I am struggling with self-loathing. How can I get past this and forgive myself?

I have been a professional for a long time. I made a mistake at work which was publicized to a lot of people. My error was not intentional but it did not matter. I cannot believe that I was so stupid. I am disgusted with myself and although because of my christian faith, I believe that God has forgiven me, I am struggling to forgive myself. I feel disgust and shame all the time. On the outside I appear normal but I am dying inside.
Asked by Carey

Hello Carey,

Here are a few ideas that can help you change the way you look at the situation as well as how you look at yourself:

1. Try to separate the behavior (your mistake) from you as a person. You're more than that incident. And it's probably especially hard when your blunder was spread to so many people who don't know you as a person and focus on only what they're being told, but your worst behavior doesn't define you as a person. Pay attention to the successes you've had, the times that you've helped others, the situations in which you overcame obstacles. It takes practice to change how you think, but if you're deliberate about it, it can happen.

2. A useful way to deal with guilt is to do something that you can feel good about, something that benefits others. For example, you could volunteer with various organizations, help someone in need at your church, tutor someone, etc. Since you've been a professional, you could offer your skills to help someone who is struggling in your area of expertise. There are endless opportunities to participate in activities that will help to dissolve the guilt.

3. Look at changing your ultimate goal here. You don't have to "get past this". You can move forward while still acknowledging that what happened was awful. You don't have to totally forgive yourself right now to keep moving forward--you can work on coping with what happened, accepting it.

4. As a therapist, I can tell you that a lot of people get into therapy because they feel stuck, and almost always, for those who stick with therapy for a period of time, do report feeling better. I encourage you to give therapy a try if you're not already doing that. Talking through your feelings and working on rebuilding self-esteem could make it easier to start moving forward. 

These are just some ideas, and be proud of yourself for reaching out for help. It means that you know you deserve to take care of yourself, and you do.

Nicholas DeFazio, MRC, LPCC-S, LICDC