How To Forgive Yourself And Others

Medically reviewed by April Justice, LICSW
Updated December 7, 2023by BetterHelp Editorial Team

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, forgiveness is “to cease to feel resentment against an offender (forgive one’s enemies), to give up resentment of or claim to requital (forgive an insult), or to grant relief from payment of (forgive a debt).”

Resentment is generally known as one of the most common emotions for humans. However, it’s equally as common to have trouble with releasing feelings of resentment. After all, It can be a complicated emotion and may be combined with feelings like bitterness, disappointment, and anger. Feelings of resentment can also change in frequency and intensity over time. 

People can feel resentment for a wide variety of concerns, ranging from a perceived slight to major mistreatment by another. However, addressing resentment and moving past it is deemed by many to be essential for our mental health—as holding resentment toward others can create inner discomfort and may also create unwanted bonds with negative emotions. 

Resentment towards others isn’t the only form of resentment. People can sometimes harbor those feelings for themselves, as well. At their worst, they may even evolve into more intense feelings of self-hatred. At best, these feelings can provide a pretty severe roadblock to progress and emotional freedom. 

Regardless of the reasons for these feelings, self-resentment can be more damaging to our mental health than harboring resentment towards others. Below, we’ve summarized common signs of resentment in many, as well as tips to help you live with and release resentment. 

What Are Possible Signs Of Resentment?

Because of its complicated nature, it might not always be easy to recognize when we’re feeling resentful of ourselves or others. For many, resentment can simmer just below the surface of emotions, only to emerge when something significant happens. For others, the resentment is more pronounced and difficult to hide. 

Regardless of how it manifests, resentment is almost always characterized by a lingering inability to let go of negative emotions such as anger, hostility, frustration, bitterness or uneasiness. If you suspect you or someone you care about is experiencing resentment, there are some common indicators: 

  • Continuous rumination over an event. This can look like an inability to stop thinking about what caused the negative emotion, and it can be a sign you may be building resentment. 
  • Feelings of fear. This can also look like the compulsion to avoid a situation or individual associated with the event that is thought to have caused resentment. 
  • Feelings of remorse or regret. These can be associated with the source of the resentment. This can be especially prevalent in individuals experiencing self-resentment in a more intense way. 
  • Feelings of inadequacy. This can stem from the event that sparked the resentment. Such negative occurrences may deeply affect our sense of self, possibly resulting in damage to one’s self-esteem. 
  • Consistent, underlying tension.  It’s sometimes difficult to confront another about their part of the situation that caused feelings of anger and resentment. Often, resentment like this can manifest in passive-aggressive behavior
Finding It Impossible To Forgive Someone Who Hurt You?

Working Through Resentment

Learning to cope with resentment generally means learning how to forgive those we harbor resentment against. It may be difficult to imagine forgiving those you feel resentful toward, but with some self-improvement practices and help from a licensed mental health professional, it can be possible for many. 

Don't Repress Your Emotions

For many, the first step in accepting your emotions might look like recognizing and addressing them. If you feel resentful of another, speaking with them is optimal—but sometimes that isn’t possible (such as in a work or home situation). 

People don’t always communicate well when there are intense emotions involved, especially if they are negative, and in some cases, communication could even inhibit your attempts at resolution. So, if talking to the other person isn’t possible or helpful, you might try to write about your feelings and/or speak with someone in your support system, such as a close friend or a therapist.

Restricting the expression of your emotions isn’t likely to help you to understand them and work through them productively. However, often, that’s what is required to reconcile feelings of resentment. 

Isolate The Source Of Your Resentment  

If you’re experiencing recurring feelings of resentment, it can be helpful to spend some time thinking as objectively as possible about the circumstances around where your resentment first began. You may do this reflection on your own, but it can be much easier and more effective to do so with the help of a therapist. Isolating the source of your resentment may require answering some difficult questions, but it may help you address it better and eventually put it behind you. 

Try To Find Compassion 

Perhaps the most important and effective way to learn forgiveness is to cultivate feelings of compassion. Whether it’s yourself you need to forgive or someone else, finding ways to understand the situation from the other point of view can be helpful for forgiveness and healing. 

It may not be easy to do this, as finding compassion for someone who has hurt us can feel a lot like letting go of our own power—but often, the opposite is true. Finding the strength to forgive through empathy and compassion is the best way to gain control over your feelings of resentment. 


