Does guilt hold you back from reaching your potential? it’s time to stop feeling guilty and reclaim your inner peace!
If there is one thing that imprisons most of us from reaching our goals, it has to be feelings of guilt and the “I am not good enough” mentality steadily built over the course of our lives. These feelings do a great job of sabotaging everything we set out to do, everything we hope for. If we continue to harbor these feelings, they will make sure we stay locked in a miserable place.
The truth is, none of us is born with feelings of guilt. Whatever we carry with us at any point of time is a result of what we’ve gathered growing up. Can be from our family or others we came in contact with.
The practice of using guilt is age-old and so common that one hardly notices it. Parents guilt their children into doing things—I do it.
However, when guilt is used with intention, it can be manipulative and controlling. Have you noticed how, when someone feels guilty about something, it is easy to control their emotions? And when you control their emotions, you can manipulate them into doing something or stop them from doing something?
Yes, guilt is as evil as it gets. It destroys people. It strips them of self-worth.
Usually, children succumb to feelings of guilt when they receive criticism constantly. In many families, children hear this often:
You’re a disappointment
Look at (___) She is better than you!
. . . so often that it is enough to make them believe that they’re not worthy of anything. The constant criticism through these growing years lead to a terrible habit: self-criticism. They build a shrine for their Inner Critic who robs their peace. They constantly compare themselves to others and always come up short. Everyone is better than they are no matter what area of life is in question. They develop an inferiority complex. They actually start believing they’re worthless.
Now, this negative pattern seems extreme, but each one of us is somewhere in that guilt spectrum, right? Maybe in a small way in certain aspects of our lives—or maybe in a big way in others.
When we don’t value ourselves, we become insecure and dissatisfied with life. We tend to be pessimistic and harbor anger. Soon enough, it leads to a victim mentality and a feeling that life is unfair. All the time.
“I am not good enough”, “I can’t” become mantras.
Also, nurturing feelings of guilt turns one into people pleasers—putting others and their feelings before ours as a rule. There’s a tendency to seek approval for everything.
And then, there’s always that inner dialog populated with constant complaining, criticizing or playing the blame game. When asked to do something, the answer is always “I’ll try” or “I’ll do my best” as if making an excuse in advance for the possibility of failure. If things don’t work out, it is always “It’s not my fault.”
How can you overcome deep-seated feelings of guilt?
How can you break free, rise and shine?
In his book, “Kiss that frog”, Brian Tracy suggests four steps to get rid of feelings of guilt that might be programmed into you from an early age.
Here are the four steps:
Begin by making this pledge: “I will never criticize myself for anything. I will never say anything about myself that I don’t want to be true.” It is important to remember that the most powerful worlds in our vocabulary are the ones we use in our self-talk and believe in. Make sure they are positive and encouraging.
Practice saying the following:
I like myself!
I can do it!
I am responsible!
As you can see, rather tough to be feel guilty or negative when you are repeating affirmations like these.
Do not criticize anyone else for anything. In fact, eliminate any criticism that’s destructive from your vocabulary. Words can cause deep pain. So strive to be the kind of person that others see as one who never says a discouraging word.
Cultivate the habit of seeing the positive in others and appreciate them for it. When you compliment someone, you raise their self-esteem and when you do that, your own self-esteem rises.
Avoid guilting others. Banish the use of guilt from your vocabulary, your family and friendships. Do not guilt anyone into doing anything, or making them feel guilty for something they have/have not done. The best thing you can do for someone is love them unconditionally and accept them. Praise, them, encourage them, approve of them—or just shut up.
Refuse to be manipulated by someone else’s guilt. From this moment, simply reject any attempt to make you feel guilty, no matter what the reason or by whom. If your parents or someone else tries to make you feel guilty, respond with, “You are not trying to make me feel guilty, are you?”. It is a little unusual that someone will straight away admit to doing that—they’ll probably respond with “of course not!”
