Unless you’re a psychopath, you’re going to feel guilty occasionally. Guilt is like failure in a way. Guilt is just an undesirable outcome that you can choose to learn from.
Failure usually just impacts you. Guilt is usually the result of harming someone else. With guilt, you’re not the only one that was potentially harmed. Guilt is uncomfortable, but hardly fatal.
Use these techniques to get over your guilt and move forward with your life:
1. Determine why you feel guilty. Be sure you understand why you’re feeling guilty. What did you do wrong? Did you really do anything wrong? Imagine you were supposed to meet your spouse at their work party, but you got a flat tire. Avoid feeling guilty for things outside of your control.
◦ If you missed the party because you forgot about it, fell asleep on the couch, or lost track of time, you should probably feel some guilt!
2. Decide on a response. The first step out of guilt is responding appropriately. This might include an apology. Maybe a detailed explanation is in order. Maybe you’ll layout a plan to show the other person that your transgression won’t happen again.
◦ You might make it up to the other person in some fashion. Maybe you’ll agree to rub your spouse’s feet every day for the next month. Maybe you’ll take your daughter out to dinner.
3. Be willing to forgive yourself. Once you forgive yourself, the guilt is gone. Imagine that the error you made happened to you. You’d probably forgive the other person without too much fuss. You should treat yourself at least as well!
◦ Notice how much easier it is for you to forgive someone else than it is to forgive yourself. You should be the best friend you’ll ever have. Treat yourself like it.
4. Write a letter. You can write a letter to yourself, to the person you harmed, or both. No one writes or sends letters anymore – that makes them especially meaningful. It’s also a great way to purge your thoughts and your guilt. The other person will be impressed, and you’ll feel a lot better.
5. Do something positive that will boost your self-esteem. Volunteering can be great when you’re feeling guilty. Show yourself that you’re a good person. Make a donation. Help someone with a problem. Give away some of your stuff. Take an action that will allow you to feel good about yourself.
6. Make changes instead of feeling guilty. Rather than feeling guilt, which helps no one, make some changes to ensure the same thing doesn’t happen again in the future. Should you eliminate a bad habit, procrastinate less, or get more organized? Maybe you need to value others more than you do currently.
◦ What are some positive changes you can make that are related to the cause of your guilt?
7. Move on. At some point, you have to let it go and get on with your life. There’s no value in holding on to guilt. Guilty feelings suggest that you did something wrong and need to learn from it. So, learn from it. Then, move on.
Everyone has felt the pain of guilt. It’s important to resolve the issue as well as you can, forgive yourself, make amends, and move on. There’s no value in punishing yourself for an extended period of time. You made a mistake, so do the best you can to fix it.
Now it’s time to set yourself free. Allow yourself to move forward from your guilt.