There are lots of reasons you might be feeling guilty. Whether it’s because of a mistake, low self-esteem, guilt-tripping people, or unfortunate circumstances, no one can deny that guilt is an awful emotion.
If you struggle with guilt, the chances are that you’re pretty tired of it. But how can you overcome those powerfully negative experiences? Here are 6 effective ways to stop feeling guilty all the time.
1. Confront The Guilt
If you regularly experience guilt, you have to look it in the eye if you want to start solving it. Ignoring it won’t make it go away and can lead to worsening experiences and declined positive thinking. Here are some tips for confronting your guilt:
It can take a lot of reflection before you begin to truly understand why you’re experiencing guilt and where it is coming from. Soul-searching is difficult and often frightening, but it’s necessary. What is the source of guilt? Why is that guilt happening? Has someone caused you to feel this way? Is it rooted in past experiences or trauma? It would help if you got to know your guilt, inside and out – no matter how uncomfortable it gets.
· Retrace The Spiral
For many people, guilt becomes a spiral. You feel a little guilty, then keep thinking about that guilt and get worse and worse and worse. Stop the cycle by stopping the guilt in its tracks. Then, once you’ve calmed down, retrace your steps back up the spiral. Before long, you’ll arrive at the initial trigger, and you’ll see that it’s not as severe as you thought. And, as a bonus, you’ll know what started the whole mess!
· Record Instances Of Guilt
If your struggles with guilt are extremely significant, try keeping a guilt journal. Record every time you feel guilty, feelings crop up, noting down the day, time, and reason for the guilt. Then, in a few weeks, reflect on the journal entries and see if you can spot patterns, triggers, and trends. This will help you be aware of your guilt and better understand how it works.
· Dedicate Guilt Time
Is guilt a constant part of your life? Section it off to only fill a certain time. Spend 5 to 10 minutes a day, allowing yourself to feel all the guilt you want and even get caught in it. Then, once the dedicated time is over, immediately stop the thought processes. You must now wait for the next day to feel guilty again. This lets you sit with your guilt without letting it overtake you.
2. Act On It In A Positive Way
Guilt can actually be a good motivator, as long as it doesn’t cross into shame. When you feel bad about something, you have the opportunity to act on those emotions positively. Not only will this help you feel better and reduce your guilt, but it also ensures that you’re working on yourself, improving, and overcome mistakes. Here are some ways to act on guilt effectively:
· Correct The Wrongs
Made a mistake? Don’t waste your energy on guilt by beating yourself up about it non-stop. Feel guilty about something? Do what you can to correct the results of that misstep. This may involve apologizing to people you’ve hurt, even if it’s challenging to swallow your pride to do so. The good news is that guilt can lend itself to positive reparations being made, so tap into that tendency instead of shame!
· Stop Blaming Others
It’s normal to want to point fingers when you feel guilt. You don’t want the blame to fall upon you, after all. But this is extremely counter-productive and will only push away those around you, including those who you’re feeling guilty about hurting. Instead of assigning fault left and right, start taking responsibility. Accept that you played a role without burdening yourself with blame.
· Ask For Other Perspectives
When your negative feelings about someone or something are fresh, the guilt can make it hard to see clearly. Besides, limiting yourself to your viewpoint is toxic and far from the best way to handle negative situations. How can you learn if you only consider your own perspective? Talk to people you trust, whether family, friends, a therapist, or even colleagues, and see their thoughts on the situation. They can give you new insight into your guilt that you hadn’t previously considered.
3. Hone Your Confidence
A lot of guilt can come from a lack of self-esteem. You feel guilty for positive things in life or feel like you don’t deserve anything nice because your confidence is low. There’s no quick fix for this, but you can start today with these tips:
· Know You Have More Good Than Bad
You are a wonderful human being with amazing gifts to give to the world! Sure, you’re not perfect, but no one is. Your talents, skills, and positive traits more than outweigh your bad ones, and it’s okay to mess up now and then. Your positive side will always more than compensate for your failures!
