Guilt is defined as a feeling of responsibility or remorse for some offense, crime, wrong, etc., whether real or imagined. It’s okay to feel guilty if you know you really did something wrong because it will motivate you to correct your mistakes. However, if you simply think that you should feel guilty, or, worse, that you deserve to feel guilty over something that you said or did, then you are only tormenting and yourself.
Below are some ways you can avoid becoming overwhelmed by irrational guilt:
1. Let the past stay in the past
If your feeling of guilt is connected to an event that you were involved with in the past, then you should learn to accept that it has already happened and there is nothing more you can do about it. An example – you feel guilty because you survived an accident while your companions did not. Feeling bad will not change the outcome; the only way forward is to accept reality, learn from your mistakes, and move on.
2. Realize that nobody is perfect
As the saying goes, to err is human. Everyone commits wrongdoings, whether slight or significant, that he or she will regret later on. Instead of beating yourself up for being less than perfect, focus your efforts on not repeating the same mistakes in the future.
3. Practice self-compassion
We are our own worst critics, and more often than not we will not hesitate to beat ourselves over our mistakes, perceived or otherwise. One way you can be kinder to yourself is to imagine your mistakes happening to a close friend or loved one – would you want him or her to feel the same degree of guilt as you do now? If your answer is no, give yourself the same treatment you would want for that other person.
4. Express your bad feelings in writing or talking
If you are constantly plagued by shame and regret, try to journal your feelings every day so you can build awareness and pinpoint what exactly is causing those guilty feelings. Then you can find ways to deal with it. Studies show that journaling is a very helpful tool in managing your mental health as it helps you deal with overwhelming emotions, and helps you find a healthy way to express yourself. You can also consider seeking help from your loved ones or professional help. These people can give advice on how you can overcome your guilt.
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No matter the cause, living with guilt has never been good for one’s mental health. Learn to be kind to yourself by practicing self-forgiveness, letting go of your past regrets, and moving forward.
Written by Jacq of Mindnation