What role does guilt play in our lives?
Guilt encourages us to act according to our values. And if we have violated them, to come clean and make things right if possible.
But sometimes guilt is not necessarily a fact, but a perception we have. One definition I read said guilt comes from a wrong, either real or imagined.Our thoughts can’t always be trusted.
And sometimes we have done something wrong, but even after we have tried to make things right, we still use that wrongdoing against ourselves. We beat ourselves up, bringing up the past and holding onto the real or perceived offense to justify why we aren’t good enough.
We can internalize lingering guilt into shame. Now instead of “I’ve done something wrong,” it becomes “I am wrong.” When this happens, guilt is no longer useful.
I coached a client this week who was letting guilt keep her from the life she wanted. When I probed a little further, she confessed to me that because of something she did 35 years ago, she didn’t feel like she deserved a good life now.
That’s like saying, “I smoked for a while 35 years ago. I regret it, and I quit. But now I don’t deserve to be healthy.”
I say absurd.
We all deserve a good life now, regardless of what wrongs we have committed in the past.
Guilt was always meant to be a signal to make things right. It was never meant to be carried with us long-term. It’s a slippery and heavy sucker and difficult to carry. It takes a lot of energy and focus to keep a hold of it.
If you are carrying guilt with you, maybe now is the time to let it go?
Have you come clean? Have you tried to make it right? Are you still beating yourself up over something that happened long ago? Are you holding the mistakes of a child (relatively speaking) against yourself as an adult?
I promise, you deserve better. You deserve a wonderful life. You deserve joy and pleasure and peace.
Let it go and focus your energy on being the person that has the life you want.
I would be happy to help you let go of the guilt and shame. It’s not easy when you have been holding onto it for so long.
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