We all make mistakes. Unfortunately, many of us are riddled with guilt from our past mistakes. We carry our guilt and shame like a mark on our forehead. How long are you going to feel guilty for your past mistakes? Wouldn’t it be just great if you can get past the guilt and be free all over again?If you feel guilty about something that you did, first, this is a good thing. It shows that you do have a conscience. However, guilt can be crippling. It can leave you feeling as if you are not worthy, and questioning your value in life and your authenticity to some principles. You can learn to overcome guilt and be free from your mistakes.
Self-imposed guilt is one of the most difficult forms of guilt to move past. These develop from hating yourself for something that you did, that was against your values or moral code. I was talking to a young lady recently who was caught in an affair. She was so guilty about it. As much as I don’t condone such behavior, I was sorry because of how much she let the guilt hurt her.
She convinced herself that she was a terrible person, couldn’t do anything right. She was convinced that she wasn’t a good person since she went against her values and principles. Whether your kind of guilt is from events such as failing your loved ones, that inspired in your childhood that you shouldn’t do this or that, church/ religion imposed guilt, or any other form, you could be hurting yourself for it.
Don’t live in the past
When you choose to be guilty all the time, you choose to live in the past and shift responsibility backward as opposed to looking into the future. Self-imposed guilt is the worst because you tend to feel that if you feel guilty enough you will be exonerated for your wrongdoings. You hold yourself a prisoner mentally feeling as if indulging in guilt will make you learn a lesson but it only leaves you feeling worse. How can you improve from this?
First, you have to acknowledge that the past is something that has changed and that you cannot do much about it dispute how you feel about it. Feeling a tad guiltier will not change anything that has already taken place.
Decide to move forward
Take the action that you did just as it is, an action, and it does not define who you are. You need to differentiate the activity and you as a person. If for example you had an affair and you feel terrible about it, this does not necessarily mean you are a terrible person. You can accept that you did something bad and take full responsibility for your behavior, but also that that thing that you did does not have to define you. If you feel so bad about it, it’s a good thing because you are remorseful and this is how you can redeem yourself and avoid making such mistakes in the future.
How can you overcome guilt and feel free from your mistakes?
Approve of yourself
If you have done something which makes you feel guilty, especially the kind of guilt imposed by others, learning about yourself, accepting yourself and approving of yourself can help you not to be dragged into a guilt trip by others. For example, your family may expect you to behave in a certain way to show that you feel something. If there is grief or someone that needs to talk to you, and for some reason, you were not emotionally available for them, people in the family can make you feel guilty about it, and maybe it is just who you are as a person.
I have written in the past about how people with a thinking personality are perceived as cold because of their thinking vs feeling personality. If you become self-aware, which includes understanding your personality, you accept who you are and as a result, people cannot easily guilt trip you based on your character. You accept that, yes, I am a thinking personality, I may show as if I am not empathetic but I know I care in my own way, and will not allow others to make me feel as if how I express myself and my empathies is not sufficient. Having learned this, i can overcome the guilt of having hurt other people’s feelings and be happier with who I am.
Reconsider your values
Most of those who were brought up deep in religions develop some kind of religious guilt if they do something not religiously approved. This especially has to do with sex. If the way they brought you up, either in religion or society and you were taught that premarital sex is bad, or some kind of sexual activities, and engaging in them made you carry some form of guilt around you, consider reviewing your values. I have always said that there are some things we should unlearn, things we learned in the past that we should unlearn because they hold us back.
Some of these societal and religious values lie in this category. Reconsidering your values means re-evaluating how true they are, and how you can disentangle yourself from them. I have seen individuals stay in really bad relationships and marriages simply because their upbringing taught them to stay in relationships and work through them. The guilt of leaving makes them stay in unfavorable conditions. These are some values one should reconsider and change.
We all make mistakes. Unfortunately, when you think of your mistakes, they seem bigger and terrible than those of other people. You need to acknowledge that we all make mistakes and what you did which is making you feel guilty, is a mistake as well. You can’t overcome guilt if you don’t forgive yourself. You have to learn to forgive yourself. You may be surprised that someone that you wronged may have forgiven you already but you are yet to forgive yourself. Don’t be too hard on yourself. Don’t expect perfection from yourself. Expecting perfection is being unfair to yourself. Learn how to recognize that you are human, you had a bad moment, and you are also likely to have others in the future. If you don’t forgive yourself you’re only hurting your future. I assume that you’re reading such an article because you want to get over the guilt and build a better future. You want to become a better person. The only way to do this is to forgive yourself for what you have done in the past and make efforts to move on with a clear conscious.
Do you have some tips that can help others overcome guilt? Feel free to let us know!