Advertising
Advertising

How To Stop Feeling Guilty And Forgive Yourself

How To Stop Feeling Guilty And Forgive Yourself

Guilt is perhaps one of the most debilitating emotions, and one that has the potential to negatively influence the human mind. Such feelings can build to the point where they become unmanageable, creating a fragmented mental outlook the prevents us from achieving goals, pursuing dreams and becoming the masters of our own destiny.

Guilt is also one of the most misunderstood emotions, as numerous scientific studies can testify to. In order to explore the nature of guilt and dispel many of the misconceptions surrounding it, psychologists Claire Adams and Mark Leary devised an experiment which focused on women who were striving to lose weight. The pair split the subjects into two groups and encouraged them to eat doughnuts and candy, with the simple goal of determining whether people would indulge less if they were relieved of their guilt.

This premise seems both cruel and ridiculous in equal measure, but while one group was made to feel better about skipping on their diets, the other was made to experience feelings of guilt. While logic would suggest that the former would eat more, they were actually found to have consumed just 28 grams as opposed to the 70 grams eaten by the group that were left to feel guilty. So what does this tell us about guilt, and what steps can we take to stop feeling guilty as individuals?

Advertising

5 Ways to Stop Feeling Guilty:

1. Remember that the brain exists as a separate entity to the mind

These findings can be explained by the fact that the brain exists as a separate entity to the mind, meaning that we cannot fully control our emotional responses to specific events. In this instance, it is important to understand that all emotional triggers are processed in an area of the brain known commonly as the limbic system, which is driven by short-term cravings and wants to indulge specific impulses. So when we feel guilty, we are empowering this part of the brain and allowing ourselves to indulge more than we otherwise would.

It is therefore crucial that we remember this, while taking steps to manage our response to emotional triggers and rather than giving in to sudden impulses and feelings. One of the best options is to engage in a process called mind-mapping, which involves the visual representation of your thought processes at any given time. This has emerged as a popular business tool, but it also has the dual benefit of mapping your personal thoughts into a structured form and helping you to plot specific responses to debilitating, emotional triggers.

2. Learn to consult yourself like your best friend

If you are struggling to accomplish a specific goal (think of weight loss, for example), it is easy to become consumed with guilt, remorse and the emotional response to failure. You can strive to avoid this by introducing objectivity to the situation, and imagining that it is as a close friend or beloved family member who is struggling to remain focused on what they are aiming to achieve.

Advertising

This instantly changes your perspective, as rather than focus on the emotion you are instead required to offer actionable advice and viable solutions. So rather than berating them and forcing them to feel guilty for their perceived failings, you would instead focus on rationalising the situation and empowering them to rebound from short-term setbacks. By visualising such a scenario and challenging your perspective, you can become your own counsellor and negate the emotional impact of guilt.

3. Learn from your mistakes and embrace the lessons of failure

When we are children, we are much more tenacious and fearless when learning new things. When learning how to walk and developing our academic skills, our burgeoning minds are incapable of guilt and therefore purely focused on the attainment of a single goal. As a result of this, we simply consider failure as an inevitable part of the learning process as children and build on our mistakes with the encouragement of others.

As we grow older and lose our inhibitions, however, we begin to fear failure and become consumed with guilt when we do not accomplish important goals. We subsequently allow the negative emotions that are associated with failure to prevent us from trying further, which in turns creates a vicious cycle of guilt, depression and anxiety. If we can instead focus on the core lessons of each specific failure and use these to inspire future efforts, we will gradually become more successful and eliminate guilt as an influential emotion.

Advertising

4. Learn to say no instead of acting out of obligation

Let’s face facts; there will also be little chores and activities in life that we do in spite of ourselves. From visiting the in-laws to food shopping, these mundane tasks are completed not out of love but because they are a fundamental part of everyday life and crucial to our interactions with others.

It is important to draw the line between necessary (but functional) tasks and voluntary activities that we have no obligation to participate in, however, as otherwise we can be made to spend the vast majority of our time either feeling guilty or acting out of obligation. If you can learn to make this distinction and simply say no to invitations that do not appeal to you, you live a more enriched life without becoming burdened by excess guilt.

Working on your delivery helps this process, as it prevents you from feeling as though you have been unnecessary rude or harsh.

