Letter No 98 - Stop punishing yourself

Dear {{ subscriber.first_name | strip | default: "friend" }},

Forgive yourself.

You have done some crazy stuff in your life. You have hurt the ones you love the most. You have been small-minded and selfish at times. You have given in to temptation which you have later regretted. You have let words fly loose. You have allowed negative emotions to rise. You have reacted in situations where you should have remained calm. You have acted from short-term gain rather than long-term. You have not been empathetic enough in situations when you should have been. You have shirked off some responsibilities. You have been lazy and casual. You have done some stupid stuff.

Forgive yourself.

Sorry if I'm sounding as though I'm accusing you. I know I have done all this. I forgive myself.
It's very hard to forgive oneself. At least I find it hard. The thing is that we hold high standards for ourselves. Deep down we know we are good. Deep down we know we are a piece of God. And therefore when we behave stupidly or do some shit, we are very tough with ourselves. Often, much tougher than we are on others.
When we don't forgive ourselves, we beat ourselves up. We punish ourselves. We do this in many ways. Most of them are done subconsciously or unknowingly.

We get into unhealthy habits.
We become needy.
We behave greedily.
We act out of desperation.
We allow tempers to roam freely.
We give up on good habits.
We stop taking care of ourselves.
We stop doing the hard work needed for growth.
We allow negative self-talk to creep in.
We don't allow our body and mind to rest enough.
We don't accept compliments graciously.
We seek validation constantly.
We get hooked on addictions (both healthy and unhealthy).
All these are ways of punishing ourselves. They are ways of beating ourselves up in the hope that we will get better. Think about it, why does punishment exist? It exists only for one reason - to stop someone from doing the wrong things they did and get them to change track.
But in the long run, punishment never works. Yes, it may have some immediate benefits. But in the long run, it causes more pain and harm than good.

Punishment rests on the logic that we don't know what is good. Someone else has to teach me what is right and wrong.

Punishment creates pain to modify our behaviour.

Punishment makes us believe that something is wrong with us.

Punishment is rooted in the notion that unless I am controlled I will become mad and do crazy things.

And the fact is, at the society level punishment has worked to control things at some level. We needed punishment to keep society in check. Although there is enough debate about the real effectiveness of punishment, it is easy for us to believe that punishment works.

Hence we continue to punish ourselves (and often others, especially our loved ones).

Think about it, what you love, you want to make it better. Right? What you love, you want to see it grow to its full potential. Right?


Hence you punish yourself, and those you love (in unconscious ways, and sometimes in conscious ways).

You think by punishing yourself, things will improve.
But at an individual level, and in relationships, punishment NEVER works.

Punishment just makes us weaker and robs us of the strength that we actually need to grow and be better.

Punishment just makes us feel that we are not good enough and never will be.

Punishment makes us feel that we will never find the answers within ourselves. Someone else has to tell us how to be.

Punishment fills us with guilt and shame - the most useless emotions of them all.

Punish NEVER works.

Please stop punishing yourself.

Please take a moment to think of ways in which you might be punishing yourself.
Forgiveness works.

But most of us don't understand forgiveness properly. At least I know I never did. I am working on it.

Forgiveness is not forgetting. You did something bad. I let you do it again and again. Not forgiveness.

Forgiveness is not suffering. You betray me. I keep suffering. I don't take any action. Not forgiveness.

Forgiveness is not making excuses. You made a bad decision. Something was lost. I make excuses and justify. Not forgiveness.

Forgiveness is not trust. You hurt me. I let you do it again and again. Not forgiveness. Trust can be lost, and has to be rebuilt.

Forgiveness is not instant healing. Something bad happened. You want to forgive and make everything the same again. Not forgiveness. Things have changed.

But forgiveness works.
Here are a few definitions of forgiveness.

The dictionary definition is giving up any thoughts of harm or revenge even when it seems justified.
Dr Fredrick Luskin of the Stanford Forgiveness Project, the largest interpersonal forgiveness project ever conducted, says forgiveness is learning to make peace when you didn't get something you wanted in life!

His other definition is learning not to be bitter when life didn't turn out the way you expected, and finding other ways of dealing with life.

