Are you constantly beating yourself up over a mistake you’ve made in the past? How many times a day do you find yourself just sitting, replaying certain situations in your mind and mulling over how you could have done better? Do you often dig yourself into a deeper ditch and wind up feeling more engulfed in the pain of regret?
If you can relate to any of the above, what you are struggling with is guilt—the emotional ball and chain that makes it so difficult for so many to run free. Some people let it take over their lives to the point that it defines who they are. As they walk around weighed down by guilt, moving their lives forward seems like a slow-going drag.
Below are 5 ways to help yourself pause, unload and say goodbye to the one thing that has been weighing you down once and for all.
1. Write to the person you have wronged.
Do you feel guilty over the hurt you’ve caused someone else? Have you made decisions in the past that have hurt other people? Grab a pen and a piece of paper and write them a letter. This is your chance to unload all the emotions you lug around on a daily basis by fully expressing everything you feel. Depending on the circumstances, you don’t even have to actually send it. Generally, writing is an incredible tool for clarifying feelings and providing a new perspective on the situation. You’ll most likely notice a sense of relief afterwards. Be determined to forgive yourself for whatever it is that you said or did, and then give yourself the freedom to let it go.
2. Write a letter to yourself.
There’s a reason why people keep diaries—it’s not just to log the details of life, but the process also helps sort out your thoughts. Writing a one-time letter to yourself can be just as cathartic. Give yourself a chance to pour out all of your feelings on a piece of paper and just leave them there. If you want to, it may even be a great idea to begin journaling your feelings on regular basis. Even if it doesn’t happen right away, journaling can help give you an avenue to forgive yourself and release your guilt.
3. Make amends.
This is a step straight out of the Alcoholics Anonymous handbook. By finding a way to “fix” what you’ve done—either by an apology, restitution or a random act of kindness—it’s like you’re erasing it from the books. Sure, apologizing may be hard, but the sense of relief you’ll feel afterwards is worth the momentary anxiety.
4. Talk with someone.
Whether it’s a therapist, a pastor or a trusted friend, unloading your burden can be liberating. Plus, you may get an entirely new viewpoint on the source of your guilt and discover that what you did or said may not necessarily be as bad as you thought.
5. Check in with your priorities.
The reasons we feel guilty are often linked to the values we hold. Perhaps something you did doesn’t align with your true convictions. A nagging feeling usually settles in that points this out. From here on out, you should recognize that your guilt is a marker from the past. If you can see how you’ve grown from that experience instead of being dragged down, then you’ve already turned it into a positive thing.
Letting go of guilt and forgiving yourself doesn’t take away from the harm you might have done or its existence. However, it does mean that you’ve learned a valuable lesson and can move forward empowered to become a better person. Remember: forgiveness gives you a chance to start anew but, in order to truly do so, you’ve got to leave the guilt you’ve hoarded where it truly belongs—long gone behind you.