How To Stop Feeling Guilty When You’ve Done Nothing Wrong

How To Stop Feeling Guilty When You’ve Done Nothing Wrong

Ever had that sinking feeling of guilt gnawing at you, even when you know deep down you’ve done nothing wrong? You’re not alone. Guilt can be a tricky emotion, often making an unwelcome appearance when it’s least warranted. It’s like an uninvited guest at the party of your mind, and kicking it out isn’t always easy. But fear not; we’ve got your back. In this guide, we’ll explore practical and down-to-earth strategies to help you stop feeling guilty when there’s absolutely no reason for it. Whether it’s the result of overthinking or a tendency to be hard on yourself, these tips will empower you to reclaim your peace of mind.

1. Recognize That Guilt Can Be Irrational.

Just because you feel guilty doesn’t necessarily mean you’ve done something wrong. Sometimes it’s just your brain being a bit overactive. If you’re feeling guilty but can’t pinpoint what you did wrong, chances are, you’re dealing with irrational guilt. It’s like your mind is playing tricks on you, making you feel bad for no real reason. Acknowledge this. Understanding that guilt can be irrational is the first step in dealing with it.

2. Take a Step Back and Breathe.

When guilt starts creeping up on you, take a minute to just breathe. Step back from whatever you’re doing and give yourself a moment to relax. This isn’t about running away from the feeling, but about giving yourself space to think clearly. Sometimes a little distance can give you a better perspective on whether your guilt is truly warranted or if it’s just your mind spinning stories..

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4. Challenge Negative Self-Talk.

If you’re beating yourself up for things you didn’t do or can’t control, it’s time to challenge those thoughts. Ask yourself, “Is this really true?” or “Is this thought helpful?” More often than not, you’ll find that your inner critic is being unnecessarily harsh. Stand up to it and replace those negative thoughts with more rational, kinder ones.

5. Ask for some feedback from your friends.

Sometimes you’re just too close to the situation to see it clearly. This is where your friends come in. Talk to them about what’s making you feel guilty. They can provide a fresh perspective and can often point out when you’re being too hard on yourself. Their outside view can help you realize that maybe there’s nothing to feel guilty about after all.

6. Be nice to yourself, for goodness’ sake.

You’d never be as hard on a friend as you are on yourself, right? So, give yourself the same kindness you’d offer someone else. Being nice to yourself doesn’t mean you’re ignoring your mistakes; it means you’re giving yourself the same compassion and understanding you’d give to others. Cut yourself some slack. Remember, being kind to yourself is not a luxury; it’s a necessity for a healthy mind.

7. Focus on Your Intentions.

When guilt is weighing you down, think back to your intentions. Were you trying to hurt anyone? Probably not. Most times, you’ll find your intentions were good, or at least neutral. Reminding yourself of this can ease the burden of guilt. It’s not about excusing any harm caused, but about understanding that making mistakes doesn’t make you a bad person. Everyone slips up sometimes; it’s human.

8. Let Go of Perfectionism.

If you’re constantly feeling guilty, you might be holding yourself to impossible standards. Nobody’s perfect, and expecting yourself to be can lead to constant guilt over every small misstep. It’s time to let go of that perfectionism. Accept that mistakes are part of growth. Embrace your imperfections; they make you who you are.

9. Use Affirmations to Shift Your Mindset.

Positive affirmations can be surprisingly effective. When guilt starts creeping in, try countering it with positive statements about yourself. It could be something like, “I am doing my best,” or “I am worthy of forgiveness.” Repeat these until they start to sink in. It’s about rewiring your brain to stop jumping to guilt and start embracing a more forgiving and understanding view of yourself.

10. Focus on Self-Care.

Self-care isn’t just about bubble baths and spa days; it’s about taking care of your mental health. When you’re feeling guilty, do something that makes you feel good and relaxed. It could be reading a book, going for a walk, or just taking some quiet time for yourself. Self-care is about giving your mind a break from the guilt and treating yourself with the kindness you deserve. Remember, taking care of yourself isn’t selfish; it’s essential.

11. Seek Professional Help if Needed.

Sometimes, the guilt you’re feeling is more than just a passing emotion; it can be a sign of deeper issues. If you find that guilt is a constant in your life, impacting your day-to-day happiness, it might be time to talk to a professional. Therapists can help you work through your feelings and get to the root of why you’re feeling this way. There’s no shame in seeking help. In fact, it’s a strong and brave step towards understanding and improving your mental health.

12. Set Realistic Expectations.

Holding yourself to unrealistic standards is a surefire way to keep feeling guilty. Start setting more achievable expectations for yourself. Remember, you’re human, and it’s okay not to be perfect or to have everything figured out. By setting more realistic goals and standards, you give yourself room to breathe and reduce the pressure that often leads to guilt.

13. Practice Forgiveness both for yourself and others.

Forgiveness is a powerful tool. It’s about understanding that we all make mistakes – yourself included. Start by forgiving yourself for the times you’ve slipped up or haven’t lived up to your own expectations. Extend this forgiveness to others too. It’s about letting go of grudges and hurt, which can often be a source of ongoing guilt. Forgiveness isn’t about forgetting; it’s about allowing yourself to move on.

14. Visualize Letting Go.

Sometimes, a bit of visualization can help. Picture your guilt as a physical object that you’re holding in your hands. Now imagine letting it go, watching it float away or dissolve. This might sound a bit out there, but visual exercises can be a powerful way to give your brain a clear message to release negative emotions. It’s a way of telling yourself it’s okay to let go of the guilt and move forward.

Gail is Bolde's social media and partnership manager, as well as an all-around behind-the-scenes renaissance woman. She worked for more than 25 years in her city's local government before making the switch to women's lifestyle and relationship sites, initially at HelloGiggles before making the switch to Bolde.