Forgiving Yourself: Letting Go of Negative Self-Talk

Submitted by: Erica Manfred

If you’re overwhelmed with self-blame here’s a great quote from Bonnie Russell, the founder of

She says:

I’ve found women, especially therapists and other helping professionals, have trouble forgiving themselves.  They constantly berate themselves with:   “I should have seen it, known it, realized it,”  followed by “I wasted (fill in the blank)  years.”

I tell them to set aside five minutes, set a time and really wallow in it.

Here’s the secret: Really beat yourself  up.  Usually people can only do that for less than three minutes.  By three and a half minutes you’re glancing at the timer.  I encourage women to stay with it because it’s so unpleasant.  When the time finally dings you’re  SO HAPPY!

I assure you these thoughts will creep back later.  But the good news is when they do, most women happily say,  “Honey I already beat myself up over that, I’m moving on.”  And more importantly, they act on that and do.

Gary Egeberg, the author of The Forgiveness Myth says:

“We believe the goal is to heal.  Forgiving him can be a way to heal but not the only way.”

•  Use alternative phrases such as “making a fresh start right where I am, moving on as I keep the focus on myself and my needs.”  Happiness is a product of two things, addressing the hurt and then moving on.

•  Return the focus to yourself.   Any day you’re obsessing about the divorce, or how he hurt or betrayed you, ask yourself: “how can I return focus to myself?”  Forgiveness implies it’s finished once and for all but it’s a long process.

•  Stop referring to him as your ex. That keeps the relationship alive.  Start calling him by his given name.   When you use “ex” language you’re going back to the marriage.  When you use his name he’s another human being you can detach from.   You need distance to heal and move on.

•  Avoid those little putdowns.  Initially they’re a way of dealing with grief, but at some point they help you stay stuck.   Make changes rather than just bitching.

•  Do what you naturally enjoy, reclaim your life rather than have a pity party.  Live your life the best you can and eventually you will heal.

Author Bio: Erica Manfred is the author of He’s History You’re Not, Surviving Divorce After 40.  She has written for Cosmopolitan, New York Times Magazine, Ms., Parenting, Women’s Day, and Bottom Line/Personal.  She currently runs a women’s divorce support group in her hometown of Woodstock, New York.




  1. 1


    This is great. You’re right about all of it. Why is it so hard for women to forgive ourselves? Do we think that doing so too soon doesn’t match the magnitude of our transgression? I like the idea of calling the ex by his real name. Good stuff.

  2. 2


    Great advice! It’s so easy to forget about giving ourselves some leeway and then going down the path of feeling guilty again. Women are so hard on ourselves, we’re only human, so we do make mistakes, but we also blame ourselves for things that are even out of our control! It’s great to have a list of suggestions to check ourselves back into reality when we start to go down that road again!

  3. 3


    This is so hard for some of us to do – letting to of those negative and critical voices we carry around. But when we start to release them, we can breathe more easily, and see more clearly. Essential to post-divorce healing. Essential to everything.

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