I once thought I was depressed for my entire life – it turns out I was just Catholic. While I’m no longer Catholic, my guilt is. Confronting this guilt and learning to move past it was one of the most important steps to success I ever took in my life. Morality, ethics and compassion are important human traits, and, while guilt can also be valuable, it shouldn’t be the driving factor motivating you to be a good person. There are a million reasons to be a good person, and “to make up for a bad deed” is the least altruistic. Here’s how guilt negatively impacts your life. 

1. Guilt Affects You Physically

The feeling of guilt can weigh you down – it’s a gateway to regret. Both emotions start to weigh you down over time when not properly addressed. If you don’t immediately confront your guilt, it piles on, and can physically make you sick. Not only that, it negatively impacts your life decisions. You’ll eat less healthy, exercise less and slowly deteriorate over time.

It’s not just physical health; guilt affects your physical body language, including your walk, stance and facial expressions. It can distract you from proper hygiene; and your wandering mind can cause you to miss minor details when getting dressed, such as leaving your fly down or tucking your shirt into your underwear.

2. Guilt Impedes Success

It’s hard enough getting a job or promotion with your fly down and your underwear showing. Adding to the difficulty is the fact that you’ve been wasting your time thinking about all the “bad” things you’ve done to people instead of keeping up to date on the latest info in your field. Can you think of one successful corporation or person who never made a decision that hurt someone?

If you can, you’re wrong. Hurting someone may not be the intent, but the more people your decisions affect, the more impossible it becomes to make a decision that doesn’t hurt someone. It’s not possible for President Obama to make any decision that helps everyone without negatively impacting anyone. That’s how success works – you have to be cutthroat, or you’ll never achieve it.

3. Guilt Makes You Punish Yourself

In nature, brute strength, speed, and other physical attributes determine your survival. Human society is different in that intelligence and invention can overcome physical mismatches. As we evolved, we created organized religion as a way to protect ourselves. Someone bigger than me could kill me, but he’s unlikely to do so when faced with the possibility of being tortured in the afterlife by someone bigger than he is.

Over time religion evolved, but the essence is unchanged. We’re trained by many religious teachers and practitioners to punish ourselves for crossing moral lines. Why punish yourself with guilt though? If you’re doing something wrong, you’ll be punished in the afterlife anyway, so you may as well enjoy the short lifespan you have before eternity.

4. Guilt Changes Your Personality

When you’re wrapped up in guilt, you may feel like you’re the same person, but people perceive you differently. Over time you become hardened, and some people will tell you this is called maturing and growing up, but it doesn’t have to be that way.

It’s a fallacy that you can’t maintain the same level of curiosity, pleasure and excitement you had as a child throughout your entire life. You don’t have to be sour, overly-careful and judgmental to be an adult. Drop the guilt.

5. Guilt Ruins Your Life

Everyone makes mistakes – despite our best intentions, nobody makes it through life without harming someone. I’m not saying you should intentionally harm people, but you do need to accept that your actions could harm people. You can’t please all the people all the time, but if you’re overly worried about the negative impacts of your actions, you’ll miss out on a lot of opportunities.

Instead of sitting on the sidelines playing it safe, learn to focus on the positive impact of your actions. When you focus on the greater good, you’ll feel much more fulfilled.

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