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Give Yourself Grace: The Importance of Self Forgiveness During Recovery

Practicing self-forgiveness plays an important role in recovery from a substance use disorder (SUD). Self-forgiveness is another form of self-compassion that pertains to the ability to use kindness and gentleness with ourselves, particularly when we make mistakes or cannot live up to our expectations. 

Let’s explore why self-forgiveness can be an effective tool for teenagers struggling with a SUD. The article will highlight the steps to cultivate self-compassion in the application. 

Why Is Self-Forgiveness So Important for Teens?

Many teens find the period of adolescence to be a difficult and exciting time. They experience changes in their body and brain as social and emotional development forms the complex and crucial parts of their identity. Researchers note that these changes often create insecurities. Teens often feel like they’re on stage with the entire world watching. Teenagers place so much pressure on themselves due to constantly comparing themselves to others or setting high expectations. Their perceived failures, mistakes, setbacks, and other challenging times lead to intense amounts of shame, guilt, and humiliation within themselves. 

Self-compassion, or self-forgiveness, is an incredible resource for teenagers. When a person forgives themselves, they can see past their shortcomings. Thus, they can rediscover their strengths and potential for growth. Studies show that forgiveness or compassion allows the person to accept their mistakes and shortcomings without falling into self-criticism. Instead, mistakes and wrongdoings turn to opportunities to make amends, improve, or practice self-acceptance. And that attitude is so valuable for recovery. By releasing former feelings of shame and guilt, individuals can cope better with anxiety, depression, and chronic stress. Overall, it also helps them deal with their SUD by them choosing to admit and seek help.  

Social Pressure and Compassion

Social pressure plays a significant part in causing SUD or alcoholism in teens. Most teens who have experienced a SUD will testify to their peers, encouraging them to take part in drug use. Often, peer pressure stems from the desire to fit in. Unfortunately, failure to fit in produces a sense of inadequacy in teens. Teens tend to over critique themselves when experiencing feelings of inadequacy. It often leads to negative self-talk in teens. Because the teen considers him or herself not good enough to receive group acceptance, self-forgiveness, or compassion, it can help a teenager break this cycle of negative self-talk. 

A sense of inadequacy can trigger SUD, as adolescents in their early teens (and sometimes even earlier) are put under great social pressure to achieve and belong. According to some research, a teen with a SUD cannot afford to hold on to negative self-talk. It places their recovery at risk because it encourages low self-worth and shame in the teens. Self-compassion counteracts these social pressures and negative self-talk. For this reason, the best treatment programs advocate for their participants to work through their feelings of inadequacies and negative self-talk with self-forgiveness and compassion. Treatment that advocates self-compassion helps the participants to give themselves the grace to accept being imperfect. Imperfection is just a byproduct of being human, not a condemnation of misery. 

Self-Forgiveness Benefits Long-Term Recovery

Self-forgiveness addresses the unpleasant feelings accompanying failure, helping us understand we do not need to be right or make excuses for our mistakes. Our SUD recovery and well-being are affected when we lack the ability to forgive ourselves. Researchers note that a person who has shame could feel self-deprecating, hopeless, and unmotivated. However, they can avoid self-deprecation and regain hope when they shift the focus away from shame to self-forgiveness.

Essentially, by choosing to practice self-forgiveness, you will reap many benefits that strengthen your recovery from relapse. 

These benefits include:

  • Ability to reframe thoughts
  • No longer depending on external affirmations
  • Able to make healthier, wiser decisions
  • Regain motivation and focus on pursuing goals
  • Rebuild and maintain positive relationships with our loved ones
  • Better able to avoid future substance abuse
  • Help overcome destructive behaviors that may have grown out of self-destructive patterns 

Tips for Practicing Self-Forgiveness

Remember that self-forgiveness is essential for moving forward in recovery. It is far better to use kindness and gentleness with ourselves than to use harsh words. 

The following steps will help you in this process:

  • Pay attention to your emotions and thoughts with an open mind of compassion
  • Forgive yourself for what you feel is the mistake or the action that brought you to this problem
  • Mindfulness practices such as gratitude, journaling, and meditation can cultivate compassion towards yourself
  • Remember that practicing kindness and gentleness towards yourself doesn’t mean you can’t have imperfections, shortcomings, or faults
  • Consider treating past wrongdoings as a “teachable moment” to share with someone in need of a message

Unfortunately, blaming ourselves for failures will not help us avoid them. Nor will it aid us in finding alternative solutions. Yet, practicing self-forgiveness provides us with solutions along this road of recovery. 

Self-compassion does not provide quick fixes to the substance use disorder or any other behavioral problem. What self-compassion can do is lead us down a path of active self-forgiveness. At Clearfork Academy, we understand that self-forgiveness doesn’t mean accepting inappropriate behavior or agreeing with others who invalidate our feelings or experiences. Instead, self-forgiveness involves a progressive, compassionate understanding of how our flawed thinking, feeling, and behaviors contribute to a history of poor health and suffering. Teenagers need self-compassion to cope with SUD and other negative emotions that can affect their mental health. If your loved one is struggling with forgiveness, it might be time for professional help. The path of self-forgiveness offers the opportunity to redeem the past and recover. Talking to a therapist, going to a treatment center, or attending a support group are healthy ways to build self-compassion. Find out more, and call us today at (817) 259-2597.

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