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Guilt

One of the very worst feelings I can think of is guilt.

For me, guilt shows up in my stomach and chest and weighs everything down. I cannot focus on anything else, I feel awful. It is almost always accompanied by other emotions such as anxiety, regret, sadness and worry. I become completely consumed by whatever I am feeling guilty over. 

Guilt is a normal feeling that can come up when something doesn't align with our personal standards. Brené Brown describes guilt as “holding something we've done, or failed to do, up against our values and feeling psychological discomfort.” I am sure everyone can come up with examples of things in their life where they did something that went against their personal standards and then felt a shivering wave of guilt pour over them. 

My thoughts today are not in regards to the guilt that is, more or less, "appropriate." I want to look at the feelings of guilt that do not serve us. I believe that guilt has a place in our lives, but I am ready to let go of the every day guilt over every.little.thing. Who is with me?!

When we feel guilt, it is generally because we think we should have done/said/felt/acted a different way. That should is very important. When we feel guilty over something we should have done, we need to ask ourselves who is determining what we should do. You might find that you are punishing yourself for things you don't even want. (Ex: You don't want to have children > your family and society say that you should > you feel guilty.)

Guilt has been running wild in my mind for years. Once, I was on a teleconference and accidentally put someone on the spot with a question. I then proceeded to torment myself for days over the interaction. I must have typed out 15 different e-mails trying to find a way to apologize without making it worse! Another time, I moved apartments and found several things that needed to be fixed. I felt so guilty every time I submitted a request to the maintenance team. I actually avoided asking for things to be fixed because of the guilt that they would have to come do it and on top of that what they would think/say about me after so many requests. The other day I found an open parking space that was way in the back and hidden, but felt so much guilt because I knew there was someone who was waiting for a spot before me who hadn't seen this one. These are just a few examples of how guilt shows up for me. Think of your own examples of where you might experience guilt and what it feels like for you.

Once we identify what guilt looks/feels like for us, we can start to question whether or not it is serving us. My suggestion is not to rid yourself of all guilt and never feel guilty again, but to release the guilt that you might not truly need. You are a work-in-progress and it is okay that you make mistakes. Forgive yourself! Next time guilt shows up, give yourself time to think about what you are feeling, why you are feeling it and if you are willing to let that go.