Self-Forgiveness Letter Writing Practice

Self-Forgiveness is the practice of showing yourself grace and accepting that you’ve done something wrong.  It is showing yourself compassion and separating yourself from the mistake(s) that you’ve made.  Letting go of mistakes is necessary if you want to move forward in a healthy and productive way.  Self-forgiveness is not condoning the wrong action that you’ve taken but instead it is helping you make note of the lessons you learned from your mistake and move on.  Being human means we will make mistakes from time to time and it is better for us to acknowledge the wrong doing, release it from our self-identity, and learn from the experience instead of beating ourselves up and keeping ourselves attached to the past.  One way we can practice self-forgiveness is through letter writing.  


Self-Forgiveness Letter:

-Write out your intention to make a change and stop carrying these past actions around with you, beating yourself up for things that have already occurred.  This intention can be something like:
“I am allowing myself to move forward”
“I intent to make space for myself to be human”
“I am inviting in more feelings of freedom, healing, peace, etc.”
“I intent to cultivate more self-compassion and grace for myself”


 Whatever the intention on your heart is for releasing yourself from past actions, write them down.
–  Begin writing down all the actions that occurred that you feel guilt and/or shame about, the mistakes that were made.  Some prompts could sound like:
“I need to forgive myself for….”
“I regret that I did/said…”
“I feel so bad about…”
“I made such a big mistake with…”
“I am sorry I did….”

Write out your emotional truth about the experience, allowing yourself to feel your regret and guilt.  But avoid self-hatred, self-shaming, or self-condemnation statements.  You are not further attacking or beating yourself up here but instead expressing the healthy guilt related to these actions and taking ownership for them.  During this part take time to reflect both on how the actions may have impacted others as well as the ways these actions impacted your relationship with yourself.  


-Reflect on the ways in which holding onto this guilt and regret is harming you.  This can sound something like:
“I can see how holding onto this is hurting me in ….. ways.”
“I recognize beating myself up over this is impacting in .… ways.”
“Holding onto this experience is impacting my relationship with myself/ my relationship with others in …. ways.”


-Now write down all the ways in which you wish you would have preferred to have responded or acted in that situation.  This is helping you see what you would like to learn from the situation.
“I would have preferred that I had done…”
“I wish I would have….”


-After each one, release yourself from not being able to have done these actions in the past.  We cannot rewind life and replaying what we “should” have done will only keep us stuck.  This is helping you increase acceptance related to what happened.  This can sound like:
“But I did not and I will no longer suffer because of it and forgive myself for these past actions.”
“But that is not what happened, I accept the past as it is, and I forgive myself for these actions.”


-Imagine with each of these statements, you are releasing your grip on something you have been holding onto tightly.  You can even take time to grasp your hand into a tight fist until you feel the tension and then release it, imaging each regret is being released with the release of this tension.


-Now write down any new insights you have learned or understand about yourself since that experience occurred such as:
“I have since learned that…”
“I understand in that moment/at that time I was…”
“I realize now I was not able to…”


-When you are done, write out or say this Self-Forgiveness mantra:
I recognize that I have done wrong. I also recognize that I am a human, and humans make mistakes.  No matter how hard I strive, I will never be perfect in all situations and that is ok. My actions (or words) have caused someone harm.  I also have hurt myself by beating myself up over this.  I accept full responsibility for my actions and can learn to see my actions are separate from who I am as a person. I will not beat myself up repeatedly for this anymore.  I will, however, make a conscious effort not to make this mistake in the future and learn from my experience.”


-To end, imagine a bright white light, coming down from the sky and entering your body from the top of your head.  This light is filled with loving, healing, and compassionate energy.  Imagine this light begins to fill your body as a final cleansing for this Self-Forgiveness practice, washing out any leftover guilt, shame, or regret residue.  See this light leave through your feet, taking with it any leftover emotional distress or tension.  Take a moment to thank yourself for engaging in this self- forgiveness practice, allowing yourself to be human, and notice what it feels like in your body to have engaged in and received this self-forgiveness. 


Blog by Malinda King, MA, LPCC
Photo by Michael Burrows via Pexels