Advertising

5. Learn to forgive yourself by righting specific wrongs

If you are to stop feeling guilty and manage your emotional response to failure or adversity, you must ultimately learn to forgive yourself. While this may be easier in instances where we have only let ourselves down, we must strive to forgive the mistakes that have impacted negatively on those who we hold dear. This can be an extremely difficult challenge, but you must ultimately ask yourself who benefits from your underlying feelings of sadness, guilt and helplessness?

The answer is nobody, as this simply creates a scenario where you are incapable of atoning for your mistakes and righting the wrongs that have hurt those around you. Such atonement is the only thing that can help you to move on as an individual, while this can only be achieved if you forgive your own mistakes and believe in your ability to make amends. Interestingly, the part of out brain that drives willpower becomes stronger when we have the belief and desire to accomplish something, and forgiving ourselves is the first step towards fostering this mind-set.

More by this author

10 Reasons A Long-Distance Relationship Will Work 12 iPhone 6 Tricks You Probably Don’t Know But Should We Are Often Confused Empathy With Sympathy but What’s The Difference Actually? To Make Wise Decisions, Ask Yourself These Questions Every Time No Matter What You Say, the First Thing People Pay Attention to Is Only How You Say It

Trending in Communication

1 How to Say No When You Say Yes Too Often 2 How to Fight Your Irrational Fears And Stay Strong 3 Feeling Frustrated in Life? 8 Ways to Get Back on Track 4 8 Ways to Change Your Self-Sabotaging Behaviors 5 Feeling Stuck in Life? How to Never Get Stuck Again

Read Next

Advertising
Advertising
Advertising

Last Updated on July 8, 2020

How to Say No When You Say Yes Too Often

How to Say No When You Say Yes Too Often

Do you say yes so often that you realize you aren’t really happy about this, wondering how to say no to people?

For years, I was a serial people pleaser. Known as someone who would step up, I would gladly make time especially when it came to volunteering for certain causes. I proudly carried this role all through grade school, college, even through law school. For years, I thought saying “no” meant I would disappoint a good friend or someone I respected.

But somewhere along the way, I noticed I wasn’t quite living my life. Instead, I seem to have created a schedule that was a strange combination of meeting the expectations of others, what I thought I should be doing, and some of what I actually wanted to do. The result? I had a packed schedule that left me overwhelmed and unfulfilled.

It took a long while but I learned the art of saying no. Saying ‘no’ meant I no longer catered fully to everyone else’s needs and could make more room for what I really wanted to do. Instead of cramming too much in, I chose to pursue what really mattered. I started to manage my time more around my own needs and interests. When that happened, I became a lot happier. And guess what? I hardly disappointed anyone.

The Importance of Saying No

When you learn the art of saying ‘no,’ you begin to look at the world differently. Rather than seeing all of the things you could or should be doing (and aren’t doing), you start to look at how to say yes to what’s important.

In other words, you aren’t just reacting to what life throws at you. You seek the opportunities that move you to where you want to be.

Successful people aren’t afraid to say no. Oprah Winfrey considered one of the most successful women in the world confessed that it was much later in life when she learned how to say no. Even after she had become internationally famous, she felt she had to say yes to virtually everything. It was only when she realized that after years of struggling with saying no, I finally got to this question: “What do I want?”

Being able to say no also helps you manage your time better.

Advertising

Warren Buffett views no as essential to his success. He said,

“The difference between successful people and really successful people is that really successful people say no to almost everything.”

When I made ‘no’ a part of my toolbox, I drove more of my own success focusing on fewer things and doing them well.

How We Are Pressured to Say Yes

It’s no wonder a lot of us find it hard to say ‘no.’

From an early age, we are conditioned to say ‘yes.’ We said yes probably hundreds of time in order to graduate from high school and then get into college. We said yes to find work. We said yes get a promotion. We said yes to find love and then yes again to stay in a relationship. We said yes to find and keep friends.

We say yes because it feels better to help someone. We say yes because it can seem like the right thing to do. We say yes because we think that is key to success. And we say yes because the request might come from someone who is hard to resist like the boss.

And that’s not all. The pressure to say yes doesn’t just come from others. We put a lot of pressure on ourselves. At work, we say yes because we compare ourselves to others who seem to be doing more than we are. Outside of work, we say yes because we feel guilty we aren’t doing enough to spend time with family or friends.

The message no matter where we turn is nearly always, “You really could be doing more.” The result? When people ask us for our time, we are heavily conditioned to say yes.

