Before I get started I want to point out; I’m not talking about how to stop feeling guilty if you’ve committed a crime or something serious, I’m talking about how to get rid of unnecessary guilt. I feel guilty when I have to work when my kids are at home because I feel I should be spending more time with them. Your guilt might look something like the following:
“I feel guilty for putting my baby in childcare when she’s still so young.”
“I feel guilty because I always have an untidy house, I’m not a good wife, I really should be cleaning more often.”
“I feel guilty because I haven’t contacted my friend in a while, she’s probably really disappointed in me. I’m a terrible friend.”
These statements reflect the kind of guilt that grates on us constantly when it really shouldn’t.
Why you feel guilty about trivial things
That constant guilt you feel is all thanks to your self-talk, particularly the inner critic who loves to dish out plenty of negative self-talk, putting you down all the time. For some, this inner critic is more dominant than it is for others. But where does your inner critic get these beliefs that make you feel guilty? It’s from other people.
It could be your mother’s voice talking about how important it is to maintain a tidy house; her voice has now become your internal voice. It could be an article you read on a blog that said children shouldn’t be in childcare until they are three years old, your inner critic is mimicking this belief. It could also be that your inner critic likes making assumptions and thinks your friend is mad at you for not calling (when this is completely untrue). Your inner critic is NOT you, and these thoughts are NOT your own.
You’ve likely heard of the term, ‘self-fulfilling prophecy’? This is closely related to our thoughts and beliefs; the negative self-talk that makes us feel guilty when it continues and repeats, can turn what is a false belief into a true one. The more we have the self-defeating thoughts that make us feel guilty, the more we believe we’re a lousy parent or a bad friend and the more we suffer from the physical state of the emotion and the associated behaviour. This is why it’s important to follow the steps on how to deal with guilt.
How to stop feeling guilty by being self-aware
The good thing is, negative self-talk is reprogrammable, but first, you need to be aware of your self-talk because, a lot of the time, we don’t pay it much attention. To do this, try separating your inner voice from YOU because the voice you hear, the negative self-talk and inner critic, is NOT you.
In dealing with guilt, try giving your inner critic a name; it’ll help you put her to one side. You can also follow these steps:
- When you have the thoughts that make you feel guilty ask yourself, “Whose voice is it, mine or my inner critic?”
- Ask yourself, “Do I really believe this thought, is it my own belief?”
- If NO, if your inner critic is hijacking your mind, give her a really stupid squeaky voice and tell her to get out and then ask yourself, “What do I really believe?”
Getting rid of guilt and your inner critic
Now that you are aware of your inner critic and they have a name, you can practise being more mindful and catch the critic in action.
- Don’t take your inner critic seriously. I wrote about this in my article ‘Why your negative thoughts aren’t real.’ What your inner critic says isn’t real, they aren’t your thoughts. Turn on your inner critic’s funny voice and kick her to the kerb.
- Try to limit your inner critic’s exposure to the things that she will soak up and use against you in the future. For example, if you have an overly judgemental mother, perhaps distance yourself from her negativity. If you follow social media profiles with unrealistic and staged images that your inner critic will make comparisons to, unfollow these profiles.
- Pay close attention to your inner critic. It’s easy to get on with life and be unaware of the thoughts that race through your head. Take notice of what your inner critic is thinking about and if you don’t like it, choose a better thought because you are in charge of your self-talk.
If your working on how to stop feeling guilty, you’ll love my Happy Mind worksheet bundle which includes a mood chart and trigger tracker to help you track your pesky inner critic.
Living with guilt, particularly when it’s unwarranted, is no way to live and anxiety-inducing. The “could haves” and “should haves”, the blame, the overanalysing, the people-pleasing, letting go of guilt like I’ve explained above can be empowering because learning how to deal with guilt means you can take control.
If you’re keen to connect even more with your self-talk, you might like my article ‘Journal Prompts for Mental Health‘.
If you need something extra to kick your inner critic to the kerb, you might like my article ‘10 Affirmations for Confidence and Overcoming Fears.
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