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Forgiving Yourself of Guilt & Shame



Guilt and shame don’t feel good to us. And, as humans, we generally attempt to avoid these emotions. However, avoiding these feelings when they appear can allow for further negative emotion in the forms of anger, withdrawal, self-sabotage and depression. Many times, we might not even be aware that we are feeling or experiencing these specific emotions because they are so uncomfortable we’ve avoided them all together. However, there are some real and actual benefits to recognizing and addressing these feelings, so as to avoid repeating undesirable patterns.

“Shame corrodes the very part of us that believes we are capable of change.”

-Brene Brown

When we experience feelings of guilt, we have an opportunity to examine our values and how those values align with our behavior. Allowing the sting of awareness and moving past the resistance to confront that feeling can open the door to lasting, positive change. Guilt is a sort of disappointment in what we did or didn’t do. However, we can gain useful guidance over our future choices from these experiences. Shame, on the other hand, is when we feel bad about who we are at the core. This is when it is especially important to remember that it is okay to ‘mess up’ and that our self-worth isn’t earned through acts of suffering or perfection.

Most of us have, at times, found ourselves feeling overly self-critical, neglectful, and blameful; focusing too heavily on aspects of guilt & shame. This may feel like unworthiness, self-sabotage, frustration, and/or anger. Emotional stability and peace arrive with self-forgiveness. Once you begin to see yourself more clearly, (Sleep, meditate, refocus) you can then recognize the benefit and the importance of being compassionate with yourself. Soothing your mind and body from the effects of shame is all part of the forgiveness process!

By noticing how you tended to respond to stressful situations in the past, you can better understand and predict these emotional patterns and allow yourself a different outcome in future scenarios. Understanding that these patterns are likely to recur, and that you have the skills and support systems to shift them, will lead you to more peace and joy in life.

“Only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light.”

-Brene Brown

Having compassion for yourself and others means first accepting the universal truth that we are all parts of nature, which performs as its own will; not our demand. In recognizing and accepting that we will all, at some point, encounter feelings of regret and/or make mistakes, we must also be prepared to have compassion for, and forgive ourselves. Remember: This compassion does not remove the responsibility of your actions; rather, it alleviates the guilt and shame that often stifle your creative abilities.

As you review your list of perceived ‘mistakes’, you will come to the realization that you did not consciously make them, and that your actions were simply a reaction created from a series of experiences. Continuing to Carry shame, stress, or unproductive patterns of behavior (often programmed by genetics, culture, & life circumstances) will continue to produce the same outcome. As we grow and allow for an enhanced understanding of ourselves and the ability to move past feelings of guilt and shame, we open the door for more intentional and expansive life choices.

Be open about the difficulty that comes with forgiving yourself, and take some personal time to examine which thoughts are holding you back from this forgiveness. Be open with yourself about what you feel you have done so you can allow an opportunity to shift. Feelings of guilt, shame, anxiousness, depression and worry are all very common and are nothing to be ashamed about. The emotions we experience, both the good and the bad, are signals to our system, telling us how well we resonate with our current environment. Allow space to be curious about the source of your feelings. When you create with a compassionate response, you create the opportunity to reach new levels of peace, joy, and motivation.

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