Everyone feels guilty about something, and for some people, their guilty feelings haunt them all the time. It has become habitual for those people. While what you are feeling guilty about can be a factor, feeling persistently guilty is not emotionally healthy and will take away much potential happiness and joy.
Guilt is healthy when it calls you to align with your morals, values, and principles. It reminds you to do the right thing, nourish your relationships, and respect other people.
Guilt is very unhealthy when you are unnecessarily feeling bad even when you didn't do anything wrong. That's when it becomes an emotional burden that holds you back and affects the quality of your life.
If guilt is taking a toll on your mental and emotional health, it's time to evaluate your responses to just about everything. That may sound difficult. However, like forming any new habit, it takes conscious effort, commitment, and practice.
Here are some steps you can take to stop feeling guilty all the time.
Accept That You Have Limitations
You may have set a goal for yourself at work or in your personal life, and you have fallen short of achieving it. You might be thinking, "What's wrong with me? I could have done better "
To stop feeling guilty about it, you must recognize that just like everyone else, you also have limitations. They don't have to be the same as everyone else's either! There are times that you may want to give up on the task or project, but you should do so only when you believe it's not going to be a worthy investment of your time, money, and efforts – not because you believe you can't do it.
Put Yourself First
Some people can ask you a lot of favors, and you may find it hard to say no. When you're finally able to decline, you may feel so guilty you want to change your mind. You don't have to and shouldn't! That feeling is a habit. You can only lessen the intensity of the feeling with repeated practice. When you say no, mean NO. It's okay to put yourself before other people's wants and needs. It's okay to be selfish at times and take care of your personal needs first.
Therefore, don't feel guilty when you make a choice. You need to take care of yourself first. Take care of yourself before you take care of others. When you have practiced saying no enough, you will feel recharged and do NOT feel guilty for doing so. That is healthy!
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When you're always feeling guilty, it can often be because you're focusing on the things you didn't do or weren't able to do. To stop this counter-productive emotion, you should start focusing on the many good things that you do.
Practice self-gratitude by journaling it. Every day, list down at least three things that helped you get a step closer to your goals. Write down the things you've done to help others, especially your loved ones. Then you'll be proving to yourself that you're doing great things too.
Change Your Perspective
Some people are highly critical of themselves. If you're letting your inner critic win against you all the time, you'll always feel guilty even when you have no cause to. To help prevent this feeling, try to change your perspective.
Look at yourself as if you're helping your best friend. With them, you don't play the blame game. You don't put your friend down. Instead, you are more likely to give a pat on the back and some encouraging words, such as, "It's okay. You know you did the best you could."
Now, there may be times that you really messed up and did something wrong. Nobody's perfect. Everyone has flaws and imperfections. So, take a step back, review your mistake, and see what lesson you can learn. If you've hurt someone, admit to your mistakes and apologize. Incorporate the learning and do your best not to commit the same mistake again. Uselessly dwelling on the guilt will not get you anywhere. Forgive yourself and move on.
Guilt is a common emotion that everyone feels – some incidences are valid, some are not. Know when your guilt is healthy for you or is unreasonably weighing you down. When you tend to dwell on the negative emotions, remember the steps above. Committing to making changes is not always easy, but know that it's not beyond you. You can stop feeling guilty all the time and live a healthier and happier life.