Have you ever felt guilty for doing things that made you happy? Or felt ashamed about something but didn’t understand why? While it’s certainly important for us to acknowledge when we’ve done something wrong and apologize for it, we sometimes find ourselves feeling guilty about things that we shouldn’t.
According to psychology, guilt is defined as a “feeling of deserving blame, anger, or shame, often evoked when we consciously hurt others with our words, choices, or actions” (Mascolo & Fischer, 1995). And it’s something we learn early on in our lives, often rooted in us during childhood, as a way to guide our moral compass. But what happens when we let our guilt get out of hand?
Excessively feeling guilty and blaming ourselves for everything is an unhealthy attitude to have, and it often leads to feelings of inadequacy, anxiety, and perfectionism. And if you’re not careful, it can worsen into behaviors of overcompensating and overthinking, as well as high levels of stress and chronic emotional distress (Turel, 2016). With that said, here are 7 things that you need to stop feeling guilty about:
1. Not Being Perfect
First and foremost, you should never feel bad about making mistakes or coming up short sometimes. As frustrating as it may feel, the truth is, none of us are perfect, and we can’t be good at everything we do, especially not the first few times we try it. Albert Einstein put it best when he said: “A person who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new.” So instead of beating yourself up over every little thing you do wrong, why not commend yourself for the effort you put in and treat each setback as a learning experience? Your mental health and self-esteem would certainly thank you for it.
2. Asking For Help
Another thing you should never feel bad about is asking for someone’s help, especially when you really need it. Because no matter how hard we might try, we can’t do everything alone. Nobody has all the answers in life and nobody has it all figured out. So don’t keep struggling in silence just because you’re afraid of seeming like a burden to those around you. There’s no need to feel guilty about reaching out to someone and asking for their help from time to time. In fact, it may even do you a lot of good to remind yourself that you are never truly alone in your struggles.
3. Being Successful
While it should seem obvious to all of us, nobody should ever have to apologize or feel guilty about achieving success. Accomplishments should be celebrated, not shamed. But some people may feel jealous or resentful towards you for being so successful and try to make you feel bad for it. Don’t give them the satisfaction of getting to you though. You shouldn’t have to fail just to make other people more comfortable around you. You worked hard to make something of yourself and you should be proud of it. Know that you deserve your success and don’t let other people take that pride away from you.
4. Saying No When You Need To
It’s hard not to feel guilty when we can’t give someone what they want from us, but there comes a time when we have to stand our ground and assert ourselves. It might not always feel like the right thing to do, but you need to take control of your life and say no to things you can’t or don’t want to do. Otherwise, you might end up regretting your actions, hating yourself for it, and resenting the other person for ever putting you in this position. You deserve to be a priority in your life and your wants and needs shouldn’t have to come second to everyone else’s. Saying no when you need to is what allows you to finally say yes to yourself, so don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.
5. Needing Time To Yourself
Do you have anyone in your life who always comes to you with their problems? Someone who’s constantly trying to suck you into their needless drama? If you answered yes, then you’ve probably wanted to tell this person you’re tired of listening to their dilemmas and tried to distance yourself from them at one time or another. And that’s okay! There’s nothing wrong with wanting to prioritize more important matters in your life. Getting caught up in another person’s drama can be emotionally exhausting, so you shouldn’t have to apologize for wanting some peace of mind every once in a while.
6. Ending Toxic Relationships
It can be difficult to accept that, sometimes, the people we love aren’t good for us. But when you’re in a relationship with a toxic person – be it with a friend, family member, or significant other – who mistreats you and exploits you time and time again, you owe it to yourself to cut ties with them and leave them behind. People like these are a negative influence in your life who will only bring you down and rob you of all your happiness, motivation, and self-esteem if you give them a chance. And by choosing to end your relationship with them, you are protecting your own mental health and emotional well-being from any more of their abuse.
7. Wanting To Be Happy
Last but definitely not the least, you should never feel guilty for wanting to be happy. Whether it means chasing your dreams, being yourself, or taking care of your personal needs, you don’t owe anyone an apology or an explanation for how you choose to be happy. Nobody has the right to ask you to change, prioritize them over yourself, or sacrifice all your hopes and aspirations for their sake. Don’t let their judgment or negativity keep you from doing what you love and pursuing the things that truly matter to you, and don’t fall for their guilt tripping.
So, do you relate to any of the points on this list? Have you ever felt guilty about doing any of the things we’ve mentioned here? If you are someone who struggles with a lot of feelings of guilt and shame, it may be time to stop and ask yourself why you feel this way. You need to realize that there is no shame in wanting what’s best for yourself, even if it sometimes comes at the expense of other people’s feelings or convenience. And there are certain things in life you should never have to apologize or feel guilty for.
- Mascolo, M. F., & Fischer, K. W. (1995). Developmental transformations in appraisals for pride, shame, and guilt.
- Turel, O. (2016). Untangling the complex role of guilt in rational decisions to discontinue the use of a hedonic Information System. European Journal of Information Systems, 25(5), 432-447.