How To Stop Feeling Guilty

How To Stop Feeling Guilty

Guilt is a very common feeling and it comes in many forms. I’ve decided to write about guilt this week because it’s something I often feel when I’m working from home. If I finish at 3pm and switch on the TV, I feel this overwhelming sense of guilt; ‘why aren’t you still working? Everybody else is.’ ‘Why don’t you just start on another project.’ ‘If you don’t work extra hours when you can, you’re not going to achieve your goals.’

These are my guilty thoughts. But, almost everybody has them about something; balancing work and children, eating, not exercising enough, not saving enough money, eating out too much. I could write down thousands of examples.

We as individuals and we as society give ourselves a really hard time of it. These problems increase tenfold when we have the unhelpful opinions of other people – sometimes even people we don’t know via social media – flooding our minds.

Here are my tried and tested tips to stop yourself feeding your guilt:

Pay Attention To What You’re Doing

We have a tendency to fixate on the things we don’t do. I might tick off ten things on my to-do list, but if I’ve got one left, I’ll fixate my mind on that. That behaviour needs to stop.

Next time you find yourself mentally punishing yourself for not being able to get to the school gate for 3.30pm, or for not staying late at work even though your boss kept dropping not-so-subtle-hints, stop. Instead, congratulate yourself for what you did achieve.

Beating yourself up for everything you *could* have done in a day is not only stressful and time consuming, but it’s also belittling to all of your other achievements. These achievements are desperately seeking your approval, so why not spend a bit more time focusing on them, instead!

It’s Their Insecurities, Not Yours

I cannot tell you how many times I’ve been ‘advised’ on what’s best for me. I get myself in such a state trying to work out how to achieve everybody’s opinions of what I should do. If I listened to everybody’s opinions, here’s what I would be:

A full-time CEO of a start-up, who is also a full-time CEO of an established business. Whilst I flit between my two full-time jobs, I’d also write full-time (because that’s my passion) and also be working as an employee for a secure company because I’ve got to get that maternity leave pay – and god, what about my pension? 

I’d have two children (because raising a family is more important than my career) and also have no children (because that career ladder is more important than children). I’d be pregnant in a secure job (because WHAT ABOUT THAT MATERNITY PAY?)

I would breastfeed exclusively, and give my baby formula exclusively (because who can navigate that absolute minefield). Oh, I’d also be a full-time Mum and work full-time. I’d bring in loads of money (because girl power) but I’d also be home in time to cook for my whole family and present them with a plate of homemade cookies (because your family needs support). 

Each day I’d pack my family off to work and school with sandwiches – but also I wouldn’t be there (because I’ve got to get that money), I’d arrive at work and chair a meeting, but a meeting for who? Because I work from home – on my writing passion. Remember? 

I could go on. But what I’m essentially trying to say is: YOU CANNOT PLEASE EVERYBODY. So decide what you want to do – and do that!

Get To The Root Of Your Guilt

Take a look at the thing you’re feeling guilty about. In my case, it’s finishing work earlier than the 5.30pm end of the day that I’ve subconsciously assigned myself. Now, I ask myself the question:

‘Ok, you feel guilty. Why not just carry on working until 5.30pm then?’

That’s when you get the answer. My answer: ‘Because I’ve been working since 7.30am, I worked on Sunday and I’m just in the mood for a rest you crazy woman.’

Once you’ve realised the reason – and it’s usually valid – then just carry on with your day and don’t fixate on the issue.

Make Sure Your Free Time Is Truly Relaxing

When I had my first job I hated it. I’d spend my free time (weekends and evenings) obsessing over how much I hated it. I’d ruin any free time I had to be with my family and Jim and instead sit on my bed close to tears about some stupid comment some irrelevant person made.

If you’ve got something in your life that is making you feel consistently guilty, belittled or just generally rubbish, you really need to consider its placement in your life in the first place.

Say No

I wrote a whole blog post on this, so I won’t go into too much detail on this one. But, saying no is a really important thing. I often see it as the ‘lesser guilt’. You might feel guilty for saying no, but you’ll certainly feel more guilty when you can’t complete the task you’ve said yes to and then have to go and retract your yes.

Get Somebody Else’s Perspective

Sometimes when you’re really close to something, you just need to take a step back. I’m always saying to my friends ‘am I being crazy?’ – sometimes you just need to painstakingly talk through every little detail of your thoughts and feelings to have somebody say to you…

‘Er, why the hell would you feel guilty about that?’

Sometimes that validation is all we need to put everything in perspective.

Do you often feel guilty?

When researching  for this piece, I found a quote that said ‘your gifts make up for your failures’ and I thought it was really fitting for this blog post. We often forget that – I know I do! Do you often feel guilty? If so, have you tried out any of the tips above?



A writer and author with two published books and a third one on the way. I write mostly about women's interest topics; travel, careers and cooking. I'm available for freelance work, so please contact me if that's of interest.

  1. Brilliant article. As I become older I am learning to trust myself more. ‘If it feels right, then do it !!’ We don,t have to explain anything to anyone, just ourself ! Keep up the good work. You have a very sensible head on those young shoulders,don’t ever change xx

  2. I hear ya! I’ve been freelancing for three years and still get the guilt – when I’m not at my desk by 8.30 am, when I have a day between projects and I don’t spend it hustling for more work, when I turn down a boring job because it would mean working 8 days that week for a rate lower than my minimum… I’m always having to remind myself that a big part of the reason I went freelance was to have control over my hours and what work I take on when. It seems those ideas about 9-5 hours, being a productive member of society and always striving to earn more more more are so ingrained, even though that’s exactly what I’ve spent years trying to get away from. This article really resonated with me and you give some solid advice. Let’s all learn to question where this guilt comes from and if it’s really valid!

    1. Kath – it’s so nice to hear that somebody feels the same! You’re completely right about it being ingrained, it’s a really hard to just stop. I’ve always felt like I’ve been quite good at managing my workload – and quite often when I worked in an office I would be done by 3pm and just sit around twiddling my thumbs. Now, I can actually do something else with my day and yet here I am, starting a new project, just for the sake of it!

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