When we talk about forgiveness, it’s usually geared towards another person.

A wrong doing. A broken promise. A stinging word.

If asked to name the people you need to forgive, how long would it take you to name yourself?

From childhood to the present day, I’ve battled with the idea of forgiveness. I am a perfectionist who fails daily – at work, in relationships – at learning how to love myself. It’s a process that I am reminded of constantly in the happenings of my life.

I have the incredible privilege of teaching creative movement to toddlers. While leading a class, two of my students bumped heads mid-movement and one held the other’s head in her hands and kissed the spot where they collided. Without missing a beat, they continued about the class and danced as if nothing happened. This got me thinking seriously about forgiveness.

Why can’t I kiss my scars and soft spots and move on? Why can’t I acknowledge that pain exists and continue about my life without the weight of the ache pressing down on my spirit?

For a long time I held on to anger. So much anger that it was crippling. At a young age, my father exited my life and its effects have made me extremely critical of myself. What was wrong with me? What could I have done?

I have replayed scenarios, trying to pull together fragments of the story so that it would make sense. I was ashamed to admit my emotions were too deep, too raw, too authentic and all-consuming for me to process. I would giggle and apologize for my shortcomings in public, and then come home to face my deep-seeded frustration with myself. My inability to forgive seeped into new relationships, disabled me from fully engaging in the present. And I found myself simply unable to connect authentically with others.

I had to learn to start by forgiving myself. I had to forgive the parts of me that weren’t so polished, so put together, so shiny.

I had to forgive myself for being what others considered too much or not enough.

I had to forgive myself for believing the best in people, even when I never received an apology or explanation.

I will not and cannot be defined by those who walk away. This bubble of shame that surrounded me soon burst once I started to examine the way I could be more forgiving of myself; to free myself from the confines of shame.

Here are a few things I try to keep in mind when I start to entangle myself in a web of shame:

We are all broken. No one knows what they’re doing either. We are all growing, learning, failing. Be gentle with yourself just as you are gentle with others.

You are worthy of love. Your life has purpose, meaning, and depth. Despite your setbacks, failures, and flaws, you deserve all the love in the world, especially the love that comes from yourself.

Every day is a fresh start. Some days I won’t be the best, most kind, and most successful version of myself, and that’s okay. Some days my emotions will get the best of me and it will feel like the world is tumbling around me. Thats okay – I remind myself that “flowers need both sunshine and rain to grow.”

Its a process. This is just a sentence in my story and I have the power to reflect and edit that sentence simply by learning to forgive. I acknowledge the pain and the mistakes because they are a part of me, but they do not define me.

When you realize that you cannot control others, it frees you from ruminating on internal battles that have nothing to do with you. The only person you can control is yourself. Your thoughts, emotions, and the way you perceive the world is dependent solely on you.

You have the power to control the outcomes of your life.

Just like the toddlers I teach, I will work on kissing my bruises and rubbing my aches, while going about my life dancing.

I will work on not taking on the burdens of others, but rather focus on the life, the goals, and the dreams before me. I will forgive myself and show myself the same amount of grace I extend to everyone else.

That is freeing.

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