A lot of the work I do involves people wanting to make changes in their lives. They’ve been living in-authentically too long or have had to make an unexpected transition due to circumstances beyond their control, or they simply decided they wanted to live very differently than they have been. Change is difficult, especially big changes in the focus of your life and your goals. You gain so much by doing this, but you lose a lot, too. Sometimes others don’t understand where you’re going, and decide not to go with you. Sometimes you get into a new space, and it’s very stressful because you haven’t yet learned to navigate all of the normal complexities of life in this new space.

Often when people make big changes in their lives, they look back on where they’ve been and who they’ve been, and they feel they’ve done some terribly hurtful things to others (and to themselves). It may or may not have been intentional, but they see their actions differently with this new lens. They want to go back and fix things or make them right. This is also a very difficult undertaking.

It isn’t always easy to find the people in our past who no longer have a significant role in our lives. And if you do find them, they may not want to have anything to do with you because they still feel so hurt. Other people remain in states of mind that don’t allow you to fix anything – because they are still abusive towards you and have too many problems themselves. Other times, people from your past see no reason for you to change anything because it wasn’t such a big deal to them, though it’s big for you. That comes with its own set of challenges. And how do you make up to someone who has died or simply can’t be found?

In this process of change and making amends to the past, I think the most important lesson to learn is how to forgive yourself. If you have made big changes, you aren’t the same person who did those actions, not entirely. You no longer think and act like that, so it’s difficult to put yourself in your own shoes and see the circumstances around those decisions. You may have forgotten important aspects about the other people around you and the mindset you were working from. Maybe you did something that seemed small at the time but had very big and lasting consequences. Maybe you made a mistake, and never intended to do what you did.

Learning to have compassion for yourself, past and present, is important in anyone’s development. Forgiving yourself and having compassion doesn’t means that you get to move forward in a new way, not that you get a pass on bad behavior. It means truly understanding your intentions and making better decisions with the new information you have. It also means holding yourself to a higher standard now.

Keep making those big changes because you’ll be glad you did, but remember to be compassionate to others along the way, and especially to yourself.