How to Deal with Guilt and Shame: Unburden Yourself and Start Living

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how to deal with guilt and shame

There comes a point in everyone’s life where we feel guilt or shame.

If you’re not careful that guilt or shame can have a big impact on your life. So knowing how to deal with guilt and shame is very important.

If you don’t know how to deal with these feelings it can keep your self-esteem low and you won’t be able to enjoy life to the fullest.

Many people think that feeling guilty and ashamed are the same thing, but they’re not.

Here’s the difference:

  • Feeling guilt: I did something bad.
  • Feeling shame: I am bad.

if we feel bad about something we feel guilt and if we feel bad about ourselves we feel shame.

Both are tightly connected with your self-worth and if one of those two feelings is dominating your life right now you won’t feel good about yourself.

Shame is the most complex one to deal with because it’s a feeling that is often deeply rooted inside of you. It could be something that has happened in your past that has caused you to feel ashamed in certain situations.

Guilt is often a regret of something bad you did and so the reason for feeling guilt is more external. In other words, it’s more obvious where this feeling is coming from. Nonetheless, overcoming guilt isn’t easy and something that can take a while.

In this post I am going to help you how to deal with guilt and shame so you can move on with your life.

Even though you might deserve to feel these feelings because of your actions, you can’t stay stuck in these feelings forever. You need to find a way to resolve these feelings so you can become a better person and live a better life.

Now let’s take a look at how to deal with guilt and shame!

How to deal with shame

Shame is often an effect of something bad that has happened in your past.

It’s a feeling that is often passed from generation to generation. If one of your parents was bound in shame in your childhood then the odds are that they’ve passed that feeling over to you.

When you are a child you are very vulnerable and forming your own identity is for most part based on the reactions of your parents.

You could have had the feeling as a child that there’s something wrong with you because your parents mistreated or ignored you. As a child it’s very important to feel love from our parents and if they fail to do so, we are vulnerable to think that we are inadequate, not good enough or unlovable.

So how we are treated by others when we are young has a big impact on how we internally treat ourselves.

When we grow up we get all these kind of unconscious triggers that make us feel ashamed as adults. It’s those negative experiences in the past that are now deeply rooted inside of you.

Not only you’ll have trouble to connect with yourself, but others as well. It’s important to take action as soon as possible because you don’t want to isolate yourself from others.

So here are the following tips to deal with shame.

Revisit the past

Even though it’s a painful thing to do, you’ll need to take a trip down memory lane to understand where your feelings of shame are coming from.

It’s important to have a realistic understanding that these feelings of shame are not your fault. You’re an adult now but try to look back at how you were just a child and had to deal with the difficulties in the past.

How could understand what was happening to you back then?

You needed approval and unconditional love back then and because there was a lack of it you started to feel unworthy. You were a child and It was NOT your fault.

Remind yourself of this whenever you feel ashamed.

It’s important to find out what experience it exactly was that gave you this trigger of feeling ashamed. Write down exactly what happened and look at it with the perspective of an adult. You should understand now that things that happened when you were young and vulnerable aren’t your fault.

Self-Compassion

Whenever you feel ashamed of yourself it’s hard to be kind and loving towards yourself. So it’s very important to practice self-compassion before any feelings of shame may arise.

You should talk to yourself and treat yourself with the same kindness and love you show a good friend. I suggest you read this post on this blog if you truly want to learn how to love yourself.

The way you talk to yourself is very important if you want to develop more self-compassion. I also suggest you read my post on how to develop self-esteem by eliminating negative thoughts.

Accept positive influences from other people

It’s very hard for people who are dealing with feelings of shame to accept positive emotions from other people. Whenever other people give them a compliment or help them out with something they can’t seem to understand why other people would do that.

The feeling of unworthiness is so strong that they might even mistrust people that are nice to them. They can’t seem to understand why someone would be positive about them because they think so negative about themselves.

