The reason people feel guilty is because they have behaved in a way that doesn’t meet their own standards. Deep down they know that they haven’t behaved well and they are aware that they have possibly upset or hurt someone in the process.
- Do you feel guilty about a past choice?
- Is it torturing you and you want to be free from the pain?
Before I give you a few suggestions to reduce feeling guilty, you first need to identify which of your standards/expectations/rules you have broken, because it is when we break one of these that we feel uncomfortable.
We all have rules/expectations about how we should or shouldn’t behave. We also have rules/expectations for others.
Here are a few examples of rules/expectations:
- I shouldn’t let people down ever
- I should never be unfaithful
- I shouldn’t speak badly of other people
- I shouldn’t do things that will make other people feel bad
- I should always put the needs of others before my own
- I must make sure that my child is happy at all times
If you want to feel less guilty, here’s a few suggestions to reduce those negative feelings……..
1) Recognise that many people make mistakes. It’s human to make mistakes. We are not perfect and we should stop expecting to be. We need to stop comparing ourselves to perfection and then punishing ourselves based on our negative comparison.
2) Look at why you did what you did as it indicates how you feel about a situation, person and/or yourself. Ask yourself what caused you to do what you did? Ask yourself how you benefitted (as there is always a benefit to every behavior, even if it means avoiding something negative) from making the choices that you did as this will reveal what you are looking for in life?
3) Look at the rule/expectation that you have broken. You can change any of your rules at any time. Many people are unaware that they can change their rules/expectations as they are usually ingrained from childhood and people think that they are the only way to view the world. This simply isn’t true. The time to consider changing a rule is when you feel unhappy or psychologically uncomfortable because this is usually the time when either you or someone else has broken one of your rules. You have a choice at this point. You can either cling onto your rule/expectation and be unhappy or you can start to question whether the rule serves a positive purpose in your life. Remember this……..many people in life cause their own unhappiness (but blame others) by clinging onto their own very rigid rules. If your own rules are costing you then its time to question and adjust the rule.
So, start by asking yourself, once you have identified the rule, whether it is too strict? Is there a way of loosening it a bit so that you stop feeling so uncomfortable. For example “I should always put the needs of others before my own” could change to “I will try to put the needs of others before my own in most situations but sometimes that won’t be realistically possible and that’s ok” or create a totally new rule “I will consider the needs of others and I will also consider my own needs. I will monitor the balance between the two”
There are times when you have checked your rule and you don’t want to change it. You feel badly about what you’ve done as you know that you’ve upset someone and you want to repair the damage that you have caused but you aren’t sure what to do. Here’s a couple of suggestions to make you feel a bit better in this second situation
4) Apologise to the person that you have upset. You don’t necessarily need to do this face to face as you could write them a letter instead. Don’t base your happiness on whether they accept your apology or not as you are not in control of that and they have the right to not accept an apology. Your should base your guilt reduction on the fact that you have done what you are in control of and that is issuing an apology.
5) After you have apologised, take some action to support the apology, as actions speak louder than words. If you have upset someone they will think that it is easy to apologise but they will be looking for you to take action and do something to support the apology. For example if you have been unfaithful, then apologise and then make sure that you behave as if they are the most important person to you i.e. buy them things, take them away on holiday, spend time with them rather than other people to show that you prefer them, avoid flirting with other people etc.
6) Vow to learn a lesson from this situation, irrespective of whether the other person accepts your apology or not. If you choose not to self reflect and learn from this situation then you may behave like this again and feel guilty again. Life is a classroom and as we go through it we have the opportunity to learn lessons which will help us and those around us have happier lives in the future. We chose whether to learn those lessons or to continue to make the same painful mistakes over and over again……….……
I hope you’ve found this blog useful.
Until next time……
If you would like to book a session with me to discuss ways to reduce any guilt that you are experiencing, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org