How to Turn Guilt Into Values-Based Reflection

Ever think that guilt could be a useful tool to help us stay in line with our values? Paige Schmidt shares the difference between guilt & shame, and how stop guilt from feeling bad.

On Wednesday I wrote a post on self-compassion, and within that post I mentioned that I help my clients to turn guilt into reflection. So, now I want to share more about this so that you can do the same thing if you find it as valuable as my clients have.

The difference between shame & guilt:

Shame = I am bad

You have a binge, and your self talk sounds like: “I suck. I always do this. I have no self control. I can never do anything right.”

Guilt = I did something bad

You have a binge, and your self talk sounds like: “I really wish I wouldn’t have done that. It never feels good. Can I turn back time?”

Guilt –> Reflection

Knowing about these differences, I’ve learned to turn guilt into reflection before it turns into shame. Shame, as I’m learning from Brene Brown, is pretty harmful to our well-being. We all deal with shame, but we can also all learn to have shame-resilience as Brene calls it.

I’m reading her book Daring Greatly right now and am pretty fascinated by it. Just ask Marco. Paige: “Are you feeling shame right now?” Marco: “Have you been reading your book?” Ha! So, you can imagine how it is living with me! 😉 

Here’s a new perspective: Guilt can actually be a useful tool to help us reflect on our values. 

Let’s say I say something not-so-nice to my husband and I walk away and feel guilty. My self-talk sounds like: “Eek, Paige, you probably shouldn’t have done that. It doesn’t feel good. I wish I wouldn’t have said that.”

If I were to let this guilt stew and not do anything about it, and it were to happen repeatedly, I might begin to feel shame. If I started feeling shame around this, my self-talk might sound like: “Gosh, I suck. I did it again. I can never just be nice. I’m the worst wife.”

BUT, here’s our saving grace: If we can catch that guilt in the beginning and turn it into reflection, we’ll be able to use those little guilty thoughts as red-flags that we’ve steered away from something we value. In my example: being nice to the people I love.

I can reflect and say: “Oh, guilt. There it is! I tend to feel guilt when I’ve done something that’s not in line with my values. I value being kind to my husband. What I just said wasn’t kind. I want to be in line with my values. Let me go and apologize.”

Making sense?

Can you see how turning guilt into reflection can actually help us to both let go of guilt and stay more in line with our core values?

I want to hear from you…

What are your thoughts on this? Does it feel helpful for you? What areas do you experience guilt? I bet you’re not alone!

Love, Paige
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