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Once you learn to say, ‘so what!’, you have whipped guilt’s butt. And once you take the first step of acceptance, you will live a more satisfying life.
Do you apologise too often? Beat yourself up over your past mistakes or brood too much over awkward moments? You might be ‘guilt-bitten,’ and mind you, when left untreated you might be eaten inside out.
The endless ranting ‘I should have done this,’ ‘I should have said that,’ ‘I shouldn’t have used those words,’ seizes us with guilt. Why carry the guilt from womb to tomb? Here’s the science behind ‘guilt’ and this is how you shed the skin of guilt and walk past the past.
Caution: We are taking some time away from your busy schedule. During this process do not feed your conscience with guilt for not doing something you had actually planned to in this hour.
Guilt helps one become responsible, follow morality and lastly, guilt is virtuous. That my friend is the widely misconstrued theory of guilt.
In the real-life, guilt activates all the wrong mechanisms in our body. Anxiety, depression, stress and most importantly it nullifies our emotional energy.
Don’t get me wrong. We all need a good and healthy conscience. Something that puts a leash on us from doing/saying something wrong. Imagine a world otherwise? Definitely would have been less safe.
Spending a few extra bucks on shopping? Cheated on your diet with double scoop ice cream with brownie and chocolate chips? Do you question your morality as you finish surfing internet porn? Or because you simply lied to your friend about being busy just to get some good sleep at home?
The guilt pokes right at the middle of our heart purely to make us feel ashamed for something we enjoyed until we get caught off-guard by ‘guilt.’ Yes, there are things that need willpower and seem like the universe has cursed you to endure them. However, these things also often do us no good and tempt us to forgo all the self-discipline we’ve been building.
Remember the saying, ‘everything that feels good isn’t necessarily good for us’? Yes, having grown up with that thought implanted, it is pretty much hard to break out of it all of a sudden. But hey from now on the mantra is ‘feel less guilty and more pleasure,’ as long as we don’t infringe the law or harm anyone.
Guilt and pleasure are not necessarily interdependent. Do not classify your pure indulgence as a guilty pleasure. It is merely a simple pleasure that keeps you happy. As long as it doesn’t harm anyone or infringe the law, you are safe to keep guilt and pleasure away from one another. After all, don’t we all crave for one of those days where self-pampering is required?
There may be times when your past life wasn’t what you’d envisioned it to be or when your personal journey derailed you from your goal. And somewhere in the middle of all this, you may have lost your capability of distinguishing the values – both yours and those that others follow.
Where does it all begin? Failing your own expectations or others,’ small or big, is where we sow the seed of guilt within us. You don’t owe anyone anything. Right from who you want to be to your opinions or decisions and culture and beliefs, you need to honour these and not expect anyone to accept you the way you are.
People might cringe seeing your choice of books, dress, language, movies (insert everything under the sun) But hey, you are not born to live up to their expectation.
You have your likes and dislikes just like every other human being. Once you learn to use the words ‘so what!’, you have whipped guilt’s butt. And once you take the first step of acceptance, you will automatically live a more satisfying and stress-free life.
View your life through a new lens and address the guilt then and there to move forward. It is natural for us to either dwell on the past with guilt or we could simply visit it, diagnose it and fix it before you put a dead weight on guilt again.
Quoting Richard Baxter (an English pastor and theologian) “That sorrow, even for sin, maybe overmuch. That overmuch sorrow swalloweth one up.” Beautifully put in words, he reveals the unwanted baggage that people carry with them, which leads them to plunge into a depth of sorrow.
Here he elucidates how something like guilt of doing something sinful can make one feel distressed and drown in sorrow as they find it hard to forgive themselves.
Isolating yourself from people you were close to, punishing yourself by not letting anything good happen, not giving yourself credit for good work! Man, I tell you what. You did it, you regret it.
Isn’t it awful enough to sink with shame and regret what you did or said? Why torture yourself more than that? I feel the minute you regret something, you have learnt your lesson and the only thing you can do is remind yourself not to repeat it.
We are humans, we have the good, the bad and the ugly like everyone else. And we are just learning. It is okay to be wrong until you learn from it and not repeat it.
Stop wailing. You cannot make yourself feel miserable for the rest of your life. Remember, the suffering does not stop with you. You are not alone enduring the grief but making your close ones feel completely dejected.
One of the first and foremost step to get out of guilt and forgive yourself is chart down a ‘re-do.’ Yes, you read it right. ‘Re-do’ helps you go back to the crime scene, make a list of things you could have done to make the situation better than what it is now,
Work on those tiny speed bumps and you are good to go.
Break free from the cycle of regret and take life by the helm, for we just live life once.
A version of this was earlier published here.
Picture credits: Pexels
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