I’ve recently come to the conclusion that I’ve spent a huge part of my life feeling guilty about a lot of things that I shouldn’t have felt guilty about.
Many studies have shown that it’s very common for people with anxiety disorders to often feel extreme levels of guilt over things that they shouldn’t be blaming themselves for at all.
Since I have ADHD, I wasn’t too surprised to learn the above. Of course, feeling unnecessary guilt isn’t a problem for just people with anxiety disorders. Very often, extreme guilt comes from fears of how others will think or feel about us. It can come from a multitude of different kinds of issues and insecurities.
While some people do horrible things that they absolutely should feel guilty about, I want to be clear that what I’m talking about today is things that we know we shouldn’t feel guilty or bad about.
Yikes. Creepy, huh?
For me, my biggest problem with guilt is when I think that I’ve done or said something to someone and I’m afraid it’s going to make them think badly about me. I overthink the situation and play around with it too much in my head. I usually make the situation far worse than it actually is. In my head, I’m feeling guilty about disappointing or angering the person…even before I know whether or not I’ve actually made them feel that way.
I end up feeling horrible and guilty for no reason at all.
Another thing I’ve done far too often is let unjust criticisms deeply hurt me. Yes, some criticism can be very good to hear. Sometimes we’re doing something incorrectly and we need to learn a better way to do it. That’s fine. I want to hear constructive criticism like that.
However, some people judge us or insult us when we totally don’t deserve it. For me, even when I know in my gut that what they’re saying about me is wrong, I take their words to heart too much and then start to believe what they’re saying about me is true.
I feel guilty because I must be the horrible person that they say I am. I feel guilty because I must not be doing things the way they think I should. Then I feel guilty for not being a stronger person and for not being a smarter person. And I feel guilty for doing everything wrong. For being such a loser.
If I allowed myself to feel this way, then I’d constantly be carrying around all of those unjust guilty feelings.
You can only do that for so long before you start to break. I broke several times. It was just very recently that I finally realized that things needed to change. If I kept holding on to guilt, if I kept holding on to the fears and insecurities that came with the guilt, then I was going to keep hurting. I was going to keep breaking.
I decided (finally) to allow myself to let go of the guilt. When I feel guilty now, I do what I can to fight it. It’s not easy and I know it will be an ongoing struggle. However, one thing that has helped me a lot is the realization that people are going to think or feel whatever they want to about me. I have no control over that and it’s pointless for me to spend any of my time or energy worrying about it.
What has also helped me is I now realize that my happiness is entirely up to me. When you get right down to it, it’s a choice that each of us has to make for ourselves. We can choose to take the steps we need to be happy, to lead us to where we want to be in our lives. Or we can choose other directions, ones that will make our journeys far more difficult that they need to be.
Life is too short. From now on, I’m going to choose happiness. Every day.
I’m going to let go of the guilt and pain, and I’m going to see where I can go next…