If you ask, “are you trying to make me feel guilty?” they’re likely to say “yes, I am”—then you respond with “Well, that’s not going to work!”.
When you say this, you’ll be amazed at what happens. Of course they’ll get angry or confused initially, but when they realize that it is not affecting your behaviour, they will gradually start treating you differently and interact in a positive way. Try it.
Make it your life goal to get rid of all negative emotions. Build your positive emotions with the affirmations “I like myself” and “I am responsible”.
As you accept and like yourself more, you’ll find yourself accepting more responsibility. The more responsibility you accept, the more you will like yourself. See how that works? Each feeds on and reinforces the other.
It is hard to fly when something is weighing you down
Find someone who usually guilts you and resolve to stop this negative pattern the next time it happens.
How to do this?
Set a boundary ahead of time.
An example: You’ve scheduled a meeting with someone who tends to exceed the allocated amount of time. Give them a 15-minute warning. Say that you’ll leave in 15 minutes, and then, stick to that deadline. When you crack this guilting syndrome with one person, you’ll begin to feel confident about making it a habit with others in your life.
Of course, it is human nature to push the boundaries in any situation or relationship. Be strong and protect yourself from these guilt throwers by standing firm by your boundaries.
Be clear about your boundaries
Think about what you are most comfortable with, emotionally and physically in your interactions with others. Once you set boundaries, people will test them, but they will accept your limits eventually. It is only when your boundaries are not clear that people suck you out.
What if you really want to confront someone but are unable to?
Do the following:
- Sit in front of an empty chair.
- Pretend that this person is in the empty chair. If it helps, place a picture of this person on this chair.
- If speaking to a chair freaks you out, talk to someone who makes you feel comfortable.
- Explain how you feel. Say that you will not allow her to put you on a guilt trip anymore.
- Tell her she must take responsibility for her own life, her feelings, her experiences.
And now, it is time you stopped feeling guilty, started focusing on taking care of yourself, and do what makes you happy.
Has guilt affected your life?
Have you overcome it?
I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!
Wednesday Wisdom is a series with short bursts of non-fattening, easy-to-consume wisdom in the form of stories, quotes, anecdotes, and humor.
Fantastic post ! Are you psychiatrist? I didn’t read this much nice post anywhere .God bless you.
pranita recently posted…Ego problem – How to overcome it?
I have a sign hanging over my desk that says: “You Got This!” It reminds me that I am capable and adequate for all situations no matter what.
loved this post, Vidya.
How wonderfully you have addressed this Vidya. For years I had thought that my parents dont like me – this has been their mode of parenting with me. All my friends were better than me – fairer, slimmer, intelligent and ofcourse beautiful.
Its taken me years of “I dont care” to actually sitting down and addressing this issue with myself. I used to be a loner as I didnt think anyone wanted to be friends with me.
Sad that parents do this to their children.
I am so happy to see my friends and cousins being better parents and loving and adoring their children. I dont see this in their parenting at all and it fills me with gratitude for its a very destructive mode of parenting otherwise!
shalzmojo recently posted…#BookReview – Hour of the Bees by Lindsay Eagar
Really appreciable post, while going through these posts, positiveness is being developed inside me
Thanks a lot madam.
ajay k recently posted…Design of a decanter for Layer Separations [Decanter design for Pharma operations]
This line is a great reminder. “Yes, guilt is as evil as it gets. It destroys people. It strips them of self-worth.” I like your steps on how to eliminate guilt from your life. I’ve experienced having guilt used to try and manipulate me and it doesn’t feel good, so I appreciate reading this article. Thank you, Vidya.
I haven’t run into this process before, Vidya. I really like it. I especially like the three affirmations that you say to yourself. I am going to share this one with my son and check out the book. Thank you.
Yes, guilt affects me too! Not as strongly as before, but I haven’t eliminated it from my life. These 4 steps are powerful, Vidya. I especially love the idea of making such a strong commitment to oneself, to not criticize yourself and also not to criticize others.
Wonderful article, I really enjoy your article, Thanks