As I reflect on the past 13 years I reflect on the stages of my own evolving consciousness that I have had to go through – sometimes once, sometimes over and over and some right now. I hope what I have learned may help you.
MOVING THROUGH GUILT
No experience is more universal than failure, but humans differ wildly in how they respond to it. The primary emotions that descend from our own human shortcomings are guilt and shame. The terms are popularly interchangeable, but their psychological meanings are quite different. Shame arises from a negative evaluation of the self whereas guilt comes from a negative evaluation of one’s behavior. Shame is a general feeling of inadequacy; guilt is a specific sense of transgression.
The negative emotion of guilt can be paralyzing for some people. A person can feel guilty for something they did, for something they didn’t do, for something they thought they did, or for not doing enough for another person. Certainly, if a person causes harm to another, then guilt and remorse are natural. This feeling can catalyze a person to apologize, correct the wrong, and do better in the future. These are appropriate reactions however some may take their guilt to an extreme through suffering excessive rumination or depressive thoughts, which is a surefire recipe for mood disorders.
Those of us who are inclined to feel guilty will always find some reason, however absurd. Society certainly has not helped us break from that. Many of us were raised to say sorry for everything, even though something may not have been our fault. So where does this feeling come from and how does one overcome it? Most of the time our attempts to overcome it are never completely successful, but we can try to look elsewhere, to find joy in our children, our friendships, our work, in our own creativity, our imaginations, which can lift us out of a useless situation in our everyday lives.
In order to overcome guilt, you must forgive yourself. Forgiveness is a beautiful thing. It’s a gift that we are usually generous in giving others at home, at work, at Starbucks when the barista screws up our order for the third time this week—yet, for some reason, we don’t afford ourselves the same luxury. The only person you have let down is yourself by not being kinder to you. You deserve to breathe, to dream big, and plan for the future, to laugh again, and to not be judged. Accepting responsibility for your own shortcomings and working on them to avoid mistakes in the future is one thing. But constantly blaming yourself for things in the past, firstly, is neither helpful nor healthy and secondly, doesn’t change a single thing.
The next time you find yourself with those thoughts running through your head, nip it in the bud with compassion for yourself and neutralize those words with forgiveness.
“Letting go gives us freedom, and freedom is the only condition for happiness. If, in our heart, we still cling to anything—anger, guilt, or possessions—we cannot be free.” ~Thich Nhat Hanh
Time and practice will always be your healer, so be patient and never give up.
Realize that no one is perfect—and also that our guilt often has more to do with ourselves than those who we feel we have harmed. Guilt is often a self-created reminder of all the things we wish we had done differently for ourselves.
In realizing that it’s in large part about us, it’s a lot easier to let it go.
I no longer allow guilt to have power in my life, and in doing so, I can experience the fullness of life and the precious time I have with everyone I love. No matter what you feel guilty about, you deserve that too.
Kevin T. Cahill is an award winning sales professional and consultant specializing in the art of managing change and achieving great results. As the founder of The Change Revolution, this international best selling author and speaker inspires men and women alike. As someone who has mastered the art of resilience and hope, Kevin’s philosophy as a clarity builder is strategic and results driven. Kevin’s passion is to equip individuals and organizations with a renewed sense of clarity and excitement, knowing that positive change will bring about positive gains. His exciting creation The Change Revolution offers a winning blueprint for navigating through change and achieving success.
Speaking inquiries email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 519-836-7989.