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Shrink Your Stress : How to Get Rid of Guilt


Guilt is an emotional discomfort you feel when you believe that you were responsible for something that offended or hurt someone else.

Guilt can be legitimate – you may have made a mistake and you regret your words or actions, causing you to feel guilty. However, there are times when guilty feelings are unwarranted – you may have taken on guilt for something you didn’t do or something you did that wasn’t actually wrong.

Depression, poor self-esteem, self-harm and strained relationships are just a few of the possible results of living in guilt for long periods of time. To maintain good mental health, it is important to acknowledge guilty feelings and work toward forgiving yourself.


Signs that guilt is weighing you down

  1. Feeling unworthy: When you feel unworthy, your self-esteem and self-worth are impacted. You may find yourself caught up in unresolved self-anger, self-hatred and feeling like you deserve to be punished.
  2. Being paralyzed by the past: When you can’t let go of your regrets, you stay emotionally chained to them. This affects your ability to move forward with your life and relationships. You may find yourself unable to enjoy the present as you are emotionally stuck in the past.
  3. Having unresolved issues: Until you resolve the issues weighing you down, you will likely experience feelings of helplessness and even depression. Ignoring your issues does not make them go away, and they will continue to hinder your ability to be your best self.
  4. Struggling to forgive yourself: It can be difficult to forgive yourself when experiencing a lot of self-anger, and you may even adopt self-destructive behaviors. This often looks like doing reckless or harmful things to punish yourself or showing indifference to meeting your needs.
  5. Acting defensive and distant: Guilt can cloud your ability to have positive reactions and create a barrier between you and others. A few ways this can manifest are you secretly fearing that others dislike you, having a short fuse with your friends or simply wanting to withdraw from others and isolate yourself.
  6. Feeling afraid of trying again: When you haven’t resolved issues of the past, you may develop a fear of failure. This can make it difficult to develop new relationships, as you might be afraid of messing everything up or making all the wrong decisions. Constantly reliving the mistakes of your past may cripple any attempts to move on from what happened and forgive yourself.


The first step to moving past guilt

Reality testing: Reality testing is an important first step toward self-forgiveness. Guilt can distort your perception of yourself, your situations and your view of others. Before that guilt can be eliminated, you must first determine whether your guilt is valid.

  • Were you truly responsible for what happened?
  • Does it make logical sense for you to feel so badly about this situation?
  • Did you actually make a mistake, or did someone make you feel guilty because you didn’t do what they wanted?

Questions like these help you determine whether it makes sense for you to feel guilty.


Forgiving yourself when you did something wrong

Forgiving yourself after offending someone or doing them wrong takes self-reflection and commitment to make changes.

  • Accept and admit to yourself what you did wrong.
  • Acknowledge that you regret your decision and wish you had acted differently.
  • Consider why you made the mistake. Were you tired, jealous, desperate, angry, etc.?
  • Ask yourself how you wish you had handled the situation differently and commit to responding to similar situations differently in the future.
  • Try to make amends with the people you hurt. This may not always be possible if they are not willing to cooperate – all you can do is your part. Accept responsibility, offer a genuine and sincere apology without defending yourself and do what is reasonable to make it right.
  • Make peace with yourself. Choosing to hold onto your guilt forever will only make a bad situation worse over time. Think about the mistake long enough to learn from it, then move past it.


Eliminating guilt when you did nothing wrong

If you determine that your guilt is unjustified, adopt new habits that will help you let it go and prevent you from feeling unnecessary guilt in the future.

  • Avoid taking on other people’s guilt for them. It enables them to continue repeating their mistakes and causes you to suffer unnecessarily.
  • You may need to work on conflict resolution skills so that you don’t internalize guilt that isn’t yours. Try to be more assertive in conflict and stand up for yourself, and don’t apologize when you don’t need to just to end the conflict.
  • Consciously choose to let go of your guilt. The guilt isn’t yours to carry, so keep reminding yourself that there is nothing to do about it but let go.



How to get help?


“By far the strongest poison to the human spirit is the inability to forgive oneself or another person.” -Caroline Myss


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