Excerpts from 30 Days to Freedom: Daily Exercises to Set Your Heart Free by Sandy Walker

7  Forgiving Yourself
Sharon did the Step: Forgiveness Checker and discovered someone new to forgive. She had started using the Forgiveness Checker about once a week as a way to clear out the emotional baggage from her past. To her it was like cleaning out the garage. She kept finding things she didn’t know she still held onto.

As she processed the step, she kept having the nagging thought that although others had hurt her in both major and minor ways, she was the one in need of forgiveness. Her own offenses often crowded her mind as she took the steps to forgive others. When would she ever feel “free” of these thoughts?

Do you ever feel guilty? Do you ever wish you could get rid of that feeling? Guilt is a heaviness that weighs us down. Yet we feel that the sensation is justified because of what we have done. We feel bad and it’s our own fault.

Self-forgiveness can be very hard for some people. We feel we don’t deserve to be forgiven. We see our own selfish actions and we measure them against an internal standard that is very high. We may “hear” in our mind a self-criticism that reflects the kind of comments we often heard in childhood. “I shouldn’t have said that. That wasn’t very nice, was it? I should have said “yes” even though I didn’t want to do what she asked.”

Often we have very high internal standards because of expectations that were placed on us during childhood. Sometimes we placed these expectations on ourselves based on what we thought was expected of us, or in some cases, in order to compete with a brother or sister. Many of these expectations can be unrealistic and harmful to us later in life.

Do you find it easier to forgive others than to forgive yourself? What messages are you giving yourself that make it so hard to let yourself off the hook? Who told you that you had to be perfect or that you should always go along with what others ask of you? Who took away your individuality and told you it was not okay to have a different opinion?

The answers may surprise you. If you recognize this struggle in yourself, try this step. I trust that it will lead you to the truth you need to be free of this false guilt. If you discover that you truly are guilty of something, then admit it. Accept responsibility for what you did. Then forgive yourself and if appropriate, make amends to those you have harmed. Your heart will thank you.

[Step included in the book]

19  Boundaries

Natalie was looking forward to Wednesday night. Two months ago she had joined a book discussion group that met at a local café. She was starting to make new friends there. By attending regularly, she was hoping to feel like she belonged in this unfamiliar city.

When she arrived for the meeting, Dawn was already there. They started chatting, waiting for the others to arrive. Dawn dominated the conversation. Natalie felt like she was a human toilet as Dawn regurgitated all the stressful events she’d experienced that week.

When another member joined their conversation, Natalie excused herself quickly, pretending she had to go to the bathroom. Once she was behind the stall door, she leaned against it and sighed heavily. Why does this keep happening to me? Every time I make new connections, the “problem people” always seem to find me!

Juan revved the engine of his car as he waited outside the salon. Delia had said she was ready to go. Why was she taking so long? He could see her talking to two other ladies inside. His patience was wearing thin. He had things to do today.

At first, Delia’s requests for him to take her to the beauty salon, the grocery store or the bank had seemed quaint. He had been surrounded by independent women. Delia’s need of him had seemed a nice change from that. He felt strong when she depended on him to take her where she needed to go.

Lately though, Juan began to feel uncomfortable. She didn’t seem to recognize the sacrifice he was making for her benefit. Today he had a long list of things to do and she seemed oblivious to his needs. This pattern seemed a little too familiar. He remembered feeling this same sense of being used by other women he dated. Why do I get myself into this? What is it about me that attracts these kinds of women?

Both Natalie and Juan have encountered patterns in their relationships that make them uncomfortable. The same people keep coming into their lives – and they bring the same kinds of problems. Neither Natalie nor Juan recognize why this happens. If this sounds familiar to you, you may be wondering the same thing. Is there something about you that draws a certain kind of person to you – someone you’d rather not associate with? Are there unhealthy patterns in your relationships that you can’t seem to break free from?

Often the people who are drawn to us recognize something about us that we don’t even know about ourselves. It is not usually a conscious thing. The person with lots of problems is drawn to someone who will let them talk. The person who likes to be helped will be drawn to someone who is willing to help them. This can be acceptable to both parties sometimes. At other times, it can become unhealthy and unbalanced.

If you see unhealthy patterns in your relationships and you are not sure what to do about it, consider what it is you believe about yourself that might be tolerating the unhealthy behavior. Natalie may feel that she is required to listen whenever someone starts sharing their pain. She may be a good listener. But when it becomes a strain to her, what does she do? Does she feel trapped to keep listening even when she doesn’t want to?

Juan likes feeling needed by Delia. However, he also sometimes feels used. What does he believe about himself that allows him to accept this behavior from Delia? Does he feel his time is valuable enough to put boundaries on how much he can give away?

Try the exercise below – you may be surprised at the results.

[Exercise included in the book]

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It’s time to make some changes in your life! This book will show you how – with a short exercise to set your heart free.

If you do a little bit each day, you will be surprised how much better you will feel about yourself in just 30 days! I promise! ♥