Some people never feel guilty, strolling through life without remorse. But most people feel guilt every now and then. This isn’t a bad thing – guilt helps us apologise when we should, it helps us give others empathy, and it helps us recognise our own values. But too much guilt weighs on our quality of life, ultimately affecting self-esteem along the way. So, what do we do when it grows too heavy for us to shoulder?
In a perfect world, guilt would be easy to reconcile – we’d ditch it the way we discard old newspapers and empty coffee cups. But the world’s not perfect, which brings us to our first lesson in releasing guilt: the world’s not perfect and neither are you. People who feel extreme guilt often hold themselves to unfair standards, standards of ideal. Don’t expect perfection from yourself (or anyone else); otherwise, you’ll always be disappointed.
Another way to release yourself from guilt is to recognise its purpose. As mentioned above, sometimes, your guilt may be warranted. If you hurt someone, it’s healthy to feel guilty afterwards; it helps you adopt new behaviours while realigning your moral compass. Thus, accept guilt as a lesson and then move on.
Of course, moving on is easier said than done for those prone to guilty obsessions – they move in place, reliving the moment they did wrong and beating themselves up all over again. Yet moving on is something you must do: accept that you can’t change the past. Aim to control the only thing you can control – what happens next – and let go of what was done before.
The more focus you put on past behaviours, the stronger guilt will grow. If you’re struggling with this, if you’ve offended a friend or made a mistake at work, ask yourself how much it really matters. Will it matter next week? Next year? Next decade? If the answer is no, it may be easier for you to give yourself a break.
Perhaps the best way to free yourself from guilt is to learn from it. When you say or do something in poor judgement, view it as a lesson and then strive to be a better person next time around. Remember, everyone’s a work in progress – everyone. Yep, even you.
Hiya, I’m Karen, energy therapist and mind body expert for dynamic and ambitious women who are struggling with anxiety. I help them to get to the root cause of their anxiety so they can take back control other thoughts and be the calm and confident woman they want to be.
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