Making peace.
Not being bitter.
Finding other ways.
Not making it personal.
Thats forgiveness.

I like to put it like this - dropping the negative emotion that comes with an unmet expectation.
Only when I can drop the negative energy, can I begin to harness positive energy to learn new things, explore new dimensions of life and meet my goals and needs in other ways!
Forgiveness is a powerful force (first I typed the most powerful force in the Universe and then I deleted it :-)

Please forgive yourself.
Please forgive people.
Focus on growth.
Harness gratitude and positivity.
Sure, protect yourself, but drop hurt and definitely stop punishment.
Give love. To yourself and to others.

Sometimes tough love. Whatever needs to be done for growth, strength, joy and happiness. Sometimes you will need to be tough in the short term. That's love too.
Sometimes caring love. Nurture, pampering, cuddling. That's love too. And I love it so much :-)
Sometimes empathetic love. Listening, understanding, asking, being present. I'm blessed to have so many such people in my life.
Sometimes intimate love. Vulnerability, touch, sensuality, oneness. Such a magical form of love.
Sometimes teaching love. Guiding, coaching, empowering. The love of a leader is a great form of love. Lead, and allow yourself to be led too.
Sometimes fun love. Play, laughter, frivolousness - my favourite kind of love. Just fun and 'masti'. It's a very powerful form of love.
Sometimes creative love. Art, writing, science - making something new, inventing something. Alone or together, it's a beautiful form of love.
Love comes in so many packages. Your life is a buffet of love, my friend (I know mine is for sure).
When you don't forgive yourself, you are sitting in one corner of the room, and eating one dish again and again instead of getting out there and enjoying the variety of goodies out there. Stop doing that to yourself. The buffet is for you. Enjoy it fully!
For entrepreneurs, forgiveness is very important.

As an education entrepreneur, I have made so many mistakes. With my colleagues, with my students, with my customers, with my strategies, I have made so many mistakes. I have at times been so obsessed with my own ideas that I could not what was actually needed to be done. I have been so obsessive that I have been the catalyst for burnout and stress in myself, my family and those who worked closely with me. I have said and done things that have hurt people.

But if I didn't forgive myself, I would never have continued to seek new ideas, new ways of doing and communicating, and new opportunities. I would never work to learn new things, build new abilities, open new dimensions of possibilities. Without forgiveenss I would remain stuck. And trust me, I have been stuck many times in my journey. forgiveness. An entrepreneur should not get stuck - to an idea, to a client, to a business, to a strategy. Entrepreneurs need to be fluid and open to the changing reality. And entrepreneur needs to keep learning and growing. You can never know it all.

An entrepreneur must be innocent and childlike in the way they are curious about the world and excited about learning and experimenting. The 'hustle culture' around us nowadays makes us believe that entrepreneurs need to be cunning and shrewd. I dont buy it. Yes, we must be smart and grab opportunities. But entrepeneurs must be simple and open. That's why I believe entrepreneurship is a great spiritual journey.
Finally, here is a 9 step stool to help you on your journey of forgiveness. It is created by Dr Luskin and was shared with me by my friend Vijay. I hope you find it as useful as I did.


What is forgiveness? Learning to find peace with something you did not get is forgiveness. It does not mean that what you think they did was right. It does not mean you have to condone it. It only means not having a hostile reaction to what they did.

What is a grievance?

A grievance is when we take a normal life event that is painful, make it very personal as opposed to something that just happened, and then exaggerate how personal it is.


  1. Think about an unresolved grievance. What about it was not ok?
  2. Connect with your wisdom source - do what you have to do, to feel better
  3. What will it mean for you when you have found the peace and understanding that comes from forgiveness?
  4. Perspective: My holding on to hurt - that is causing me pain
  5. Breathe
  6. Give up expecting what others chose not to give you.
  7. Seek out new ways to get your needs met, instead of holding on to the past.
  8. Remember, your best response to a grievance is a life well lived.
  9. Rewrite the story (of step 1) - this time write it out as a hero
I forgive myself. I will learn and grow.
I pray the same for you, my friend.
In fratitude (friendship and gratitude),