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how to stop feeling guilty

The topic of guilt has come up a lot at Work Bigger.

Guilt is something I’ve also experienced personally.

From mom guilt on days where I feel like I’m not doing enough for my two boys to feeling guilt because of my privilege. After all, I’m an immigrant who was able to leave a third world country to move to the United States. (Some days, I still can’t believe I live here and what I left behind.)

I’m also white, able-bodied and cisgendered which comes with its own set of privileges in the United States.

My clients also experience a lot of guilt.

“I feel guilty that I’m privileged to do this work,” is something I hear often on coaching calls.

I understand that.

If you’re pursuing your purpose and investing in professional development, you’re privileged in many ways because you’re beyond meeting your basic needs and you’ve moved to reaching your full potential.

That’s big.

That being said, staying in guilt is often unproductive.

And I’m not talking about the guilt that shows up because of your moral compass. I’m talking about guilt that’s pervasive.

This type of guilt can drag you down and keep you from using all of your privileges and gifts.

And what’s the impact of that?

I see it impacting every facet of my clients’ lives – from how they show up in their day-to-day to giving up opportunities that would help them and others create a better world.

So let’s flip this.

Let’s transform guilt to something more productive and positive.

If you’re experiencing any sort of guilt whether it’s because you’re a parent with competing responsibilities and needs, you have a level of privilege that others are lacking (especially during a pandemic), or something else, I want you to read this article.

It will support you with shifting your mindset so that you can make a greater impact in the world.

What is the guilt giving you?

This might sound strange, but I want you to take a moment to think about – what are you getting from feeling guilty?

You might be inclined to say nothing.

But here’s how guilt is defined in the book Letting Go: The Pathway of Surrender by David R. Hawkins.

“In this energy field, one wants to punish and be punished. It leads to self-rejection, masochism, remorse, ‘feeling bad,’ and self sabotage. ‘It’s all my fault.’’

Guilt is a form of self rejection. There’s a part of you that’s rejecting yourself. I also resonate with the idea that guilt is a form of punishment.

Ultimately, that is what guilt is giving you – rejection, self sabotage, punishment.

You may be thinking – Why would I want this?

From my experience, self sabotage happens when we’re in fear or when there’s parts of ourselves that we don’t accept. It’s not a conscious choice.

To take this one step further, how is holding on to the guilt affecting your ability to make an impact?

In my clients’ hearts, I see the desire to make a difference in the world. That’s why they’re here. And I know that’s why you’re here too.

So how is holding on to the guilt affecting your ability to make an impact if you’re self sabotaging the opportunities that you have?

Ultimately, it’s squashing your ability to make the difference that you seek to make. The impact of self punishment goes beyond you.

What do you want instead?

Let’s reframe, and let’s go back to what you want and desire.

What does making a difference in the world look like to you?

Does it mean you’re supporting others and helping them grow?

Are you a leader managing a team?

Are you a creator whose art and work brings joy to more people?

This is what’s most important.

What emotion comes up for you when you think about making a difference in people’s lives?

I bet you experience something more positive when you think about making the difference that you seek.

Here’s a chart I share often to help you label your emotions. Take a look at the positive emotions and see which one resonates with you the most.

Is it joyful or delighted?

Here is how David R. Hawkins defines the energy of joy.

“Love that is unconditional and unchanging, despite circumstances and actions of others. The world is illuminated by exquisite beauty, which is seen in all things. The perfection of creation is self-evident. There is closeness to unity and discovery of Self; compassion for all; enormous patience; the feeling of at-oneness with others and a concern for their happiness. A sense of self-completion and self-sufficiency prevails.”

It’s ok to feel the guilt, but know that as you let go of guilt, you’ll experience more joy.

Be with this positive feeling. You are completely worthy of it and so much more is possible if you allow it.

I put together a guilt-processing worksheet for you to journal on these questions more deeply. Download it here.

Now I want to hear from you. Where does guilt show up in your life? What resonated with you in this article?

Work Bigger Team

Author Work Bigger Team

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Join the discussion 4 Comments

  • Trish says:

    I love this article, and I LOVE LOVE LOVE that book by David Hawkins (which reminds me that I need to get it out and read it again lol). Thanks for sharing this Belma!

  • sam says:

    Great article. I feel guilty about everything. It is so difficult for me to accept praise and it also affects my ability to live boldly. Secretly I am afraid to stand up and stand out. I feel guilty that I am not giving my daughter what she needs. Guilty that I am not meeting the expectations of people at work. and it just leads to a cycle of self doubt. Eventually I feel like everyone hates me and knows I am an idiot. I am really looking forward to completing this workshop so I can choose a more bold life.

    • Belma McCaffrey says:

      Hi Sam – I’m so sorry to hear you’re feeling this way. This sounds like a heavy burden to carry. I’m a parent so I can resonate with the “not enough” feeling. One thing I know is that our kids are often just happy to have us present and that’s usually more than enough for them. I hope the resources here can be helpful for you. See how that worksheet helps. I’ll be thinking of you and sending positive thoughts your way.

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