Guilt is the Enemy of Growth



When we make a mistake we like to make ourselves feel guilty. There’s some kind of paradoxical pleasure that we get when we pity ourselves. It’s as if we are satisfied by putting ourselves down because we think we are getting what we deserve.

For me, this often happens after I binge on junk food or catch myself spending too much time on social media. I sit there and feel guilty telling myself that I messed up. I repeat negative thoughts in my head and get lost in the feeling of immense disappointment. I know in my mind that this type of thinking isn’t helpful and that it only makes things worse, yet I do it almost every time that I make a mistake.

This type of thinking is obviously detrimental. Not only does guilt make us feel bad, it is also a waste of time and leads to apathy. Guilt is a terrible motivator. It does not lead to change, almost ever.

In order to change this mindset we need to convince ourselves of a few things:

A. Our performance does not determine our value

In our culture, we like to correlate the value of a person with their performance at certain tasks. This makes sense in an economic sense. You are only “worth” the money you help generate for your company or for the economy. When it comes to our personal lives, however, this type of thinking is very destructive.

Our value as a human being is intrinsic. Our dignity as people cannot be taken away by anyone, even ourselves. Even if we mess up, we are still valuable because we are still human. As human beings, we matter not because of what we do but because of who we are.

B. Your thoughts lie

We often get trapped in negative thought patterns. We are not always in full control of our thoughts and our mind can sometimes torture us. One way to avoid these patterns is to realize that your mind is not always right.

Your mind lies to you. It tells you things that are logically false. It is important that you become aware of when this is happening and that you do not believe the lies your mind tells you.

You do not need to fight these thoughts, rather you need to accept that your flow of thoughts is going in a certain direction. You should accept that you are thinking these thoughts but you should not believe these thoughts.

C. You are worthy of compassion

Most of us are nice people. We care about others and wish the best for them. But why don’t we extend this same compassion to ourselves?

You are I are just as worthy of compassion and forgiveness as anyone else we come in contact with. We should strive to treat ourselves the same way we treat our best friends and our favorite family members. We should be gentle with ourselves and have patience with ourselves even when we continue to make the same mistakes.

D. We are all flawed

Every single person you know has made mistakes. Think of the person you look up to the most. Even they have made embarrassing mistakes or struggled with bad habits.

When we make a mistake ourselves, it is important that we remember that others do the same. When we look at someone we are only seeing their success but behind their success sits a constant struggle with failure and a slow growing discipline.

With these things in mind, we can slowly shift our perspective of our mistakes. Yes, we mess up, but feeling overwhelming guilt will not change the situation. We must strive to learn from our failures rather than letting them pull us down further.