Advertising

How to Say No Without Feeling Guilty

Deciding to add the word ‘no’ to your toolbox is no small thing. Perhaps you already say ‘no’ but not as much as you would like. Maybe you have an instinct that if you were to learn the art of ‘no’ that you could finally create more time for things you care about. But let’s be honest, using the word ‘no’ doesn’t come easily for many people.

The 3 Rules of Thumbs for Saying No

1. You Need to Get Out of Your Comfort Zone

Let’s face it. It is hard to say no. Setting boundaries around your time especially you haven’t done it much in the past will feel awkward.

2. You Are the Air Traffic Controller of Your Time

Remember that you are the only one who understands the demands for your time. Think about it, who else knows about all of the demands on your time? No one. Only you are at the center of all of these requests. are the only one that understands what time you really have.

3. Saying ‘No’ Means Saying ‘Yes’ to Something That Matters

When we decide not to do something, it means we can say yes to something else. You have a unique opportunity to decide how you spend your precious time.

6 Ways to Start Saying No

Incorporating that little word ‘no’ into your life can be transformational. Turning some things down will mean you can open doors to what really matters. Here are some essential tips to learn the art of no:

1. Check in With Your Obligation Meter

One of the biggest challenges to saying ‘no’ is a feeling of obligation. Do you feel you have a responsibility to say yes and worry that saying no reflect poorly on you?

Ask yourself whether you truly have the duty to say yes. Check your assumptions or beliefs about whether you carry the responsibility to say yes. Turn it around and instead ask what duty you owe to yourself.

2. Resist the Fear of Missing out (FOMO)

Do you have a fear of missing out (FOMO)? FOMO can follow us around in so many ways. At work, we volunteer our time because we fear we won’t move ahead. In our personal lives, we agree to join the crowd because FOMO even while we ourselves aren’t enjoying the fun.

Advertising

Check in with yourself. Are you saying yes because of FOMO or because you really want to say yes? More often than not, running after fear doesn’t make us feel better.

3. Check Your Assumptions About What It Means to Say ‘No’

Do you dread the reaction you will get if you say no? Often, we say ‘yes’ because we worry about how others will respond or the consequences of saying no or because of the consequences. We may be afraid to disappoint others or think we will lose respect from others. We often forget how much we are disappointing ourselves along the way.

Keep in mind that saying ‘no’ can be exactly what is needed to send the right message that you have limited time. In the tips below, you will see how to communicate your no in a gentle and loving way. You might disappoint someone initially but drawing a boundary can bring you the freedom you need so that you can give freely of yourself when you truly want to.

4. When the Request Comes In, Sit on It

Sometimes, when we are in the moment, we instinctively agree. The request might make sense at first. Or we typically have said yes to this request in the past.

Give yourself a little time to reflect on whether you really have the time, or can do the task properly. You may decide the best option is to say ‘no.’ There is no harm in giving yourself the time to decide.

5. Communicate Your ‘No’ with Transparency and Kindness

When you are ready to tell someone no, communicate your decision clearly. The message can be open and honest to ensure the recipient that your reasons have to do with your limited time.

Resist the temptation not to respond or communicate all. But do not feel obligated to provide a lengthy account about why you are saying no.

A clear communication with a short explanation is all that is needed. I have found it useful to tell people that I have many demands and need to be careful with how I allocate my time. I will sometimes say I really appreciate that they came to me and for them to check in again if the opportunity arises another time.

Advertising

6. Consider How to Use a Modified ‘No’

If you are under pressure to say yes but want to say no, you may want to consider downgrading a “yes” to a “yes but…” giving you an opportunity to condition your agreement to what works best for you.

Sometimes, the condition can be to do the task but not in the time frame that was originally requested. Or perhaps you can do part of what has been asked.

Final Thoughts

Beginning right now, you can change how you respond to requests for your time. When the request comes in, take yourself off autopilot where you might normally say yes.

Use the request as a fresh request to draw a healthy boundary around your time. Pay particular attention to when you place certain demands on yourself. If you are the one placing the demand on yourself, try to evaluate the demand as if it were coming from somewhere else.

Try it now. Say no to a friend who continues to take advantage of your goodwill. Or, draw the line with a workaholic colleague and tell them you will complete the project but not by working all weekend. Or, tell someone in your family you can’t loan them money again because they never paid you back the last time. You’ll find yourself much happier.

More Self-Care Tips

Featured photo credit: Chris Ainsworth via unsplash.com

Read Next