“You’re imperfect, and you’re wired for struggle, but you are worthy of love and belonging” – Brene Brown
Guilt is a response to one’s own actions or failure of action and it is a powerful and sometimes painful feeling. Healthy guilt is what you feel when you have done something offensive or hurtful to others or even ourselves. It serves as a sign to tell us something we did was not okay, and to not do it in the future. However, there is a type of guilt that is unhealthy and can often leave you feeling stuck. This is the guilt that serves no rational purpose and can often lead to self destructive behaviors if you let if manifest. If you let unhealthy guilt manifest, you are at risk of being stuck in the past and wishing you could go back and change something that you just simply can’t change. The most productive way to deal with guilt is to accept that you cannot change the past and then learn from your mistake and try your best to do things differently so that you don’t make the same mistake in the future.
Something I am currently working on is getting over feeling guilty when I ask for help. I sometimes struggle with asking for help or leaning on friends because it causes me to feel guilty, as if I am literally “putting my problems” on my friends and/or rubbing off my mood on them. I think this stems from past experiences where opening up to a friend ended up blowing up in my face, as she made me feel guilty for what I was feeling and invalidated my feelings. But just because I had one bad experience doesn’t mean I should refrain from opening up to my friends in the future. It just means I should open up to those who I know and trust are my good, true friends.
We all know it is much easier to give advice than to follow it, and I know that if a good friend of mine came up to me and told me that she feels too guilty to tell me why she is upset, I would probably tell her she is crazy to even think that because that is what true friends are for. Then why should I feel guilty for asking friends for help? The answer is I just shouldn’t! That guilt I feel is unhealthy as it is completely irrational and serves zero purpose. Sharing hard experiences and feelings with friends is what brings you closer. And it’s true, that is what friends are for. They are there to love, support and grow with you. This method I just used above to rationalize my guilt can be used in a lot of different situations. If you are in a sticky situation and are unsure how to handle it, imagine what you would tell your best friend if her or she was going through the same situation. And then try and follow that advice. It is definitely easier said than done, but it is worth trying.
I think the key to dealing with guilt is to really understand what behavior causes you to feel guilty and then to accept that you are an imperfect human and that perfection is unattainable. Don’t beat yourself up over it and as a result, bruise your self-esteem because you feel like you “should or shouldn’t” of done something differently.. because if you do this you will never move on and learn.