Let Yourself off the Hook in 4 Simple Steps

  • Cynthia Kane
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Within the last week, I’ve heard a lot of people verbally beating themselves up. Which I guess is unsurprising, since I hear it all of the time.

“I just feel stupid for having done that” or “I feel like I’ve made some really poor decisions” is what I keep hearing – time and time again – on the other end of the line.

We want to honor all of the feelings that we feel, which means even the crummy ones, but it’s only actually healthy if we let ourselves off the hook for feeling whatever it is we’re feeling.

It’s kind of like Confucius said: “To be wronged is nothing unless you continue to remember it.”

Letting yourself be as you are is hard, but it’s also possible.

Here is my 4-step process to moving through feelings and letting yourself off the hook so you can thrive and remember the wonderful being that you are! 

1. So Now What?

There will come a point in time when you’re talking to a friend, or maybe at home in bed replaying the event that has you down, when the conversation with yourself spirals out of control.

You dig yourself so deep in frustration that sooner or later, you’re listing off reasons to be disappointed in yourself in rapid succession.

“I’m 33 and not financially stable, not in a relationship, without kids, not happy, not satisfied, not sure what to do with my life.”

And suddenly, you’re balled up on your bed watching the full five seasons of any given show on Netflix in two days, getting up only to refill your coffee mug or meet the Thai delivery guy at your door.

But it doesn’t have to get to that point.

It’s at the moments when you start beating yourself up that you can choose to continue as you are until you’re even more exhausted and annoyed at yourself, or you can simply look in the mirror and say, “So what?”

“Yes, I feel badly that I didn’t call my friend on her birthday, but so what?” “Yes, I ended up sleeping with someone I told myself I would no longer hang out with, but so what?” “Yes, I stayed in a relationship longer than I should have, but so what?”


Because what’s done is done.

All we can do now is accept our actions and see them not as reflections of who we are, but as symbols of what we still need to learn.

When you start boarding the Hang-Yourself-Out-to-Dry train, hit the breaks and say to yourself, “So what? I did what I did. It’s okay. What’s done is done. Now I’ve given myself an opportunity to learn. What is this event that’s disrupted my life trying to teach me?”

2. Let the Past Be the Past

Instead of looking at the past as something that continues, think of it as something that stops.

Today is not a continuation of yesterday. It is completely new.

Today is its own day. Because after this day passes, it never happens again.

A lot of why we don’t like ourselves as we are has to do with things that happened yesterday, the day before, the week before, the month, year, or decade before.

But what would your life feel like if all you had was today?

What would you focus on? What would you do differently?

Steve Jobs said, “Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life.”

Sometimes the way to let ourselves off the hook is to remind ourselves that this is all we get.

If you had only thirty days to live, what would you do?

Would you want to be kinder and more loving to yourself? Would you want to try something you’ve never done before? Maybe you’d like to read those fifteen books you’ve always said you’d get to.

The point is: Our lives are happening now, which means we need to forget about the hurt and anger and focus on what we can do now to make our lives better.

3. Setbacks are Opportunities

Mark R. Leary, a professor of Psychology at Duke University, found that people who have self-compassion are able to love themselves despite their failures, and see setbacks as part of the normal human condition.

Self-compassion helps us eliminate the anger and depression associated with what we see as mistakes or setbacks.

Think of practicing self-compassion as looking at yourself like you would a child. Treat yourself with the same tenderness you would your niece or nephew.

Practice this kind of compassion by meditating for five or ten minutes a day, or by sitting in silence with yourself. What you’re doing is accepting yourself as you are in the moment.

You are not supposed to be anything more or less than who you are right now.

4. Feel to Heal

Go ahead and take a minute and think about what your life would look like if you let yourself feel what you feel and didn’t get upset with yourself for feeling that way.

When I started putting the above into practice, the landscape of my life changed.

We all make mistakes, fail, and make wrong decisions at some point.

But if we internalize the events and judge ourselves based off of a failed marriage, a bad grade, or a missed opportunity, we’ll never grow out of these negative self-evaluating patterns.

Setbacks happen to all of us. Use these events to enrich your life and as a springboard to move forward more mindfully.

Editor's note: Of course, we recommend unrolling your yoga mat as a means to healing; practice sitting with uncomfortable feelings and accept what is in this moment. Use asana to move through negative experience and emotions. Once you begin to shift things physically in your body, you will find it easier to move your mental state to a more positive place. Our meditation series is an excellent place to start to tune into your higher self. As you cultivate greater awareness. you will become more mindful and intentional moving forward. In order to learn and assimilate experiences, we have to continue to practice. And of course, that is why we refer to yoga as a practice. There is never an end point; we are always evolving. With this in mind, we've curated a few classes and meditations that will help you put Cynthia's tips into action. Hit the mat to let yourself off the hook.

Photo Credit: Debra Kellner

Article shared with permission. Visit Cynthia Kane's blog on communication and mindfulness here