We all have something in their past that we wish we’d never done. The intense feelings of guilt over certain actions or behavior can weigh heavily and cause serious disruption to productive living. While it is normal to feel remorse for actions that have brought pain and harm to others, guilt should never be allowed to proceed unmanaged.
What can you do to overcome guilt? As in recovery from substance abuse, the important steps to take include acknowledging the wrongs and beginning to make amends.
If guilt is overwhelming, talk with a therapist. Don’t use guilt as an excuse to drink or use drugs or some other unhealthy coping behavior. If you are in recovery, have an in-depth discussion with your sponsor. He or she likely will have some helpful suggestions for making amends and not feeling so guilty all the time. Getting over guilt requires courage to face what you’ve done and the willingness and determination to make amends as appropriate.
Shame keeps you from getting the most out of life. It often results in fear, an inability to form close relationships, and an unwillingness to seek help. If you feel shame, you may be unable to enjoy whatever small successes you achieve. Learning how to overcome shame may require help from a therapist or talking with a trusted friend, loved ones and family members.
The key step to getting past shame is to build or rebuild your self-esteem. When you begin to feel better about yourself, the shame you once felt will begin to disappear. Mindful meditation and keeping a journal also may help.
Recognize that you are not your failures. Just because you’ve had setbacks doesn’t mean that you are a bad person. Work on valuing yourself more highly and recognize that this may take some time, but the effort will pay off.