“Guilt is a monkey on your back,” proclaimed good friend Ellie. She went on to explain how guilt served no purpose except to make you feel bad.
That was thirty years ago and Ellie’s words were on the mark. Guilt doesn’t serve any good purpose. On the contrary, it’s a toxic emotion. Studies have shown that it weighs you down (literally!), affects your decision-making, and can even show up as a health problem.
Unfortunately, like an alcohol or drug addiction, many women don’t know how to stop. Women are socialized to feel guilty about everything you do (or don’t do) for your parents, your kids, your spouse, your friends…everyone and everything!
Giving up guilt after a lifetime of feeling like it’s a normal part of your life takes effort. But you can get started now. Here are a few ways:
- Understand how your values led you to make one decision or another. Your decision might have made someone in your life unhappy. But that’s not your problem and shouldn’t be the source of any guilt. As long as you were doing the right thing (according to your values), you’re in the clear. There’s a reason why “to thine own self be true” is one of the most powerful adages of all time!
- Make friends with the feeling. What you resist persists. So accept that sometimes you will feel guilty. The operative word is “feel” because feeling guilty may have nothing to do with any fact that you did something wrong. Talk to a friend and get their feedback. If s/he doesn’t think you did anything “wrong,” then you’re just having a feeling. And sometimes you have gas…it passes. Let the guilt pass too.
- Forgive yourself the way you forgive others. If you did something to offend, then apologize, forgive yourself, don’t do it again and move on. FYI: for those of you who know The Lord’s Prayer, you are asking for forgiveness – it’s one of the most powerful parts of that prayer.