What is guilt?
Why does it eat away at us when we know we’ve done something wrong?
It’s that silent, yet sustained whisper of “why did you do it?” or “I thought you could do better”.
It’s the input that only adds fuel to the fire – or baking paper to an oven on grill (as mentioned recently here)
They’re words that if someone else said to you, you’d be looking at them incredulously like “Really? You want me to feel even more shit? Please, I already knnooowww!”
But alas, when it’s our own conscience, we soak up and sit with these circulating negative thoughts. Maybe even agreeing, and falling further down the spiral of self-criticism.
An example of this was me buying a top from target.
For a while now, I’ve prided myself on buying second hand to be kind to mother nature, and not support unethical factory labour.
So after a friend mentioned a hectic sale that was happening at target, I threw all of those well-intentioned thoughts aside and said, “ah welp”.
I found myself a nice t shirt (perfect for dancing).
From buying it, to snipping the tag off at home, I felt a gnawing sense of guilt, as I knew I was contradicting myself and my values.
I knew I didn’t need this top at all, and its quality wasn’t that great either. I could definitely find something similar in an op shop after isolation.
“JO THIS IS SO TRIVIAL”
Why yes, yes it is :’)
But nevertheless, I’m notoriously hard on myself, and had self-criticising thoughts to reinforce that for me.
But as dramatic as my example, I’m sure you can relate to this subtle feeling of disappointment.
Maybe you told yourself you’d be productive this week, and animal crossing says otherwise.
Maybe you told yourself you’d have healthy eating practices. But nek minnut, you’re eating half a coles roast chicken for lunch (at 3pm – first meal of the day) and making cake mix brownies at 2am.
What is guilt?
These are essentially the negative emotions that helpfully signal a change/action is needed.
Guilt simply signals that we’ve contradicted our values and standards.
From a simple t shirt purchase, to offending a close friend, or not sticking to your plan during isolation, the attached guilt is signalling us to change our actions which got us there.
After recognising your mistakes, he says:
“You have the RIGHT to let go of the guilt now. It has served its purpose…use it, don’t wallow on it”
How to redefine guilt/disappointment?
I’ve mentioned a lot in previous posts, that we want it to be EASY to feel fulfilled. Life throws enough obstacles as it is, so why make it harder?
A way I managed to feel better, was to redefine my old restrictive rule:
I feel fulfilled when I never buy new clothing, when I know I don’t need it
Because OF COURSE I’ll buy brand new items from time to time. So expecting that I won’t is unrealistic, and creating an intentional self-sabotage.
Now my rule is:
I feel fulfilled when I don’t CONSISTENTLY buy new clothing, that I don’t need
The word ‘consistently’ is SO powerful. It allows us the freedom to make mistakes. and not beat ourselves up when we do.
But VERY importantly, this does NOT mean we’re slacking off and lose all self-discipline.
Instead, we’re still adhering to our values and standards, but not beating ourselves up when we go off-course.
So hope that helps reframe negative emotions such as guilt.
Rather than indulging in self-criticism, we can be kind to ourselves and accept that we’ll sometimes make mistakes.