Guilt is such an uncomfortable and often “squirmy” feeling. Its discomfort provides great incentive to break free from old patterns, and move ahead with freed-up time and energy.
So here are 3 pointers I find especially helpful when working with my clients who are wrestling with feelings of guilt:
1. Re-frame guilt messages into messages about appropriate responsibility.
When you feel weighed down by your own guilt, or by someone’s harsh words, it’s wise to carefully explore what’s really happening.
“What is truly my responsibility here? If my choices created issues, how can I constructively contribute to improve my end of things?”
Guilt is heavy-handed and reactive. Proactively taking responsibility is even-handed and positive. Which sounds better to you?
Whenever the word “should” creeps into your thoughts, recalibrate your thinking to calmly assess what is truly your responsibility. Your clarity will provide a strong base for your assertiveness.
2. You needn’t convince others that you’re “not guilty.”
Once you decide what your actual area of responsibility is, honor your convictions by letting go of defensiveness. You keep your power in your hands when you clarify that your decisions are based on your assessments, not others’.
Refusing to take on guilt-trips rebalances relationships along more realistic lines. When you challenge “you owe me” attitudes, you may also discover mistaken assumptions of your own.
The clarity you achieve can lay the groundwork for more open-handed interactions. Why not take advantage of this opportunity to update relationships that may have become stiff or stale?
3. You are not responsible for others’ responses to your choices.
Are you tempted to feel guilty, argue or apologize if others express strong anger or disappointment with your decision? They may feel that you are responsible for their letdown, and attempt to punish you for not giving in to their demands.
Ground yourself in reality.
Once you take appropriate responsibility, you owe nothing more. Others needn’t agree with you or be happy with your decision. Simply stand firm on the issue in question, and remain as neutral and accessible as possible.
Accept that it may take time for others to stop trying to make you feel guilty. Remember, silent self-affirmations are an effective antidote to feelings of guilt.
Eleanor Roosevelt declared,
“No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.”
Remember, no one can make you feel guilty without your permission, either.
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