4. Reduce unrealistic expectations: Most of us have a set of unconscious rules hovering in the back of our minds about how we expect ourselves to behave. But those rules, many of which we’ve absorbed in childhood, are not always realistic. Challenge your self-imposed rules and discard those that don’t make sense.
5. Identify the hurt: Realize that the hurt feelings and accompanying guilty thoughts you feel whenever you think of your offense are what’s making you feel bad. It’s your reaction to it today that’s causing a problem, and that is not determined by the past, but by the choices you make right now. Will you choose to relive the guilt or will you choose to forgive?
6. Don’t dwell on it: It’s common to fall into self-inflicted despair when you make a mistake. We spend more time worrying than mending, more time and energy thinking about the things we can’t change than the things we can. Replaying what you did, over and over again in your head, isn’t going to help you or the person you hurt. It just makes you feel bad. So every time you catch yourself ruminating on your faults, stop and refocus your attention on something more useful you can do that will make a difference.
7. Say you’re sorry: When you can’t forgive yourself because of something you’ve done, sometimes all it takes is a sincere apology to make things right. Apologies are most effective if made in person. But if that’s not possible, consider writing out your apology. You can decide later if you want to send the note, if that’s even possible.
Do good rather than feel bad.
8. Make it right: Just as you probably wouldn’t forgive someone else until they have made it up to you in some way, so you may need to make things right before you can forgive yourself. So how do you know when you’ve adequately paid your dues? Receiving forgiveness from the other person is usually a good sign that your efforts are adequate, but it’s ultimately up to you to decide when you’ve done enough to right a wrong. If you can’t repay the debt, then do something helpful or be kind in some way to those you have hurt. Even if the person you hurt is dead or otherwise absent from your life, you can still make up by providing kindness to someone else.