We all do things that we regret. Beating yourself up over it and allowing your guilt or shame to take over won’t help. Have you ever wondered why it’s so easy to default to the guilt and shame cycle and what that’s all about? Have you ever wondered what the difference is between guilt and shame and what it takes to learn how to stop beating yourself up over them? Everyone experiences these emotions differently and what can make one person feel bad about something, can be something another person is totally immune to. The one thing that everyone can agree on is that guilt and shame feel bad. Here are the reasons why they do and 5 ways to stop beating yourself up over them.
Guilt is an emotion that is typically triggered by an event. The event is normally something in which you may have done something wrong, said something wrong, or acted out of turn. It usually succeeds a specific behavior or act. The direct behavior can be associated with something which you or someone else perceive as a moral or ethical wrong, or an act that was hurtful to someone else or even yourself.
Shame is an emotion that encompasses a feeling that you, rather than the act, are wrong. This feeling relates on a deeper level to who you are as a person. It allows for no separation between a specific behavior and yourself. It can cut deep into the core of your self-worth and be a result of experiences that happen to you or experiences that you initiate yourself. Sometimes people who experience guilt from something, quickly transgress into feeling shameful and have a difficult time healing.
Knowing the difference between guilt and shame can help you identify which emotion is coming up for you. Tuning into your emotions will help you discover if you often get into a cycle of guilt and shame which is detrimentally impacting your self-esteem and self-worth. These emotions are normal, however, if you do not process them in healthy ways, you will begin to see them take a toll on your emotional and physical health. If you repeat behaviors that make you feel guilty or regularly put yourself fin situations that cause shame afterward, these are areas to explore with a professional.
The next thing you need to do is learn how to identify the act, experience, or behavior that is making you feel guilty or shameful. Once you identify that, take it, and put it into a box. That box DOES NOT define who you are. So often when you do something you think is wrong, or something bad happens to you, this can become a part of your personal narrative. Have you heard the saying, “Once a cheater, always a cheater.” Well, this is what we are talking about. One act or one experience does not make you that experience. Learning to separate the actual event from you as the person is going to get you one step close to stop beating yourself up.
Integrity is a deep word that matters. This means that you try every day to mean what you say, do what you mean, and act as if someone is watching even when you are alone. No one expects you to be perfect. Life is about learning lessons and gaining self-awareness through these experiences. Take some time to work with a professional mental health counselor to help you identify your value system and stop repeating negative behaviors. They will also help you let go of the shame that you feel from acts that were done to you or that you did to someone else.
Partnering with a trained professional that is not in your friend group or family will help you gain self-awareness. Seeing your life events from an objective resource will help you identify if the behaviors or experiences are repeated patterns, character flaws, defense mechanisms, or self-sabotaging behaviors, for example. They can also help you release any connection to experiences that may be part of trauma and move you toward self-healing. EMDR (eye movement desensitization and reprocessing) or ART (accelerated resolution therapy) are two highly effective treatments for this, alongside counseling with a licensed professional.
The last and most important piece to stop beating yourself up over events from the past, something you did, or a recent experience that just felt wrong, is to give yourself grace, self-love, and forgiveness. If this last step is hard for you, do not let that set you into more of a guilt or shame cycle! Get help. Reach out and accept that you are not a bad person because of things that happen to you or things that you might have done. Your experiences do not define who you are, but if you do not learn that quickly you will find yourself in a chronic state of guilt and shame. This cycle prevents you from experiencing joy and happiness or from believing you deserve it.
These are just 5 ways to stop beating yourself up and they work if you implement them. They also require some soul-searching and analysis of behaviors to gain self-awareness. Do you ever ask yourself why do I keep repeating negative behaviors? Do you ever wonder say why am I always feeling guilty or ashamed? Do you find yourself being destructive in relationships or self-sabotaging your ability to find love, and happiness, or reach your career goals? These questions can lead you to answers which might reveal patterns in your thought processes or your value system that is preventing you from leading the life you want to be living. Even if you do not feel guilt or shame and you continually seem to be hurting others or experiencing trouble in relationships but don’t understand why it will benefit you to get help.
Living a life that is filled with regret or continuing to experience events that don’t make you feel proud is not fulfilling. If you identify with trauma that caused shame and guilt but have never done the work to release these emotions, you owe it to yourself to do so. EMDR (eye movement desensitization and reprocessing) and ART (accelerated resolution therapy) are two specific therapy techniques that will help. Gaining insight and self-awareness is something that empowers a human to live their best and most authentic life. These can be areas that you may find yourself avoiding if you are in pain, feel guilty, or have shame, however, with the right help these emotions do not have to be a part of who you are every day.
At Orlando Thrive Therapy, Coaching, and Counseling, we have the answers to some of the questions that might be on your mind. Our expert mental health counselors have certifications in EMDR, ART, CBT, and many other specialized therapy techniques that go far beyond talk therapy. Give us a call at 407-592-8997 to get started today.
Heather Oller is the owner and founder of Orlando Thrive Therapy, Coaching, and Counseling. She is a licensed counselor and a family mediator who has over 23 years of dedicated work as a professional in the mental health field. Through her company's mission, she continues to pave the way for future therapists, and their clients, who want a higher quality of life....and who want to thrive, rather than just survive. You can contact Orlando Thrive Therapy at (407) 592-8997 for more information.