Last month I had to do something extremely hard. It is something that not that many people, myself included are used to doing. I had to forgive myself for failing. Although it was hard to forgive myself, beating myself up would have been much harder in the long run. Learning how to forgive yourself is crucial to mental wellness. We aren’t perfect, that’s what makes us human. When you forgive yourself for mistakes, you are saying to yourself that you deserve happiness.
My failure is one that is extremely common for a lot of people. I let my body down. For the past two months or so, I have been eating food that isn’t good for my body and I was barely active. I normally try to eat all home cooked whole food meals and hit the gym several times a week. During April and March, I ordered delivery more times than I would like to admit and I barely saw the inside of my gym.
I had been planning a cross country move and a job search in this new city at the same time I was working my full-time job and writing for my blog. My plate was really full and I was extremely stressed. My clothes started to get uncomfortably tight, my face started breaking out, and my energy levels plummeted. Health-wise I was a mess.
In the past, I would get really angry with myself for being unhealthy like this. I would say to myself that I should have known better than to eat those foods and tell myself that I wasn’t as dedicated to working out as I should be. There are parents staying active while working full time and raising their kids so I shouldn’t have any excuse!
This time was different. After the move started to come together I had time to look back at how I had been treating my body and the poor shape it was in. Instead of beating myself up, I thought to myself, the past is behind me. I had a really busy and stressful few months which took a toll on me but that’s life and I’m not perfect. I’m not going to give up and wait until next the next New Year to be healthy and I’m not going to resort to extreme dieting to make up for my unhealthy patterns. I will simply go to the grocery store to cook a healthy meal before my move and find time to be more active even if it doesn’t involve the gym.
The Issue with Guilt
Getting down on myself wouldn’t have changed what happened, it would have just given me guilt. Guilt it only hurts your soul and leaves you in the past. It gets in the way of learning how to forgive yourself. If you are left in the past, then you can’t grow as a person.
I could have easily beat myself up about how I let my health slip. Calling myself weak-willed, lazy, and fat is an easy trap to fall into. You may have had those thoughts after a failed diet as well. It’s only human to compare yourself to how dedicated and successful others are, especially in the age of social media.
See the thing is, how tight my jeans have gotten, the lack of energy I now have, and break outs on my face was punishment enough for me. I didn’t need to add psychological torture; I was exhausted enough. Because I accepted the fact that life threw me a curveball, I didn’t go overboard on health in my new city. Try to overcompensate would have set me up for another failure. I simply accepted the past 2 months and went back to my old health habits with adjustments to my new surroundings.
How to Forgive Yourself
My Silver Lining
Because I had been treating my body poorly, it had fought back and I felt like crap. Some may see this as a negative but the positive here was that it reminded me of how good I felt when I was treating my body right. It gave me motivation to make myself feel better and move on.
Forgiveness also helped me with my relationship with food. When I forgave myself for eating poorly and gaining some weight, I also noticed that my cravings for unhealthy food decreased. After I had finished planning for the move, I had no desire to order unhealthy food or binge eat as a last hurray. This time, I knew I wasn’t going on a diet but giving my body medicine.
If you look close enough, you can always find something positive about missing a goal. It could be that you grew into a stronger person. You may have learned a great lesson from the mistake. I promise, there is always a bright side to the situation.
How to Learn from your Mistakes
The best part about when you learn how to forgive yourself, is that you get to grow from your mistakes. The next time you fail a diet, miss a deadline, or mess up on a project, look back to see what happened. What works for me is to write down why I failed and what I will do to avoid it in the future. I have a little notebook I like to scribble my thoughts on but a notepad app works too. Actually writing out why you failed and your plan for next time makes the plan more real than an afterthought. It also lets you go back to your game plan if you are in a similar situation again.
With my failure, I looked back at what caused my long unhealthy spiral. The two issues I had were that I was really busy and really stressed.
Stress is a trigger for me when it comes to emotional eating so I am trying to be more aware of this as the stress happens. I also realized that I need healthy snacks near me and easy health meals at home if I am stressed. If I am going to eat to make myself feel better, carrots and hummus is much better than the homemade banana bread that my co-worker Donna brought into the office.
I also realized that I should have created a plan to continue to stay active while planning my move. The next time I know I am going to be really busy, I need a specific game plan beforehand. This might be anything from working later one night so I can go to the gym the next night to waking up 30 minutes earlier than usual to get a quick workout done in my apartment.
The Next Time You Fail
They say that two things are certain in life; death and taxes. I would also like to add mistakes. As much as you don’t want it to happen, you will make a fail at something else. However, these failures make success so great.
The next time you fail, the first thing you should do is forgive yourself. Remember how much you have achieved despite this bump in the road. Tell yourself that you deserve happiness and another chance. Finally, see where you can learn and grow from this blunder. Trust me, moving forward feels a lot better than staying in the guilt of the past.