4 ways to ditch guilt for good

Of all the emotions we feel, guilt can be one of the messiest 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:

  • Sadness.
  • Hurt.
  • Anger.
  • Frustration.
  • Jealousy.
  • Pride.
  • Fear.
  • Shame.

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’ve gotta let go of the guilt and move on.

Here’s how.

ONE :: The Friend Test

It works like this – if your best friend told you that they’d [insert your current gnawing guilt here]:

  • What would you say to them?
  • Would you reassure them? (You probably would)
  • Would you judge them or tell them they’re a terrible person? (You probably wouldn’t)

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 & 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, they’ll choose not to forgive you.

Please know that sometimes people will choose to stay angry and sometimes it might not even be about you or what you’ve done. It might be that the current situation has triggered something for them and it’s bring up past stuff for them.

At the end of the day, you can’t control anyone but yourself, so be as loving, kind and compassionate as you can (to them and to yourself) and if they won’t forgive you, forgive yourself and do your best to move on.

People hugging in flower field

Photo credit: Kristen P on Unsplash

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 mistakes as a reason to label yourself as “bad“.

You’re not a bad person, you just made a (possibly) poor choice. We’ve all done it (and we’ll probably all do it again!) so stop telling yourself this one mistake proves you’re worthless and go easy on yourself.

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? Okay, great. Now ask yourself these questions:

  • If I hold onto this guilt for another 20, 30, 40 years or more, what will it do to me?
  • How will I feel?
  • How will it affect my relationships?
  • Will my guilt stop me from connecting with others?
  • How will I feel about myself?

Looking into the future can help you release things a little quicker. Think about it – are there lessons you’ve learned in life that you wish you’d learned earlier? Guilt’s 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]’, make the decision to let it go now.

Ask yourself, “is it really serving me to hold onto this guilt?”

If the answer is no, let it go.

The Wrap Up

  1. Be your own best friend & treat yourself with loving kindness.
  2. Do what you can to fix the situation. If you can’t fix it, learn from it.
  3. Forgive yourself – don’t turn one mistake into a lifetime of misery.
  4. Reflect, release and surrender.

And remember:

The only person you’re hurting by holding on to guilt is YOU.

So be kind and loving towards yourself and let it go.

P.S. If you enjoyed this post you might also enjoy episode 65 of the Rock Your Goals Podcast where Katherine Rose Tate and I talk about making friends with your mind.