Anyone's bound to make mistakes because this is the only way we learn. Mistakes can be intentional or unintentional acts. If it's deliberate, guilt will undoubtedly play a huge role in policing future behavior. Guilt is an emotion whose presence and absence tend to matter a lot. Whether or not someone experiences guilt says a lot about their personality. Additionally, like any other emotion, guilt can be both reasonable and unreasonable.
There's a large number of people who can't help feeling guilty about minor things or something they did or didn’t do. A great example would be feeling guilty about relaxing, after eating too much, or after divorce, even if it was the only reasonable option.
So, if you're wondering how to stop feeling guilty, you've come to the right place. But first, let's learn how to differentiate between healthy and unhealthy guilt.
What Is Healthy Guilt?
You're probably experiencing healthy guilt if it hasn't toned down your urge for self-improvement. Healthy guilt motivates you to eradicate previous bad habits and negative patterns instead of causing psychological distress. Of course, similar to unhealthy guilt, it also tends to make you feel ashamed of whatever you did. But, it doesn’t feel like an emotional burden you simply can’t get rid of.
What Is Unhealthy Guilt?
Unhealthy guilt, on the other hand, comes with excessively intrusive thoughts. Blowing things out of proportion rarely turns out well. Similarly, experiencing unnecessary amounts of guilt negatively impacts your mental health and promises the birth of many other problems.
People who experience excessive guilt feel overbearing pressure on them. However, most of the time, feeling guilty is unconscious.
If you’ve committed an act that awakens your guilty conscience, overthinking won’t make you feel better; it will only nullify most chances of improvement. Sometimes, people can experience unhealthy amounts of guilt about a car accident or after cheating on a spouse, which is a difficult experience. Still, guilt should only guide you to making a conclusion and acting better next time.
However, some people will feel guilty after the smallest egoistic act, such as taking a nap or simply saying no to something they didn’t wish to do. However, setting healthy boundaries and taking care of your needs is essential for your mental health.
Consistently handling excessive guilt can:
- Disrupt your chances of self-improvement and of learning from past mistakes
- Lower down your morale
- Reduce self-esteem
- Lead to sadness and, in severe cases, anxiety or depression
- Result in a constant sinking feeling in your heart
- May coerce you into choosing self-punishment as a negative coping mechanism
How to Get Over Guilt?
Now, let’s just cut to the chase and land on the most important section of this discourse; how to stop feeling guilty 24/7?
There's a large variety of negative coping mechanisms people indulge in for this purpose. Some of these include self-mutilation, alcohol consumption, permanent reclusiveness, recreational drug use, starvation, etc. However, the reveal they provide is temporary yet often leaves serious consequences.
Here are some healthy alternatives that offer promising results.
Surround yourself with the right people
Sometimes, other people are the ones who intentionally make you feel guilty. Dealing with narcissists can completely tarnish one's self-esteem and make one more prone to experiencing unhealthy amounts of guilt. A narcissistic boss, partner, parent, or friend will ensure that you’re feeling bad for that little attention you give to them.
Surrounding yourself with the right crowd charges your life with compassion. Those are the kind of friends or relatives that push you towards a better you instead of causing emotional and psychological conflicts.
Set an action plan
Do you ever feel like you’re not as dedicated to your loved ones as you might want to be? Or that you are not spending enough time to chase your dreams? If you are wondering how to stop feeling guilty, well, there's only one way you can eradicate this unhealthy amount of guilt – by actually doing what you feel like you’re not doing.
Grab a personal planner and jot down a list of all things you’d like to achieve. It could be something as simple as giving more time to your children, setting time aside to hang out with friends, or putting in more effort while doing house chores. Once you have a list of all things you feel guilty about underperforming in, it’ll be easier to narrow everything down.
Furthermore, you can tick off each item from your list as you proceed with the rest of your day. As soon as you feel guilty, you are now starting to set off, take out that list and go over everything you've achieved so far.
It can almost feel like a warm hug of appreciation, and it can remind you that you’re achieving everything you wanted to achieve. Consequently, you'll be less likely to feel guilty all the time.
Ask, observe, and draw conclusions
As humans, we tend to assume things and over-perceive even when we don't want to. Sometimes, these assumptions are partially correct, and sometimes, they are entirely wrong. Similar is the case for guilt. If you feel like you’re not putting in enough effort to maintain a romantic relationship with your partner, don't just sit around and assume stuff.
Make sure you are vocal about your concerns and ask the right questions at the right time. Instead of sulking in a corner and assuming the worst about yourself, initiate a conversation with the other person. Ask them whether or not you’ve been underperforming regarding the relationship.
If the problem lies on your end, you’ll be much more aware of it now. Consequently, you can put in your effort exactly where required instead of experiencing overbearing amounts of guilt.
Moreover, the problem could lie on the other end in some cases. Observing things from afar and then concluding can also save you from experiencing a lot of shame.
Additionally, it could be a partner, friend, or a loved one who could be over-demanding and making you feel guilty for not responding the way they want. Perhaps noting things between you and that other person from an outsider's perspective can make you realize that you have always put in your best effort.
Don’t be so hard on yourself
Analyze the situation instead of jumping to conclusions and labeling yourself as the culprit. Looking at the circumstances and exploring the context might tone down the unreasonable guilt you're experiencing. You might not be perfect in every way, but you're not the worst either. If you're trying your best, but the circumstances turn a little sour, you're not the one who’s responsible for that.
Flipping the table and changing the viewpoint can also be beneficial if you can’t help feeling guilty all the time. For instance, a tight work schedule could be the reason behind your inability to make enough time for some family dinners. You’re more likely to be less sympathetic towards yourself than someone else in a similar situation.
You'll probably cut another person some slack for a mistake, their absence from an important event, or their inability to commit to something. Reimagining someone else in your situation can awaken compassion for yourself. That’s all you require to understand that you’re only human, and making errors isn’t that much of a big deal.
Overcoming Guilt With Therapy
Neglecting the matter instead of attending therapy can make it worse. With the help of a counselor, you can work your way towards the reason behind the guilt you're experiencing. For instance, one could be feeling guilty after surviving a natural disaster that killed many others.
That's a textbook case of survivor’s guilt, and rethinking the situation by talking to a counselor opens a door towards recovery. Therapy ensures that life challenges don’t impact your mental health, personal relationships, or your everyday life.
If you are feeling guilty and would like to find less intimidating ways to seek help, online therapy is a great choice. You will be able to attend therapy from any place without traveling to a therapist’s office. Some online counseling services even offer anonymity. Online therapy can encourage people to be more open because one can say it all via messaging. This is also a great option for those who:
- Are on a limited time-stretch
- Want to find a more flexible approach to therapy
- Have disabilities
- Live in a rural area where access to mental care is limited
There’s light at the end of every tunnel. So if you’re someone who just can’t seem to stop feeling guilty over a petty matter or because of a much more traumatic event, seeking professional help promises healing. It’s a great way of building emotional resilience, untying old knots, and forgiving yourself.
If you are interested in online therapy, we at DoMental are always here to help and connect you to a licensed therapist.