I keep telling myself I am flawed. How can I forgive myself?
First of all let's talk about the voices in your head. No, not the delusions portrayed in movies where the voice says "pumpkins are evil," but the Voices that are saying "you're no good, you're flawed, you're defective, you can't do anything right, who do you think you are?" and so forth.
Where do these voices come from? I know you're saying these things to yourself right now and with your adult mind you can see that this type of self-abuse is totallly wrong and unwelcome in your life. But where do these voices come from originally? Who taught you to hate yourself, judge yourself and see yourself as defective? Who were the adults that imposed that on you? How far back into your early childhood can you go and still hear the those judgements about you?
Are you with me so far? This kind of negative self-talk has an actual beginning in your life, and it did not start with you. It started with what you were hearing about you from teachers, parents and very likely, religious authority figures. At some point you took over abusing yourself. That's when their job was done. They set up the programming, installed all the buttons and sent you on your way. Another well produced, self-guilting, self-shaming, self-abusing human unit who was successfully brainwashed into their culture, religion and/or dysfunctional family dynamics.
No child arrives in this world condemning themselves. They are taught to do so by their caregivers, whoever they are. The best places to look are religious and cultural authority figures who were passing on the same poison they were infected with after they arrived on the planet.
Now, that sets the stage. Who was this little girl that you were before she was abused and lied to? Was she sweet? Was she trusting? Was she full of love and just looking for opportunities to give of herself? Was she one of God's most beautiful creations, perfect in every way, complete with that new car smell once she first arrived on the planet?
What's going on right now? You are doing to yourself today what they did to you back then and subsequently programmed you to do on your own. Now you are a self-incriminating byproduct of their system of dealing with children, which includes guilt, shame and self-abuse.
Another part of you, a very healthy and spiritual part of you, is seeking release from this inner tyranny? She wants to grow. She wants to break free of all that negative junk she was saddled with. She wants to express that inner beauty, that deep down she knows exists. You know there's a beautiful person in there. You know it because God keeps whispering in your ear, "Try this my darling, Try that, Oh look at that, isn't it wonderful?"
That's what's going on with you. Am I right, or am I right? How would I know all this? "Well, you're a trained psychologist Dr Moe." Why yes I am and thank you for reminding me. But the truth is I became a psychologist to rid myself of the same poison you are describing in this question. The last vestiges of my smorgasboard of childhood abuse is finally leaving me. The child in me who was most adversely abused by nuns/teachers, is realizing their judgements of him were Dead Wrong and is finally able to accept the truth again, that he was born a perfect replica of the Divine and he is here to do God's work as is everyone else created for this human adventure!
My little boy is a good boy and always was. He was still a good boy after the church, parents and other authorities poisoned him. You, my dear, were always and still are a good person! You were poisoned, that's all. You have to see your abusers for what they are, even if it's your parents, because they were just regurgitating the poison that got administered to them in their childhood, experiences that they have never examined or been willing to challenge.
Now, let's look at the suitcase full of negative crap and ongoing self-recriminations that you've been carrying around. Who does it belong to? Is it truly yours? (I want you to find a picture of yourself in the crib and see if there's a suitcase full of negative judgements nearby) If not, you're going to have to re-think whether your negative self-judgments are based in any facts. Maybe your childhood conclusion that "you were bad" is a mistake. And if so, what does that say about your caregivers and what they taught you.
To see the truth you are going to have to give up your idealized images of who and what these people appear to be, and see them for what they are - flawed humans who passed their crap on to you. You see, one way to not deal with your crap is to dump it on others, which is what the nuns did to me and my fellow students.
What if it were never about you, but about them? Before you go off defending any one of them, let me remind you that YOU were the CHILD and they were supposed to take care of you. It is never the child's job to take care of their parents, teachers, or religious authority figures, making excuses for why they treated you, convincing you their negative assessments were correct and setting you off into life judging yourself in the same negative manner they taught you.
SAY NO!!! "You no longer get to dump your crap on me. I, (insert name here) reject your assessments of me. I reject your judgments. I reject your negative view of the world. And I choose to listen to the Voice of God in my Heart, because He always speaks the truth, and the truth is I am LOVABLE! In fact, I am downright ADORABLE. So take your judgements and blow them out your @#%%^$$."
Get out your journal and start writing. Start identifying the major players in your life and what they taught you. Take any negative habit you have, in terms of self-flagellation, and ask yourself where that came from? Identify all the voices in your head and ask them who they are and why they are with you. This is investigation. Do not defend any of your abusers, even those who seemed nicest. For example, if you have two torturers in a room with you, one holding a 10 pound sledge hammer and the other holding a 5 pounder, the one holding the 5 pounder is not really twice as nice as the other one, is he? More accurately, he is half as abusive if that can be measured, but abusive nevertheless. And in the end, would there be any difference in the damage caused by these two hammers if they were applied to your head? An important first step in your recovery - stop defending your caregivers. They were the adults and you were the child. Who is supposed to look after who? Capiche?
The same part of you that wants to grow, wants to be rid of these negative influences, and wants desperately to give to this earth what she came here to give. She is directing you now. That is the voice to listen to. It is your truthful voice, your core voice, your God voice. She will show you the way. Call her your Real Guardian Angel, because she is that and more. She is challenging you to get rid of the suitcase, the negative poisonous judgements that caused you to turn against yourself and your beautiful inner child. You were programmed. You didn't have a chance. They infected you with that disease long before you could think independently and reason out what was right and wrong. I'm sure your feelings back then were telling you over and over that what they were doing never felt right. The outcome of these experiences is about "what happened to you", not about "who you really are.