Forgiving Yourself For Past Mistakes

Just as we can develop feelings of resentment toward others for hurting us, we can do the same for ourselves if we make choices that hurt others. 

Sometimes, we can cause emotional damage not by hurting someone else but by devaluing ourselves as well. 

However, it can be helpful to remember that we deserve the same forgiveness and compassion that we’d work to give others in situations that trigger resentment. Even though self-resentment can be the most difficult to come to terms with, there are strategies that are available to help many to begin the healing process. 

Remember That The Past Is The Past

Since it’s not possible to travel backward in time and change our experiences, many might find that the best first step to forgiving yourself can be to accept what happened and move forward from there. You might choose to understand and appreciate that you have an opportunity to learn from your mistakes and do the best that you can to begin anew. 

Assess Your Morals And Values

Every human generally has morals and values in varying forms. They can be complicated to develop, understand, communicate and maintain, and they might to evolve and grow with time. Because of this, it’s perhaps not surprising that people’s past behavior doesn’t always align with their current moral standards.   

When we’ve exhibited behaviors in the past that invoke feelings of guilt, it may not be helpful or appropriate to dwell on those feelings because we wouldn’t behave in the same way today. To resolve feelings of self-resentment, it’s can be helpful to give yourself the grace to cultivate feelings of inner empathy and compassion for past transgressions that you wouldn’t repeat now. 

Finding It Impossible To Forgive Someone Who Hurt You?

Take Care Of Yourself

When we feel guilt or self-resentment, it may be easy to deny ourselves care and compassion. However, in most cases, healing requires a measure of self-love—so making oneself a priority is often helpful in moving beyond resentment. It may sound simple but caring for your physical health by getting enough quality sleep, eating well, and getting enough exercise can a good place to begin for many.

Beyond that, you can also care for your emotional and mental health by speaking to a therapist. Just as you’d see a doctor to treat physical discomforts, psychologists can be helpful to help you with lingering mental discomforts. 

A psychologist can help you understand the origins of and circumstances around your conflicts, cultivate kindness toward yourself and develop coping mechanisms for moving beyond negative feelings and self-talk. 

Treating Resentment: How Can Online Therapy Help Those Working Through The Healing Process? 

Some say that moving past resentment can feel like a weight has been lifted from their body—but it isn’t always easy to do it alone. 

Depression and anxiety disorders can be closely tangled with feelings of resentment. Many people experiencing these conditions might find it difficult to manage healthy relationships, which can easily result in situations where forgiveness is difficult to find. Likewise, resentment can build up so much that over time, the person shouldering the burden of that resentment develops symptoms of anxiety and depression as a result.  

With these symptoms can come overwhelm which can make it hard to get out of bed. Online therapy can be a helpful resource for those who are walking through this experience, connecting them to therapists from the comfort of their homes or safe spaces. 

The solution for resentment varies between unique situations, but regardless of the details, seeking help from a therapist can be one of the most impactful ways to address resentment and overcome it to find forgiveness. 

Is Online Therapy Effective? 

There are many ways that therapists help patients overcome resentment. Types of individual therapy can include cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT), existential therapy and more. 

Couples therapy or family counseling are common types of therapy for people experiencing resentment, as well. Some examples of methods used to treat feelings of resentment in couples therapy can include the Gottman method, emotion-focused therapy, narrative therapy and more. 

This may lead many to believe: Is online therapy effective? A study published in Frontiers in Psychiatry has identified information that suggests that online therapy can offer comparable benefits to in-person therapeutic intervention.


Forgiveness is a gift we can give to others—but it can be important to give ourselves forgiveness too.  Anger and resentment rarely show up alone. Feelings of sadness, isolation, confusion, and others often accompany them. Online therapy can be a strong tool for many to help overcome resentment. BetterHelp can connect you with an online therapist in your area of need. 

If you need help finding a way to let go of resentment and forgiveness, therapy is one of the most effective options. Whether you decide to try individual therapy, couples therapy, or both, finding a therapist with experience in handling issues like resentment is the first step.

Online therapy platforms like BetterHelp are a great way to find a therapist you can speak with online at anytime, anywhere with an internet connection. BetterHelp has a wide variety of connected therapists with experience treating disorders of all kinds and addressing difficulties in many forms, from couples to group to individual therapy. Not only do many people prefer the convenience of online therapy, but it’s also been proven to be just as effective as in-person therapy.

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