5 Simple Tips to Overcome Guilt

“Guilt is anger directed at ourselves – at what we did or did not do.”
~Peter McWilliams

 

Guilt is an emotional warning sign that serves to let us know when we’ve done something wrong.

It’s a self-policing mechanism that we all have.

It helps us to improve our behavior, act in the best interest of society, and avoid making the same mistake twice.

But it can also steal our joy, make us feel miserable, and keep us in a negative mindset.

It can undermine our self-esteem and prevent us from having fulfilling relationships.

Most of us do an amazing job every day – either at work or at home – but still feel plagued by guilt.

How can we overcome these feelings?  How can we determine what feelings are important and beneficial to us, and which ones are not?

 

5 Simple Tips to Overcome Guilt

1) Determine if your guilt is healthy

It takes some self-examination to figure out what you’re feeling guilty about.

Healthy guilt is very beneficial to keeping meaningful relationships.  It prevents us from taking action that could hurt others.

It’s completely rational to feel guilty after saying something hurtful to someone or spending too much time at work instead of with your family.

This guilt is healthy and serves to warn you that either your thoughts, behavior, or morals need to change.

On the other hand, feeling guilty over the actions of others, or when there’s nothing to feel guilty about is not healthy.

As an introvert, I used to feel guilty when I needed to spend some time alone.  This wasn’t me being anti-social, I just needed time to relax and recharge a little.

2) Realize you can’t change the past

This sounds cliche, but we tend to forget it.

Being stuck in the past will prevent you from moving forward.

Remorse is healthy, but what’s done is done; you cannot change it.  Realize this without loathing or judging yourself.

Either you can make amends or you can’t.  Dwelling on things past this point can be very self-destructive.

Holding onto guilt will negatively affect your life, self-esteem, and your relationships with others.

You’ll find yourself getting angry and resenting others in order to justify your behavior.

Sometimes there is nothing more you can do.  You just have to let go.

 

3) Learn from your mistakes

You’re only human.  Mistakes are going to happen.

Guilt gets our attention so we don’t make the same mistakes again.

Self-forgiveness is essential to keeping a positive image of yourself.

Don’t blame yourself or attack your self-esteem by thinking you should have known better or acted differently.

And don’t fall into the trap of judging yourself based on someone else’s expectations.

You’re not perfect and life is going to get messy at times.

Make yourself a personal promise to do better in the future.

 

4) Keep moving forward

Guilt can be draining, depressing, and feel like a huge weight is on your shoulders.

It will affect your decisions and becomes exhausting if you dwell on it.

Acting sooner rather than later will help you feel better.

Don’t sabotage yourself by waiting too long to take action.

Apologize to someone if you’ve hurt them, spend more time with your friends or family, or repair damaged relationships.

Accept responsibility, learn your lesson, forgive yourself, and let go of the negativity.

 

5) Stay positive

You may have noticed a pattern of me consistently recommending a positive outlook on life.

This is not by accident.  How our minds and lives develop, is largely dependent upon how we use them.

Your thoughts have power and what you’re telling yourself, largely determines who you become.

Learn to develop your inner parent.  Every time a negative thought creeps in, refocus onto something good in your life.

Every moment you’re awake, you’re choosing what you’re going to focus on, what it means to you, and what you’re going to do about it.

Guilt can be very valuable if you use it to increase your empathy, correct your behavior, and grow personally.

 

Why this matters

You can only do the best you can with the tools you have.

You’re talking about forgiving and accepting yourself.  These are huge steps towards peace andhappiness.

Guilt is going to arise, it’s how you respond to it that makes a difference.

Empower yourself by making a deliberate, conscious effort to appreciate yourself, look for the positive, and let go of guilt.

You don’t deserve to feel guilty and beating yourself up only prolongs it.

There is no benefit to punishing yourself.

Get social support or professional help if you’re experiencing unrelenting or ongoing guilt or shame.

 

How do you deal with guilt?  Please leave a comment.

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