How To Deal With Guilt And Shame

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We all feel guilty about things. Hopefully, not too often, but guilt will indeed strike sometimes. Rather than letting it eat at you, follow one or more of the tips outlined below to send the guilt packing and start feeling good again.

In this post, we’ll focus on the guilt and shame that sometimes arises when you hurt someone else.

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Methods of Dealing with Guilt and Shame

Ask if the “Size” of Your Guilt is Justified

It’s healthy to feel guilt when you hurt someone, but only to the degree that is appropriate for the offense.

Lots of people make mistakes, start feeling guilty about them, and then convince themselves that they should keep piling the guilt on. Before too long, they’re a nervous wreck.

So take a step back and ask yourself if the amount of guilt you are feeling is really proportionate to the hurt you caused. More often than not, you will realize you are making a mountain out of a molehill.

Learn from Mistakes

Many of our posts discuss how vital it is that you use mistakes as a learning opportunity. By doing so, you turn them from negative events to positives that will improve you as a person.

The same principle holds true with guilt. If you can examine your “offense” critically and glean something from it that will keep you from repeating anything like it in the future, you have done your job. You can stop punishing yourself with guilt at that point because you’ve already addressed the situation in the best way possible.

Know that Everyone Makes Mistakes

So you messed up. You did something wrong, and maybe you shouldn’t have. But guess what? Everyone makes mistakes. Everyone.

Mistakes are a part of human nature, and the occasional mistake is perfectly normal. It would be weird if you never made mistakes and never hurt anyone.

So forgive yourself. Mistakes don’t call for much guilt, as long as you try not to make them. Again, a little guilt is healthy, but you should feel guilty because you can’t help it rather than because you think you owe it to the world.

Ask Yourself How They Feel

Ask yourself how the person you hurt is feeling. Do you really think they are still stewing in anger or hurt about this incident that you’re beating yourself up about? The answer is probably no because we all have complicated lives, and people generally move on pretty quickly.

People have the tendency to hold onto their own actions and their implications long after everyone else forgets about them. You can avoid that trap by thinking logically.


Call the person you feel you wronged and say you’re sorry.

No matter what their reaction is, no matter what they say, we guarantee an apology will make them feel at least a little bit better about what you did. And the beautiful thing about apologies is that they grow over time like a seedling grows into a tree. Eventually, the offense will be forgotten entirely.

The apology will not only make the other person feel better; it will make you feel better, as well. So pick up the phone and deliver a good apology. It will lighten your load 100% of the time.

Ask Someone Else’s Opinion

No matter how you’re going to deal with your guilt, it’s always helpful to talk with a third party whose opinion you really trust.

Almost without exception, a fresh set of ears will be able to give more sound, actionable advice on how to move forward than you will. Because admit it, you’re more than a little biased.

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Guilt is natural. But it’s also very hard to control. We hope these tips will help you to keep your guilt in check and deal with it in healthy ways.

To help you understand better why people feel regret and how to deal with it in a scientifically-backed way, here is a brilliant TED Talk by Marcel Zeelenberg.



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