These 5 proven steps will help you overcome unhealthy feelings of guilt.
By its definition guilt is a healthy feeling. It exists to teach us humility and redemption; it sets boundaries for our behavior and shows us we are only imperfect humans.
When we make a mistake and hurt somebody’s feelings, the guilt is there to give us a signal we did something wrong and that we should apologize and if possible make the wrong right.
The purpose of these guilty feeling is to show us how our behavior can affect others and to teach us to pay attention to our words and actions. This is the healthy guilt.
But there is another kind of guilt. The one that doesn’t seem to let go of us, that eats us up and makes us batter ourselves to no end. No matter what we do, how many amends we make it still remains, stuck to us like glue. This one is the unhealthy kind.
By encouraging us to be better persons, to take corrective actions, healthy guilt teaches us compassion and self-forgiveness, while the “nagging” one has no beneficial effect on our lives; on the contrary, it is very toxic and self-destructive.
But there is a third kind of guilt, the one that is neither healthy nor unhealthy. It is the guilt we feel when we do something we want to do, not hurting anybody in the process but the thing we did is not very socially accepted, so feel this weird sting of guilt for not fitting in.
The purpose of this guilt is to teach us to be authentic and choose the life we want and stand with our choices. Not to resist and fight our surrounding but to make our choices with peace in our hearts and for ourselves not just to “show them it can be done this way”.
No matter what kind of guilty feelings you are having, here are 5 few proven steps I find useful when coping with guilt:
- Distinguishing which kind of guilt you are feeling – is the productive guilt you can learn from or is the toxic one? The way to make that distinction is by asking yourself “what do you feel guilty about and why?”
- Take corrective actions – no matter what kind of guilty feelings you have, there are some actions you can take to correct what has been done or said (in most cases). With healthy one, you can always truly feel sorry and apologize in some appropriate way. With unhealthy guilty feelings, you can rationalize how you’re feeling and take a step back. Realize you’re not helping anyone but only hurting yourself with this kind of guilty. And when faced with the third kind of guilty feelings you have to work on accepting of who you are and along with it on accepting your choices.
- Turn guilt into gratitude – instead of beating yourself up, be grateful for this lesson on your own imperfection and on knowledge that you have the power to make choices so that next time you can choose to do it differently. Be grateful that after all, now you know better or for being your own person knowing what is best for you.
- Forgive yourself – no matter what you did, if you feel a true remorse then you also deserve forgiveness.
- Let it go – accept the consequences, accept your choices, accept yourself and move on.