mean to hurt my mother and my brother and my sister and pretty much everyone else in my family who I adore.

Itís enough to make you think you should just cloister yourself in a closet as a public service to keep yourself from wounding others. But part of me knows thatís no way to live.

The Inner Dialogue

The battle between my Gremlin and my†Inner Pilot Light goes something like this.

The Gremlin: You are a public hazard and should be grounded for life. People are out there saying theyíve been ďpinkedĒ by you, you worthless piece of worm bait.

Inner Pilot Light: Oh Gremlin, shut your pie-hole. Donít you understand, this is all part of Lissaís journey, her perfectly imperfect circuitous path. And those people who wound up hurt as a result of her actions, itís part of†their journey. Her intentions have always been pure, even if her actions havenít been. Give her a f*cking break.

The Gremlin: Jeez, why do you always take her side, IPL? Itís time somebody smacks that girl upside the head. Lissa, youíre just insensitive, selfish, narcissistic, and delusional if you think anybody actually loves you. No wonder you felt lonely for so much of your life, you bitch muffin.

Inner Pilot Light: Donít listen to him, Lissa, my darling. Plug your ears. Say ďNah nah nah nahĒ until you canít hear him anymore. Drown him out. Sing. Hum.†Turn up the volume on me. Turn that freakiní Gremlin†down.

The Gremlin: There you go again, IPL. Taking her side, when someoneís gotta knock some sense into that girl before she pokes knife wounds in everyone she thinks she loves. If you wonít tell her the truth, I will.

Inner Pilot Light: I will tell her the truth, you filthy Gremlin. Itís you thatís the liar. Hereís the truth, Lissa, my love.† You are not expected to be perfect. I know youíre doing the best you can, in every moment, to live in accordance with the Divine Plan for your life. But youíre human, and humans slip up. Your ego gets between me and you, mucking up the channel for your divinity to shine through.

The Gremlin: Yada yada yadaÖ

Inner Pilot Light: Each relationship you have is a†sacred contract, helping you learn what youíre here on this earth to learn, and part of being in relationship with other people is mutual permission to get hurt. You give it to those you love. They must give it to you. In other words, theyíre signing up to be the recipient of your daggers, and while those you love might prefer to avoid those daggers, and while you obviously would prefer not to wound with them, youíre gonna hurt people. Itís inevitable. Just like theyíre going to hurt you. And thatís how itís supposed to be.

The Gremlin: The surgeon general should put a warning on you, you dagger queen you.† Everyone you love would be best served getting the hell outta dodge and leaving you and your wounding ways alone, rejected, unloved, which is just what you deserve.

Inner Pilot Light: Donít listen, dear Lissa. Itís not true. What is true is that you donít have to continue to recreate your own suffering. Now that you see your blind spots and understand how you inadvertently hurt people, you can choose to act differently.† You can halt the pattern. You can ask for forgiveness. And most importantly, you can forgive yourself, for only when youíve forgiven yourself will you have the courage to make change, to align more with me, to be a cleaner channel for your divinity to pour through you onto those you love, to really, truly shine your light. As long as you listen to the Gremlin, you taint your intentions. You act out of fear, motivated by self-loathing, and love and self-loathing canít coexist. Love is like an oxygen mask. You have to love and accept yourself before you can love and accept anyone else. Will you please forgive yourself, my love?

How To Forgive Yourself

Itís amazing how much better I feel when Iím able to shut down the voice of The Gremlin and really tune into my Inner Pilot Light. But what about you? Can you forgive yourself when you hurt people? Or do you let The Gremlin beat you down until youíre so wounded yourself that you inadvertently project that wound onto others, repeating the same sad old cycle?

Itís not too late. You can start forgiving yourself now Ė for all the mistakes youíve made, all the people youíve hurt, all the wounds youíve inflicted, all the failures youíve had, whatever.

All you need to do is listen to that inner voice, the voice that knows whatís really true, the voice that loves and protects and nurtures you, even when nobody else does.

Are you listening to your Inner Pilot Light? Can you hear the voice? If not,†sign up for daily messages from your Inner Pilot Light, and start forgiving yourself.

Trying to go easy on myself, even while I try to be a less flawed human,

Lissa Rankin

Lissa Rankin, MD: Creator of the health and wellness communities† and†, author of Mind Over Medicine: Scientific Proof You Can Heal Yourself (Hay House, 2013),†TEDx speaker, and Health Care Evolutionary.†Join her newsletter list for free guidance on healing yourself, and check her out on†Twitter and†Facebook.


Terri R.
Terri R.5 years ago

I have named my inner gremlin Big Sister (I don't have a sister so it doesn't connect with anyone) because she is always criticizing me and scrutinizing me -- the female equivalent of Big Brother. Naming her is like naming the enemy -- you then recognize the enemy when she appears.I have found the yoga mat has also helped me observe my behavior and thoughts but then be able to move on rather than getting stuck dwelling on my failures. When I do that, I am just being self-absorbed rather than being in the next moment.

Gail Romig
Gail Romig5 years ago

Lissa, thank you for being honest and helping others see that, while we are flawed, we all deserve forgiveness. It's hard to forgive ourselves when that inner Gremlin keeps throwing our faults up in our face, and even harder when the one we hurt does the same. When is the right time to just walk away from that person? How do we move on with hate and resentment hanging in the air? It's rough to be on the receiving end of "unforgiveness". I believe that in order to be forgiven, we must forgive. Since I've felt the pain and rejection because of someone not forgiving me, I hope to be a more forgiving person myself.

Stephen S.
Stephen L5 years ago

Inner Pilot Light is completely wrong.

Ken W.
Ken W5 years ago


Wim Zunnebeld
Wim Zunnebeld5 years ago


Shirazeh T.
Shirazeh T.5 years ago

teresa, i feel the same way sometimes. i wonder why we feel this way?
i used to work w/ people (social work, if you will) and when i worked w/ women who lived w/ domestic violence, i'd ask them "what would you tell your best friend?"

it's hard for me to remember that sometimes, but it's an important question.

Shirazeh T.
Shirazeh T.5 years ago

i cant stop crying...
thank you so much

Trish K.
Trish K5 years ago

I consider myself conscious, reflective and a student of the emotional well being. I have no problem forgiving myself because I love me. I am having a hard time for giving the stepson who abused me and his father and made our last years together a living hell. I try to fake it until I make it. I tell myself that I won't allow anyone to live rent free in My head. I tell me that forgiveness is for me but that I don't have to forget because the kid is dangerous. I tell myself that time will heal all wounds and then I see him at out someplace laughing and happy. He took his father with dementia to court and stole his house, which killed the man he always hated anyway and then nearly killed me by kicking me out two days after a bilateral mastectomy with numerous offers to kill me and make me disappear. Is it too soon to forgive him ? Can I forgive him? Should I even Try to forgive him ? There must be an invisible line somewhere when it comes to those who do you great personal harm.

NorthernLady California

Thank you for this article. It really puts some things in perspective for me.

Michele Wilkinson

Thank you