Growing up I was a very shy and backward child.

Somewhere early on, I got the message that there must be something wrong with me, so I spent most of my childhood hiding. Family stories always had me hiding behind the couch or hiding in my room when parties and activities were in full swing. In adolescence and young adulthood, these traits did not serve me well in developing relationships or being in the world.

As hard as I tried to be engaged in life, I often retreated to hiding and never letting those who cared for me get too close. My ingrained defense mechanism was holding me back from living life to its fullest. Intuitively, I knew that there was more to me and why I was here on Earth. I wanted more. I wanted success, happiness, and meaningful relationships, and I wanted to make a difference.

So I chose to change.

What was serving me as a child no longer served me as an adult. So I hired counselors, read a library of self-help books, went to self-improvement classes in an effort to fix what was wrong with me. That all gave me great acknowledgment of what I needed to do to change, but I continued to struggle every step of the way―looking for the answer that would lead me to real change and letting go of the past.

Ah, letting go of the past!

That was the key, the answer, it leads to Nirvana. Sure, easily said, not so easy to do. Who do I forgive? Why should I forgive? What am I forgiving? Will there be confrontation? This made me want to retreat back to my childhood room and put a padlock on the door! I continued on my journey, and what I have learned and continue to learn about changing relationships and life is this:

  1. Forgiveness is the first step toward change.
  2. The first person who you need to forgive is yourself. Yes, yourself, for all of the mistakes you made; all of the hurt and disappointment that you have caused. Forgive yourself for judging yourself. How often are we judging ourselves from the rear view mirror? Understand that the actions you took then were based on information and knowledge that you had at the time. To judge yourself by what you know today is not fair or even reasonable.
  3. Have compassion for yourself. See yourself as that small child who was simply trying to figure out the world and where you were in it. Imagine the story that you may have told yourself about yourself coming from the perspective of a three-year old.
  4. Forgive and have compassion for those who hurt you. Consider that they were possibly doing their very best based on what they knew at the time just as you did.

Growth and Awakening

Being human is an interesting journey of growth and awakening. And the more I learn to forgive myself and others,; I appreciate myself and others more. I am more compassionate and honor my journey and others the journey of others even more. One of my favorite wise women, Mia Angelou, says it best: “I don’t know if I continue, even today, always liking myself. But what I learned to do many years ago was to forgive myself. It is very important for every human being to forgive herself or himself because if you live, you will make mistakes; it is inevitable. But once you do and you see the mistake, then you forgive yourself and say, ‘Well, if I’d known better I’d have done better,’ that’s all.… The real difficulty is to overcome how you think about yourself. If we don’t have that, we never grow, we never learn, and sure as hell, we should never teach.”