I’m sure you can understand how this behavior is very harmful for these kind of people and how it will keep them in this never-ending spiral of negativity.

So, if you are dealing with feelings of shame it’s important to keep an open mind about other people and to accept love and kindness in your life. When someone is kind to you, don’t diminish their act by rejecting their kindness. Practice on accepting it openly and with gratitude. Allow yourself to trust the good judgment of other people who see the good in you.

This might take a while to work on because you need to be consciously aware of your behavior. When you keep working on it though, you will find a way to find pleasure and gratitude in the positive influences of other people.

Forgive yourself and others

Forgiveness plays a big role if you need to deal with guilt and shame. You may not really need forgiveness for anything but it probably feels like you do. You want to be free from all the bad things that surround you. These shameful feelings need to be erased so you can finally feel good and enjoy life.

The only person who can really free yourself from these bad things is you. This is an internal conflict and you have the key to free yourself from all this misery. Whatever failings you might perceive in yourself, why not reject it? There is not a single person on this planet who isn’t flawed and makes mistakes.

You should accept the fact that being flawed is perfectly fine and acceptable. Forgive yourself for not being perfect and realize that no one else is perfect. You are OK! Put your shame away and start living the life you know you deserve to live.

How to deal with guilt

Guilt is an emotion we experience whenever we have regret of our actions. Whenever you do something bad then the chances are that you are going to feel guilty afterwards. This is a good thing because it means you realize that you are responsible for your actions and you have a conscience.

What isn’t a good thing is staying stuck in your guilt and not being able to move on with your life. So let’s take a look on how we can deal with feelings of guilt and move on.

Forgive yourself

The first step you have to take if you want to get rid of your feelings of guilt is to forgive yourself.

This can be a difficult process if your feelings of guilt are very strong. If you take these steps however you should be on your way with forgiving yourself:

  • Acknowledge what you did and how it affected others. Do this without exaggerating or minimizing whatever it is you did.
  • Addressing the degree to which you were responsible for this harm – there might have been something that you could have done differently, but you might not have been responsible for everything.
  • Understanding your state of mind at the time of the event.
  • Talk with the people who you might have hurt or were negatively impacted by your actions. A sincere apology can go a long way and it’s important that you and the other party involved are aware of the damage that has been done and to be clear on what further actions needs to be taken.

Make things right and make changes

Instead of staying guilty you should try to make things right. If you are staying guilty without taking action you will only punish yourself. This is how we will keep feelings of shame and make it hard for us to move on in life.

Making changes means that you should swallow or pride and trust the fact that others will be grateful for your effort to set things right.

Start a journal

It might be a good idea to start a journal and write down everything about the situation that you feel guilty about. It’s a good way to learn more about yourself and to understand why this situation gave you feelings of guilt.

Trying to improve your behavior in the future is a great way to relieve guilt.

Answer these questions in your journal:

  • How did you feel about yourself and everyone involved leading up to, during, and after the situation?
  • What were your needs at that time, and were they being met? If not, why not?
  • Did you have motives for this action? What or who was the catalyst for this behavior?
  • What are the standards of judgment in this situation? Are they your own values, your parents’, your friends’, your spouse’s, or coming from an institution like the law? Are these appropriate standards of judgment, and if so, how do you know?

Accept you did something bad and move on

You can’t change the past. You can only try to learn from it and move on. So when  you are done learning from your actions and making amends and repairs wherever possible, it’s important not to dwell for too long.

Remind yourself that the sooner you are done feeling guilty, the sooner you can bring increased focus to other, more current parts of your life.

In conclusion

Dealing with guilt and shame isn’t easy. There could be a lot of parts in play that are the cause of these feelings.

You should address whatever it is that causes these feelings and try to fix it and it’s something that you have to deal with internally.

No matter the reason, you have to move on. If you fail to do so life will only get worse and you might have to struggle with a lot feelings than just shame or guilt.