I recently came down with the flu, and it reminded me of how ungracefully I can respond to sickness, even after years of dealing with chronic illness. Yes, I’ve gotten waaaaay better at accepting that being sick means doing less and resting more. But when I paid attention to my thoughts, I saw that I was still blaming myself for being sick and I caught myself feeling in turns frustrated, disappointed and guilty because of my symptoms.
Ultimately in order to heal I had to forgive myself for needing to heal in the first place.
No matter what kind of sick we end up with, there’s always a number of contributing factors. Unfortunate genetic expressions, toxic exposures, a bite from a tick, sub-optimal diary habits, or the accumulation of everyday stressors can all leave us vulnerable to developing illness.
And every possible co-factor can be linked to potential self-blame.
Especially for us Type-A types it’s all to easy to feel responsible for not living up to perfectionistic ideals. Like being able to do all the things all the time while remaining impervious to inconveniences like illness.
After being knocked down for two weeks with a gnarly bug, I decided to sit down with myself, get quiet and get to the bottom of what was going on. See, I had this sneaky suspicion that something was holding me back from achieving my self-healing potential. And I planned to find out what.
This is what I “heard” from the Wisdom within:
And like that *BOOM* it was so clear. In order to move forward and out of illness I had to forgive myself for getting ill. The things that had been limiting my healing was my own frustration, disappointment and self-blame around not healing faster.
When we haven’t forgiven ourselves, we remain tethered to the past. And the past depletes us. Carrying the non-present around in the present is energetically draining, and when we’re sick we need ALL of our energies to be available for self-healing.
Forgiving ourselves for getting sick and for not meeting what are often completely unrealistic expectations allows us to live more fully in the present which is ALWAYS where the healing happens. Not in the past. And not in the future.
Your healing is always occurring in the NOW.
Once we forgive ourselves we’re freed from what’s already happened. We’re free to use all of our energy for healing. This is why forgiveness—including SELF forgiveness—is so vital.
Once I recognized that I needed to forgive myself I had to figure out a way to do so. So I created a self-forgiveness practice that allowed me to fully forgive myself and move forward.
Within two days of doing this practice I was back on my feet after two weeks with the flu. So I know my intuition was right: self-forgiveness is powerful medicine, and a lack of self-forgiveness can be an obstacle to self-healing.
Here’s the practice:
To begin get yourself a pen and paper (or a journal or notebook app.) Take five deep breaths in and out to center yourself, and if you like, light a candle.
List out everything related to your illness that you’ve held against yourself, judged yourself for, or felt guilty about. Leave a few space between each one.
Here are examples of mine:
- Getting sick despite being knowledgable of wellness stuff.
- Having margaritas with friends even though I suspected I was coming down with something.
- Eating dairy and other foods that aren’t normally part of my “healing diet” because they were easy and comforting.
- Not being able to maintain a consistant work schedule.
- Totally ignoring the “laundry situation” for weeks.
- Getting sucked into negative, low vibe moods a bunch.
- Not making it to mass and my Social Justice Ministry meetings.
As you can see, they run the gambit from catching the flu to not folding laundry. It doesn’t matter what it is, if it’s something we feel even a little bit bad about, write it down.
Write down an affirmations using the following pattern:
I (insert full name) fully forgive myself for (rewrite what needs forgiving.)
Once you’ve written it out, say it out loud. (I’d once read that this formula is the most effective way to use affirmations.)
Think about the thing you’re now forgiving yourself for. What was the situation? How were you feeling physically-emotionally-spiritually? When we reframe how we think about things we literally rewire our brains.
So the last step is to write two to three sentences reflecting on the forgiveness item from a place of compassion and self-friendship. Ask yourself, what would a good friend say? If it’s easier, you can even write this from the 3rd person.
Here’s a complete example from my practice:
- Getting sick despite being knowledgable of wellness stuff.
- I Kat Woods forgive myself for getting sick despite being knowledgable of wellness stuff.
- Kat, you’d just moved AND lost a loved one. No wonder you were run down! It’s not your fault and I know you’ll bounce back from this. Also, its okay to get sick, it happens. Even when you are knowledgeable about being healthy.
Continue with Steps 2 and 3 for the rest of the forgiveness items. When you’re done take a deep, cleansing breath in and then release it imagining you’re spewing out any remaining unforgiveness.
The last step is to move forward into your new relationship with yourself by offering an intentional act of self-friendship. This can be absolutely anything that feels kind: making yourself a nice cup of tea, running a hot bath with yummy smelling essential oils, or putting on your coziest cozies and curling up to watch a favorite show.
You know you and you know just how to offer yourself friendship.
Forgiveness can be hard. But having a specific practice to turn to when self-directed thoughts of guilt, blame, frustration or disappointment pop up makes it much easier to free ourselves from their draining effects. I’ve found this practice to be incredibly powerful, especially when illness is dragging on despite ongoing treatments.
Often, without even really knowing it, I’ve been harboring unforgiveness and the key to renewed healing is simply self-forgiving.
I hope you’ll try this practice in order to experience it’s transformative power for yourself. You deserve forgiveness. Always. And it is always available to you.
May you eat well, live well & create a New Wellness.
Tea cups & hugs,
Is there something you need to forgive yourself for? Something that you’ve been blaming yourself for in regard to your health or the limitations that come with illness?
“Self-forgiveness is essential to self-healing.” ~ Ruth Carter Stapleton
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