Live and Lead For Impact Podcast with Kirsten E Ross

EP43: Simple Strategies to Eliminate Guilt in a Healthy Way

DTD Episode 42 Show Notes

Simple Strategies to Eliminate Guilt in a Healthy Way

Click to download the Show Notes for Defeat YOUR Drama Podcast Episode 42

As I’ve said before in other podcast episodes, emotions are powerful and provide us with important information but emotions are not fact and not all of them serve us in our quest for success.

I’ve been witness to the misguided power of guilt too many times. And guilt definitely breeds drama! Whether the guilt is there because we’ve invited it in ourselves or it’s placed there by a disappointed coworker or loved one the power of guilt can be palpable and doesn’t necessarily move us in the correct direction.

Guilt can move us away from our goals and priorities as we seek to avoid it

Steps to Eliminating Guilt in a Healthy Way

  1. Did You bring it on or has it been placed there?

If you you’ve invited the emotion is it valid? We invite guilt in when we feel there is something we should be doing that we aren’t. Or, when we are doing things we know we shouldn’t. This can be keeping a promise to ourselves or others. The “should’s or shouldn’ts are key sources of self-induced feelings of guilt. I should exercise, I should spend more time on X.   I shouldn’t have reacted in anger. I shouldn’t have said the things I said. The existence of guilt does not mean that you must take action, however. Sometimes the guilt enters as a result of unrealistic expectations placed on us by ourselves or others.

If you feel guilt do some reality checking. Are you failing to follow through on a commitment you’ve made? Is the way you are spending your time mis-aligned with how you intend to prioritize your life? Are you lying or doing anything else that moves you away from good integrity? Have you acted out in anger when you shouldn’t have or responded with defensiveness when it was unwarranted? Are you trying to ignite guilt in others to manipulate them towards an outcome that serves you?

If you feel guilt and it is valid then what is the action you will take to correct? I should be directly aligned with the guilt-inducing behavior. Do what you committed to, live with integrity, keep your priorities.

If you are focusing on some areas of personal growth and are making some progress I encourage you to avoid guilt and instead give yourself grace. Now, I’m not suggesting that you let yourself off the hook altogether. However, too many of my clients forget to celebrate the progress they’ve made and instead choose to beat themselves up when they are not perfect. Guilt under these circumstances assures that you will miss the opportunity to celebrate your movement forward and can cause you to back slide. You can begin to feel discouraged. For instance, when a leader is working on being less of a micromanager. They delegate a few things but end up doing some work that should have been passed on to others. They begin to think,  “I’ll never get there. I might as well quit trying.” More often than not the reality is that they took two big steps in the right direction but haven’t fully arrived. And that’s okay! It would be great if we could click our fingers and arrive at perfection immediately. It’s just not realistic. So, if you are making efforts to improving but just aren’t’ there yet don’t pave your path with guilt. It’s a much tougher road to travel.

I am not asking you to excuse away or justify to avoid guilt. I am saying get real and celebrate where you can to build momentum towards your goals.

2. Has the guilt been inserted by another person?

In this circumstance you must do some reality checking as well. Having another person feel disappointed, angry or frustrated with you does not automatically require you to take action to help them avoid their reaction. There are definitely times when you must release and allow someone to have his or her own reaction to a situation. You can’t always fix it for them to help them avoid the feeling. Helping other people avoid their negative emotions is people pleasing.

I’m not saying you should never respond but you need to make sure that he or she is not trying to manipulate you by placing guilt on you. Them pushing guilt towards you does not obligate you to take the guilt on and does not require you to take action that will alleviate their negative feelings.

But, it is important to do some reality checking. Relationships are about negotiation, give and take. Living guilt free doesn’t mean you get to discount other people’s desires or needs altogether.

Here are some places to look to see if you should respond to a request: Is the disappointment, frustration or anger they feel valid?

Did you make a promise you are not following through on?

Whether it’s a specific commitment to complete a task by a certain date or a more general promise to prioritize your time around a person – you may need to modify if their negative feelings area a result of your failure to follow through on a commitment.

For additional strategies to help you keep your word listen to Episode 39: To what Do You Commit? 6 Surefire Strategies to Help You Keep Your Word

Is their concern valid? If so then what action will you take?

If their feelings are not valid it might be time to set a healthy boundary with the individual who has tried to place the guilt there and then release and allow them to have their own experience. Leave some room for negotiation. Is there an alternate request that is reasonable to respond to? Releasing guilt is not about becoming a dictator. It is about creating healthy relationships with yourself and others.

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