Every Friday, you can receive the Joy Journal, which will give you information, inspiration and tips that you can use in your pursuit for joy.
The Good and The Bad
Guilt is a learned emotion. You can feel it after you’ve done something “wrong,” either to others or yourself. It often couples with regret and shame.
Culture, family, religious or personal beliefs are contributors to guilt. You may have grown up in a situation where anything other than excellent is unacceptable. Therefore, if you ever take your foot off the pedal or are less than perfect, you may feel guilty.
Some guilt can be good. I view guilt as my brain raising a red flag for something I need to pay attention to. Feeling bad after an event or action on my part may lead me to offer an apology, change my behavior or make different choices in the future. All of which can be productive, but the key is to let the guilt go once processed.
Guilt is bad when it becomes chronic or leads to physical ailments, self-doubt, shame and decreased self-esteem. If you regularly feel like you aren’t good enough, you may want to self-reflect on the source and reasonableness of the standards you are trying to live by and maybe even seek professional help to help you sort through it.
Here are a few tips to help you navigate guilt:
- Pause and examine the source of your guilt – What have I done? Did it hurt myself or others? What is the impact of my actions?
- Logically evaluate your response to the situation – Given the impact, how should I react and to what degree? Is this a situation that warrants guilt?
- Own up and make amends when your actions warrant culpability – Offer an apology when you’ve impacted another person.
- Refrain from feeling guilt in situations you can’t control – For example, feeling guilty about being a working parent (when you need the income) won’t serve you in the long run.
- Realize that no one is perfect – Don’t engage in extended self-blame or battering your self-esteem because you should’ve known, should’ve acted differently, or should’ve been an ideal person. You are human and mistakes are allowed.