I swore I’d never be able to forgive her for what she did.
How she raised me.
As I lay in bed, feeling sick + disgusted after a night of bingeing on way too much food, it felt like there was only one person to blame.
She was the one who had pushed me to be the “perfect” ballerina…the “perfect” student…the “perfect” daughter.
She was the one who imposed on me all of those unrealistic standards of beauty (she ran a beauty salon, for goodness sake!)
She was the one who never seemed satisfied with my success. Who always seemed to find fault with everything I did.
The result? As an adult, I was royally screwed up.
Overeating. Overweight. Depressed. Struggling to function and form happy relationships.
All. Her. Fault.
In that dark moment, alone in my apartment, all of those feelings felt searingly true.
I couldn’t see any of my mom’s good qualities. Any of the positive lessons she’d taught me. Only the things she’d failed to give me. And it hurt. Badly.
It took years of personal growth work — and a couple of PhDs — before I discovered that holding onto blame and resentment is one of the most unhealthy things we can do.
Resentment didn’t make things “right” in my life. It was just a heavy weight on my soul, making it that much harder to treat myself — and others — with love, tenderness and care.
I discovered that if we want to heal, forgiveness is not optional.
And it freed me to become the best version of me, and enjoy life.
Of course, it’s not easy to forgive people who we feel have hurt us — and it can be especially tricky to forgive the people closest to us. The people who brought us into this world. The people who were supposed to give us unconditional love, no matter what.
Still, forgiveness is possible.
It may take time. Lots of time. As it did for me. It may require professional coaching or counseling. Which it did for me.
But here’s a great place to begin. (It’s where I started.)
By writing a letter of forgiveness. (Not to be read by anyone. Just for me.)
Here’s an outline of my letter of forgiveness — in case you want to try it too:
Dear [name of parent/s],
I am [number of years] old. Which means that I am an adult.
For many years, I have been angry at you for [describe scenario here].
I have often blamed you for my current unhappiness. For the fact that I feel “trapped” in negative patterns that were formed when I was young.
But I’ve come to realize that blaming you for my current problems doesn’t fix anything.
And I’ve also realized that staying stuck in negative patterns is unfair to me (and the people I love).
So, I forgive you. Completely.
Even though you said that I’d never be able to ____________, I can rewrite that negative script. I can reassure myself that I am ____________, and deserve to succeed.
Even though you weren’t able to give me ____________, which I really needed, I can treat myself differently now. I can give myself all the ____________ that I need.
Even though you made me feel like ____________, I can feel differently now. I can choose thoughts that make me feel ____________, and surround myself with people who inspire me to be ____________.
I forgive you, completely, so that I can be free to become the BEST version of me.
Thank you for bringing me into the world.
I’m so excited to get out there and enjoy it.
[Your name here]
In writing a letter of forgiveness, like this one, we’re not necessarily saying:
“The way I was raised was OK.”
Maybe it wasn’t.
“My parents did the best they could, so everything was OK.”
Even if they did their best, that doesn’t mean we got what we needed.
Forgiving someone doesn’t mean that their behavior was “OK.”
What it does mean is that we’re ready to move on. To release the heavy weight. To shape our own life, on our terms, without any unnecessary burdens.
Dr. Suzanne Gelb is a psychologist, life coach and family law attorney who believes that Love is the answer to every question. Her insights on personal growth have been featured on more than 200 radio programs, 100 TV interviews and online at The Huffington Post, Mind Body Green, The Muse, Tiny Buddha, and more. Step into her virtual office at DrSuzanneGelb.com and sign up to receive a soothing meditation and her weekly writings on health, happiness and self-respect. You can also follow her on Twitter and FB.
Image courtesy of Duncan C.August 7, 2014