· List Out Positive Qualities
Need a little extra confidence? Take some time to list all the things you like about yourself. If you’re not used to doing so, it can be difficult for you to come up with things first, but you need to fight your worst inner critic and let positive thinking win. Write down at least 10 things that you like about yourself. You can also opt to make this a routine – write 3 traits that you love every day!
· Use Self-Affirmations
Self-affirmations are a wonderful way to fight guilt, and they boost positive thinking by acting as self-fulfilling prophecies. Tell yourself great things about who you are, and you will slowly begin to believe them, thus mounting your confidence. You can also use guilt-specific affirmations, such as “I am more than my mistakes,” “I have the strength to overcome difficulty,” and “I deserve good things.”
There’s a difference between letting yourself off the hook and being kind to yourself. Self-compassion is a powerful tool for growth, positive thinking, and overcoming mistakes. It’s hard to overcome guilt when you’re too hard on yourself. You need to be accepting and understanding of your actions and emotions to move on. Here are some tips for self-compassion that can overcome guilt:
· Make Yourself A Priority
This doesn’t mean shirking responsibility – it means no longer feeling guilty for putting yourself first. At the end of the day, you are the only person who will always be around you, and you need to care for yourself with the same compassion you would afford a loved one. You can’t pour from an empty cup, nor can you help others without first helping yourself.
· Be Your Own Best Friend
Have you ever noticed that you talk to yourself in ways you would never dare speak to a friend? You’re kind and empathic with loved ones but can’t turn that compassion onto yourself. Start thinking of yourself in a third person, as a friend. If you wouldn’t treat your friend this way, you shouldn’t treat yourself like that either!
· Take A Break
It’s easy to let emotions overwhelm you when you’re exhausted. Communicate to those involved with a situation that you’ll be taking some space to process your emotions and events that triggered your guilt. Then, take some time away to really relax and let yourself recover. Your brain will be much more ready to tackle guilt when it’s rested.
5. Make Peace With Guilt
Guilt is always going to exist. If you aren’t at peace with that, you’re never going to break the cycle of shame. Here are some ways to make peace with guilt:
· Know That Guilt Doesn’t Mean You’re Wrong
Like all emotions, guilt can be misplaced. You can feel guilty even when you’re not at fault. Studies find that guilt can be a sign of your acts of comparison to people you look up to, sometimes to the point where your moral identity depends on it. In excess, that’s not healthy at all, and it’s good to know that sometimes, guilt is irrational.
· Know That Things Can Be Gray
Trying to see the world through a black-and-white lens of “right” and “wrong” is unhealthy. As previously mentioned, taking responsibility means acknowledging areas where you could have done better. It doesn’t mean finding the winners and losers in each situation.
· Know That You Can’t Control Everything
You are a single person in a huge universe. Some things are outside of your control, and you don’t deserve to feel guilty for them. Make peace with that.
6. Learn and Apply
Now that you’ve done all you can to address the guilt, it’s time to learn from the situation that caused it. What lessons can you take away? How can you apply them to the future? What steps can you take to prevent this from happening again – or to improve on your responses? Here are some ways to learn from guilt and apply those lessons:
· Think About New Ways To Do Things
Okay, you did something bad. Now, what would you do differently next time? Is it avoidable? Or is it something you have to manage intelligently? Can you reduce the behavior if you can’t eliminate it?
· Reflect On Learned Lessons
Reflection is a positive tool for self-improvement. It involves taking a deep dive into your actions. What motivated them? How did others react? How did you feel at the moment? What consequences do you face that may be permanent? What’s next? Take some time to reflect on these things at least once a month and use your reflections to set goals related to the lessons you’ve learned.
· Keep Looking Ahead
Guilt is inherently rooted in the past. There’s no reason to keep asking “What if” – what’s done is done. It’s time to move on and take what you’ve learned with you into the future. You deserve more than to be forever stuck in guilt that is attached to the past.
Learning how to manage shameful feelings so you stop feeling guilty all the time will help your mental health in the long run. If you need assistance, don’t be afraid to read out for help from loved ones or a mental health professional.