Have you been feeling guilty recently?
Or perhaps for a very long time?
Maybe you've done something you regret, something awful even.
Or maybe you are just tired of feeling shamefaced all the time.
Should You Feel Guilty?
Guilt is a survival instinct to make sure you get along with your tribe so you can survive. When you feel guilty, it feels awful, and that compels you to do something different to make peace so you can keep doing things together.
That's good, right?
But what if you grow up overthinking your need to please everyone and you spend the rest of your life in self-blame?
Some cultures use guilt as a means of controlling others. Even well-meaning, but overbearing, parents, can work to make their child feel guilty as a means of shaping their behavior just to suit them.
At it's worse, shame is as a weapon of destruction by abusers who place the blame on those they abuse, making them believe it is their fault they were mistreated. Entire cultures and governments have been built by using this tactic.
If any of this resonates with you, raise your hand.
You probably already suspect this: misplaced guilt can rob you of self-respect. If you are continually feeling at fault when you shouldn't, your life will be spent apologizing. You will give too much to others and not believe in yourself. And you will teach people to mistreat you.
And when you get lost in other's demands and expectations, you will never become the brilliant star you were intended to be.
When I first started recovering my life, I felt guilty about everything. I was taking an in-depth look into anything I could have done differently because I really wanted to learn and grow. I went around saying “I'm sorry” a gazillion times so I could repair relationships.
But I felt stuck in feeling guilty. Begging for forgiveness didn't improve any of my relationships, and I felt increasingly bad about myself.
So I narrowed down my list of what I had done “wrong” and made it right when I could.
And then I stopped apologizing.
The surprising thing about the whole experience was I learned that the person I'd harmed the most was myself. I hadn't stuck up for myself and had attracted people who took advantage of me. And in trying to please everyone, I delighted no one.
It was an enormous ah-ha moment in my life.
Reclaiming Your Power
If your guilt has caused your confidence tank to run low, I'm going to give you some great advice here:
Stop caring so much about what people think of you.
But how? It's one thing to know you should change but knowing how to accomplish it is another.
So, I'm going to tell you how to do it.
The next time you struggle with saying “no” to someone repeat these statements to yourself:
- I'm a bad-ass who deserves to get what I want.
- It's okay if someone gets mad at me. We will all live.
- If I lose a relationship over this, I'll just replace them.
For more punch, I suggest shouting these out with loud music energizing you in the background. Or better, in a kickboxing class.
How to Stop Feeling Guilty & Believe in Yourself
You're going to get really good at this. The more you practice reframing your thoughts about your relationships, the more enchanting you will become.
The process goes something like this:
- First ask yourself, “Should I really feel guilty about this?”
- Question the motivations of the person placing guilt on you. Was it about their needs or yours?
- If you are at fault, do something about it. Make it up to the person if you can. And move on.
- It's not the end of the world if you lose a relationship with someone who doesn't care about you or won't forgive you.
- Use the experience as a learning opportunity to make yourself a better person.
And remember this, you gorgeous person–the best cure for guilt is to the become the highest version of yourself, not of someone else!