Being guilty vs. feeling guilty are two totally different things.

If you’re a recovering people pleaser, you know what it’s like to feel guilt. Whether it’s saying no to plans, to an additional assignment at work, to your grandma asking you to dinner, it can feel as though you’ve punched someone instead of simply setting a boundary!

Guilt is an emotion that builds over time. I feel like the reason it can have such an intense visceral effect is because we never knew how to feel it in the past. So in a small moment where you forgot to answer a work email, you’re feeling as though the world is ending!

The guilt we felt when we were kids was often heightened by the reactions of those around us. If no one made a big deal about something, then we didn’t have to feel like we did anything wrong. But if someone had a huge reaction, whether it was another peer or a family member, it could take your regulated nervous system into full-fledged panic.

I find that that panicky nervous system feeling can really take me out. It can make me feel disregulated for the rest of the day – over something so small.

So how do we build resilience to this guilt feeling and come back to a regulated nervous system more quickly?

I think the first step is finding where you feel guilt in the body. When I feel guilt, I often feel a block in my lower belly and my throat. The reason why identifying the physical feeling is important is so you can recognize it when it comes up. If you can label the feeling, you can recognize that it is an emotion that will pass and not add any additional panic to the sensation.

This can also help you to take a step back and realize the situation isn’t as big as the feeling might be making it.

When you can recognize the sensations and sit with them, you might feel immediate relief. Or it might bring up a memory where you felt that way before. Either way, you’re one step closer to feeling better.

What happens if you find the sensation too overwhelming to sit with? Tapping can really help me to get out of my mind and into my body. Start by tapping on the side of your pinky and saying, “Even though I feel guilty, I deeply and completely love and accept myself.” This might feel counterintuitive, but it helps to move the energy. You can learn more about Emotional Freedom Technique tapping here.

Once you can practice identifying this emotion and feeling it in the body, you can learn that it’s okay when it comes up and it doesn’t actually mean you’ve done anything wrong.

I’ve been trying to develop boundaries lately and a big block to setting more boundaries is feeling guilty and not wanting to disappoint people. It can feel like well if this person is happy, then I can be happy. But when you make decisions constantly over time from that mindset, you can become burnt out and resentful. When you can decide what you truly need and want, you can live a happier, healthier life simply by communicating more about what would make you feel good and not putting yourself on the sideline of your own life.

If getting in touch with your feelings doesn’t come naturally to you, you aren’t alone. I’d consider myself a fairly feelings-focused person and sometimes these practices still seem like they aren’t easy to do. But with time and practice, feeling these sensations and connecting body and mind can free you more than you realize.

I hope this helps you to realize that just because you feel guilty, doesn’t mean you are guilty. Keep setting boundaries that help you to feel healthy and happy – and the guilty feeling will fade away when it shows up in places it isn’t actually necessary or helpful in. 

Much love <3 Until next time.

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