Image credit: Unsplash
Of all the emotions we feel, guilt is one of the messiest and nastiest so today I’m sharing 4 ways to ditch guilt for good.
Guilt is made up of lots of different emotions all smashed together into something that doesn’t always make sense. Like trifle – I’ve never understood mixing cake, jelly, fruit, custard and cream all together to make a dessert. Is it just me or is that a bit strange?
It’s often a big mix of feelings like:
It’s also a parasite. It hooks into your brain, nags at you and tells you things like:
- “You’re a bad person.”
- “You’re worthless.”
- “You deserve to suffer.”
I’ve done some things in my life that I’m not exactly proud of (I’m guessing you probably have too). But at some point you have to let go of the guilt and move on.
ONE :: The friend test
It works like this – if your best friend told you that they [insert your current gnawing guilt here]:
- What would you say to them?
- Would you reassure them?
- Would you judge them?
- Would you tell them they’re a terrible person?
Think about the advice you’d give to someone you care about if they were in your situation.
Chances are you wouldn’t be nearly as critical of them as you are of yourself.
TWO :: Apologise and ask for forgiveness
Look at the situation and ask yourself:
- Did I hurt someone?
- Do I wish I could take it back?
If the answer is yes then talk to that person. Be honest. Say you think you messed up.
It can take courage to admit you were wrong, but if you feel it – say it.
Don’t bottle it up. The likely outcome will be that the person you’re apologising to:
- Didn’t think it was such a big deal, you’ll hug it out and move on;
- Will be upset but appreciate your apology, you’ll hug it out and move on;
- Will be upset, and appreciate your apology but will want some time to rebuild the trust; or
- Will choose not to forgive you.
Please know that sometimes people will just choose to stay angry and it might not be about you or what you’ve done – it might be their own stuff that they need to work through. In fact, it might have nothing to do with the current situation at all – it could be other stuff completely and if that’s the case, that’s their problem not yours.
If they won’t forgive you, forgive yourself and move on.
THREE :: Forgive yourself
We all get snappy and say the wrong thing. We all do things we wish we could take back. But at some point you have to let it go, forgive yourself and stop using your mistake as a reason to label yourself “bad”.
You are not the problem. You made a poor choice. We all do. So stop telling yourself that this one mistake proves you’re worthless.
It’s not worth turning one mistake into a lifetime of misery.
Instead, take some time to remind yourself of all the nice, kind and thoughtful things you’ve done for others – there’s plenty of evidence that you’re a good person if you look for it.
FOUR :: The reflection test
How old are you now?
Ok, well ask yourself these questions:
- If I hold onto this guilt for another 30, 40 or 50 years, what will it do to me?
- How will I feel?
- How will my relationships be?
- Will my guilt stop me from connecting with others?
- How will I feel about myself?
Looking into the future can help you release things quicker.
Think about it – are there lessons you’ve learned in life that you wish you’d learned earlier? Guilt is the same.
Instead of looking back years from now and thinking, ‘I wish I hadn’t tortured myself for so long about [insert your gnawing guilt here]’, let it go now.
Ask yourself if it’s really worth holding onto this guilt.
Does it help you or hinder you?
- Be your own best friend – treat yourself with a little loving kindness.
- Do what you can to fix the situation. If you can’t fix it, learn from it.
- Forgive yourself – don’t turn one mistake into a lifetime of misery.
- Reflect and release.
The only person you’re hurting by holding on to guilt is YOU.