Most of us have or will feel guilty from time to time. Guilt is like failure in a way. Guilt is just an undesirable outcome that you can choose to learn from.

Failure usually just impacts you. Guilt is usually the result of harming someone else in some way. With guilt, you are not the only one that was potentially harmed. Guilt is uncomfortable, but hardly necessarily disastrous.

How to Stop Feeling Guilty

Here are some techniques to let go of guilt and move forward with your life:

 

1. Determine why you feel guilty.

Be sure you understand why you are feeling guilty. What did you do wrong? Did you really do anything wrong? Imagine you were supposed to meet your spouse at their work party, but you got a flat tire. Avoid feeling guilty for things outside of your control.

  • If you missed the party because you forgot about it, fell asleep on the couch, or lost track of time, you could feel responsible for missing it.

2. Decide on a response.

The first step out of guilt is responding appropriately. This might include an apology. Maybe a detailed explanation is in order. Maybe you will lay out a plan to show the other person that your transgression will not happen again.

  • You might make it up to the other person in some fashion. Maybe you will agree to rub your spouse’s feet every day for the next month. Maybe you will take your daughter out to dinner.

3. Be willing to forgive yourself.

Once you forgive yourself, the guilt is gone. Imagine that the error you made happened to you. You would probably forgive the other person without too much struggle. It is important to treat yourself at least as well!

  • Notice how much easier it is for you to forgive someone else than it is to forgive yourself. You need to be the best friend you will ever have. Treat yourself like it.

4. Write a letter.

You can write a letter to yourself, to the person you harmed, or both. Very few people write or send letters anymore – that makes them especially meaningful. It is also a great way to cleanse your thoughts and your guilt. The other person will be impressed, and you will feel a lot better.

5. Do something positive that will boost your self-esteem.

Volunteering can be great when you are feeling guilty. Show yourself that you are a good person. Make a charitable donation. Help someone with a problem. Give away some of your stuff. Take an action that will allow you to feel good about yourself.

6. Make changes instead of feeling guilty.

Rather than feeling guilt, which helps no one, make some changes to ensure the same thing does not happen again in the future. Should you eliminate a bad habit, procrastinate less, or get more organized? Maybe you need to value others more than you do currently.

  • What are some positive changes you can make that are related to the cause of your guilt?

7. Move on.

At some point, you must let it go and get on with your life. There is no value in holding on to guilt. Guilty feelings suggest that you did something wrong and need to learn from it. So, learn from it. Then, move on.

Everyone has felt the pain of guilt. It is important to resolve the issue as well as you can, forgive yourself, make amends, and move on. There is no value in punishing yourself for an extended period. You made a mistake, so do the best you can to fix it.

Now it is time to set yourself free. Allow yourself to move forward from your guilt.

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