To Move Forward, Forgive What is Behind
I recently went on a road trip by bus with a group of parents. I had just settled down in my seat and organized my belongings, when I was interrupted by an urgent whisper.
I turned to my left to see who was trying to get my attention. One of the parents sitting across the aisle from me slowly pulled something out of her bag and passed it over to me. It was a copy of my book.
“Will you sign it for me?” she asked timidly and smiling.
“Of course.” I smiled back and pulled out a pen to sign the book.
As I handed back the book, the parent thanked me and told me that she enjoyed the book and connected with many of the stories in it. We chatted about my experiences and my desire to write the book during the first half of our trip. After our discussion died down, I began to reflect on the empowering conversation that I just had. The timing could not have been better.
At that point in my life, I felt like I was struggling to move forward.
It took a lot of mental and emotional effort to connect with other women and continue the momentum I had seen following the launch of my book. I was finding it difficult to engage despite the wonderful opportunities that others were presenting to me. Previously, I had experienced effortless, quantum movements to reach out and connect with others but now I needed crutches to help me. While I was proud that I had turned my dream of writing a book into reality, signing the book on the bus made me reflect on why I had been feeling stuck.
When I made the decision to write and become an author, I was immediately drawn to writing for women and girls. I had a desire to share my stories with women, to connect with them, creating a sense of kinship that women are not alone in our daily challenges and that we can learn from each other. Many of my life challenges stemmed from having a lack of confidence and belief in myself. These limiting beliefs started in my grade school years and then became permanent fixtures in my mental and emotional behaviors throughout my academic and professional careers. I wanted to help girls avoid some of the harsh lessons that I’d experienced in life by guiding them with my stories, so they could build their own sense of empowerment and become mentors to other girls.
As a child, I did not have an adult with whom I could share my thoughts and dreams. As a result I lacked the confidence to stretch the boundaries of my life and felt that there were always barriers limiting who I wanted to be. I did not want other girls to grow up with those same feelings. I wanted them to have a mentor to provide support and guidance.
On that day riding on the bus, I challenged myself to understand why I felt I was losing traction after such great strides, feedback and impact. I had already overcome so many fears in writing, publishing my book and speaking out on the topic of empowerment … so why was I now being stalled? I became frustrated as I reflected, because I realized that some of the behaviors I associated with my old self were still present. Behaviors I thought I had rid myself of months ago.
I immediately felt a sense of relief as I received my “ah-hah” moment… I had not fully forgiven myself and as a result, old emotions and behaviors were holding me back in my new life. As I sat on that bus, I was thankful it was a sunny day and I was wearing sunglasses when the tears welled up in my eyes. I thought that by putting my experiences into words and sharing it in a book it was enough to say “thank you” to my old self and that I no longer needed her around. I thought that by just thanking the person I was, it would be enough to mentally and emotionally forgive myself.
Saying “thank you” is not the same as saying “I forgive you.”
In that moment, I came to terms with the notion that forgiving myself meant something more than just being thankful for my old self. I also needed to absolve myself for relinquishing control to my ego for so many years. I needed to love myself unconditionally and embrace myself completely. I needed to learn that forgiving myself was not a ‘once-and-done’ activity. That self-forgiveness would be a continuous process in order to embrace all of who I am, including my old self.
Since I forgave myself that day, I feel that I am back in the driver’s seat of my own life. Forgiveness is a powerful emotion and process. I am so happy and grateful now that I am able to forgive myself. I accept the person I was but am no longer. Forgiveness provides room for me to continue to grow with positive abundance, and receive new experiences that life provides with grace. I can only move forward by forgiving all that is behind me.