I harbor guilt. Lots of it. In fact, that’s basically all I feel 24/7. Having OCD makes it even worse; I dwell on my mistakes (ones that most people wouldn’t even consider mistakes in the first place) and obsess over them until my stomach is in knots. I wake up every morning with painful cramps from the shame and anxiety. It is not a good feeling.
I am sure I’m not the only one with an over-active conscious. We all mess up, say words we don’t mean, start petty arguments, allow our feelings to take control. Why? Because we are human. We feel. We love. We hurt.
Feelings are not a sign of weakness, no matter what anyone says. In fact, they are quite the opposite. Admitting to emotions makes you strong and confident, while hiding them only proves insecurity. Be proud of who you are and what you feel rather than wearing a facade.
That being said, emotions can be messy. You’ll often find yourself torn, unsure of how to handle a situation. You can ask as many friends as you want for their advice; but in the end, it is you who makes the decision. It is you who has to deal with the consequences, and only you who knows exactly what you want and what you don’t want. So quit caring what others have to say; they don’t know your situation or your needs. Sure, you can turn to others for support, but learn to make your own decisions–and learn to accept yourself along the way, mistakes included.
There is no guide to life. You are going to have mishaps. You are going to get hurt by someone and you are going to hurt someone. That’s life. Move on from the shame, the doubts, and the guilt because they will only cloud your future judgement. You will walk on eggshells for your entire life if you don’t learn to forgive yourself. You will settle for less than what you deserve if you’re too hard on yourself.
This ties in with false guilt. In the article “Healthy Guilt vs. False and Harmful Guilt,” Paul Coughlin says, “False guilt has nothing to do with what’s true and accurate, nor is it related to true repentance. Rather, it is usually the fear of disapproval in disguise, and this problem especially hounds people who have a hyperactive or malfunctioning conscience.” In other words, this type of guilt is misleading. You may feel shame for reacting a certain way, even though you had every right to. Your actions were justified, yet you feel the need to seek acceptance or reassurance from others; and if anyone disagrees, you automatically assume you were wrong, and therefore plagued with guilt.
False guilt is extremely daunting. Everyone handles situations differently; not everyone will agree with you all of the time. But that doesn’t mean you are wrong, and you should not beat yourself up over human emotions.
Now, if you do or say something you aren’t proud of, something that you know was out-of-character or irrational, apologize. That is all you can truly do. You can’t go back, so replaying it over and over will only lead to more problems, like irritability or sensitivity. Simply try writing down your thoughts in a journal or in your notes on your phone, and then never think about it again. Wake up the next morning and move on.
Dwelling on the past does not make you smarter or stronger; it benefits you in no way. Set yourself free, forgive yourself, and love yourself–unconditionally.