05/23/2009 05:12 am ET Updated Nov 17, 2011

Ask Maddisen: How to Forgive Yourself for Judging Yourself

Dear Maddisen:
I am highly self critical, self judgmental, and even cruel to myself with my thoughts and my mental talk. And the harder I try, the harder it seems for me to be productive in reaching my goals. In fact, I feel paralyzed. Is there any way out of this?
Signed, M.Z.

Dear M.Z.,

Powerful question! I acknowledge you for so honestly and clearly outing this issue.

The first bit of good news is: you are not alone. Many of us, whether we've experienced success or failure in reaching certain goals, have been hard on ourselves at one time or another along the way. There's even a chance that we've been self critical, self judgmental, and even cruel to ourselves with our thoughts and mental talk. And as a result, these self inflicted behaviors may have slowed or stopped us from moving beyond what we perceived as failure or disappointment or moving forward to the next success.

The second and most empowering bit of good news is: there is a cure. The cure is Self Forgiveness.

Let me give you some background.

When we separate from ourselves or others, meaning when we forget to be our own greatest ally and supporter, we tend to move into self criticism, self judgment, and even judgment of others - which ultimately results in our suffering and feelings of unhappiness, discontent, and resentment.

Our true nature is love, and when we forget that, we experience the symptom called suffering.

As with physical symptoms, where the symptoms are the body's way of showing us that something is out of balance and needs to be healed, the same is true with mental/emotional symptoms. Any form of mental or emotional suffering is a symptom and is our mind's way of telling us that something is out of balance and needs to be healed, specifically that love needs to be applied to the places inside of us that hurt. Who is best qualified to apply that loving to you? You are, of course. And a highly effective way to apply self loving is with Self Forgiveness.

You are the one who has the power to heal yourself, to relieve your suffering and discontent. You instinctively know how to reintegrate any and all of the disowned, rejected, and beautifully human parts of yourself. And if you have forgotten this fact, it's ok, forgive yourself for judging yourself.

Self Forgiveness can remove any and all obstructions caused by self criticism, returning you home to your true loving nature, back to being your own greatest ally and supporter. Self Forgiveness promotes healing, self integration, self acceptance, self loving, love for others, love for life, gratitude, flow, liberation, and success.

Bottom line: You must make Self Forgiveness a habit, a daily practice.

First we'll go over the steps, clarifying them with a sample scenario, and then I'll share a Self Forgiveness success story from one of my clients.

Self Forgiveness Practice
Becoming your own greatest ally and supporter.

Step 1
If you are in self judgment, you may notice feeling emotions such as anger, frustration, sadness, and even fear; and you may criticize yourself with belittling thoughts and self talk. Take a few deep breaths. Be caring and present with yourself and your feelings.

Step 2
Take note of the specific judgments you are making about yourself. You can just be aware of them or you may jot them down on paper if it helps you to be clear. (You can shred or destroy this paper once you've completed the exercise.)

Step 3
From a caring and loving place, move into Self Forgiveness. Go easy on yourself. This is all part of the human experience.

Start with the expression: "I forgive myself for judging myself for..." or "I forgive myself for judging myself as...", and then add whatever the judgments are. Make this an audible process, meaning say these phrases out loud.

For example, let's say my client is judging himself as not good enough because he didn't book a commercial role he auditioned for. He might say this: "I forgive myself for judging myself as not good enough for commercials." Or, "I forgive myself for judging myself as blowing the audition." Or, "I forgive myself for judging myself as not a good enough actor."

A few more judgments may come up for him as he does this process of self forgiveness, and that's just fine. The more we can forgive ourselves, the better off we will be. And if he finds himself judging the casting associate or the business or even his father, he has the option to forgive himself for judging the casting associate, the business, and his father!

First and foremost, forgive yourself, and if then you feel called to forgive any others related to the situation, you can extend the forgiveness to them too. It's up to you. Take as much time as you need for this step of self forgiveness. Go deep, be thorough, and be genuine. When you feel a sense of quiet or completeness, most likely you are done with Step 3.

Step 4
Once you feel complete with the Self Forgiveness, follow with this phrasing: "Because the truth is...", and then add the positive traits you know or sense to be true about yourself. This is where you get to fill the loving space just created by the self forgiveness with the self respecting behavior you choose to deliberately practice. Be genuine, be creative, and go for the gusto.

Using the same client example above, he might say this: "Because the truth is I felt very comfortable with the role, and I know I could have done a great job had I booked the part." Or, "Because the truth is I showed up prepared, professional, and ready, and I did a great job regardless of the outcome." Or "Because the truth is I believe in myself and my talents, and I love acting, and I will continue for as long as it makes me feel good."

Repeat these four steps whenever you want to practice Self Forgiveness. Grant yourself the dignity of your own healing process.

A few tips: If you ever find it challenging to move into the loving or caring place of Self Forgiveness, you can take a few approaches -- you can fake it 'till you make it, or you can think of someone or someplace you love, or your puppy for example, and then from that place of caring, move right into Self Forgiveness.

And if you want to practice Self Forgiveness on-the-fly, you can say the core phrase by itself, "I forgive myself for judging myself." And still experience great benefits. Self Forgiveness was a foundational skill of my Master's degree training at USM, and continues to be a foundational tool in my coaching practice and in my personal daily life.

Here's what my client Norm in Canada has to say about Self Forgiveness:

Why do you like self forgiveness?

As an entrepreneur & business man, I always put a lot of pressure on myself and my team to set and reach objectives that are sometimes beyond our reach. I've had a tendency to put myself down or be disappointed with the people around me. Once I started working on self forgiveness with Maddisen, however, I started putting less pressure on myself. That relieved lots of energy. I started doing stuff that I never let myself do before, because before self forgiveness, I always complained about not being good enough. With self forgiveness, miracles, contracts, and events started to happen. After just one week, I added $8000 to my weekly income and I had two new speaking engagements; after two weeks I had two full day seminars booked, and I wrote a 28 page program. I prefer being nice to myself over being hard on myself!

How is it different from how you were treating yourself before?

Before I started to use the self-forgiveness process that Maddisen taught me, I would judge myself so much and my critical self talk decreased my confidence. I was giving lots of energy to all the things I wasn't good at instead of looking at only the things I was great at. With self forgiveness, I've had a shift in thinking and now I am sure I've doubled my energy compared to before.

How would you describe its effect on you when you use it?

If someone would ask me why I now have so much energy, I would have to say that self forgiveness is the reason. Self forgiveness gives me the permission to do, to be, and to have whatever I want in life. Yes, without judgment. It is actually better than any diet out there. It is food for the soul. Now I ask myself, "Why was I so hard on myself before, and did it serve me to do so?" and the answer is NO!

Are you noticing any long term benefits? For example, do you find that you are kinder or more patient with yourself? Is it affecting your relationship with others or how you treat them, or how they perceive you?

I am more patient with what is. Instead of giving attention to what is not working, I make this moment more peaceful. As they say, there is no way to happiness, happiness is the way. I believe peacefulness is the way. In my case, I judge less and have more time to focus on what I want, which is a win-win approach to life.

Thank you Norm, for taking the time to share your successes that are resulting from your regular practice of Self Forgiveness.

So, dear M.Z. and all of my readers, begin your deliberately loving practice of Self Forgiveness today. Experience the empowerment of standing up as your own greatest ally and supporter. Notice how your self kindness cultivates inner peace and peace with others. Enjoy your accelerated movement forward into more satisfaction and success in reaching your heartfelt goals.

Your Personal Life Coach, Maddisen

You may submit your questions for ASK MADDISEN at