Among other things, AnxietyPanda has spent many years wondering if she might be a narcissist, but thanks to working with her PsychologyPanda she came to realize that she could not possibly be a narcissist. Why? Because she also kept on asking herself, “Why do I feel guilty all the time?!” PsychologyPanda said that narcissists don’t feel guilt. Realizing and understanding that was a breakthrough in itself and gave AnxietyPanda a chance to focus on other underlying problems, including these constant feelings of guilt. Sadly, they never went away for good, but at least AnxietyPanda has learned to accept them now.
Guilt is a terrible monster and a beautiful fairy all at the same time. It can keep you safe and can keep you from becoming a terrible person, but it can also overstay its welcome and start eating you up and gnawing at your paws in a constant, nagging manner which only brings about more anxious thoughts… Let us delve into its depths in an effort to understand it.
Why do I feel guilty all the time? A repetitive question.
AnxietyPanda has been asking this question for a very long time now. There is guilt felt for and about everything even if there is no way that a panda could have been involved in the situation causing the guilt. Feelings of guilt because I said no to that dinner invitation by my best friend because all I really wanted to do was be alone and rest. Feelings of guilt because someone else did something wrong, but somehow I feel that they might think that I orchestrated the whole thing. Feelings of guilt because I don’t do enough or don’t give enough or don’t feel enough or even feelings of guilt for the opposites of these. I can continue, but I regress… Let’s explore more.
Feelings of Guilt – Specifically, Neurotic Guilt
Although feelings of guilt are well-deserved if you have acted in a bad way or did something that society saw as wrong, it sure is not well-deserved if you suffer from what they call “Neurotic Guilt”. This is when you feel guilty all the time for no reason and it can be crippling to live with. Everything makes you feel guilty. From feeling guilty because you are excelling at something but someone close to you is not, to feeling guilty about something you think you did wrong even though the situation was completely out of your control! Sometimes it feels like everything you do or feel causes you to experience guilt.
There are many underlying causes for feelings of guilt that stretch far from Freud’s philosophy that guilt is caused because we are all secretly attracted to our opposite-sex parent. Really now?
No. Guilt can also be a result of you being conditioned from a young age to believe that displaying signs of guilt will get you more attention or that it will show to others that you care about them. Tiny cubs often mimic or respond to what they see the surrounding adults are doing. This could be anything from a parent blaming their child for the fact that there is no money, making the child start to believe that everything bad that happens to the family is somehow his or her fault to a parent teaching their child to always be well-behaved or quiet in order to be accepted and receive love and attention. Or, you could also have an authoritative adult figure in your life that was constantly voicing their feelings of guilt about everything, and you started mimicking that thinking that that is how things are supposed to be in order to be socially accepted. When it comes to a child, any form of trauma can end up causing immense feelings of guilt throughout their entire lives. Trauma could be anything from a divorce, any form of abuse, financial difficulties or even the loss of a parent or sibling. Besides the guilt, such experiences may also cause feelings of inferiority for the child and low self-esteem, which could lead to feelings of shame, depression, anxiety, sleeping problems or OCD in later life, if left untreated for too long. Not all guilt that stems from childhood is sinister, though. It could also be something as simple as always taking the blame on behalf of your siblings or friends and receiving the scrutiny and discipline on their behalf.
Just remember, regardless of the circumstances that brought on your feelings of guilt: Allow yourself to forgive yourself. You are only human and making mistakes is all part of life. Everybody makes mistakes. If you can forgive others for theirs, why not yourself? Stop focusing on your past failures or how you think things “should” be. Just live, and be your own authentic self. The right people will always be there for you!
Easing the Guilt – Empower yourself with these 4 steps
There are a few ways to deal with guilt and in time, you will be able to apply these on auto-pilot on a regular basis, enabling you to live your life to the fullest without being held back by the constant feelings of guilt.
Remember that you can’t be held accountable for everything.
You should not be feeling guilty because of something that is completely out of your control. It is easy to fall into the guilt trap of believing that everything is in some way or another actually your fault, but know that it is impossible for this to be true. Don’t punish yourself over this?
A counselor or psychotherapist is qualified and has the necessary skills to help you identify the underlying causes of your guilty feelings and will help you to get a clearer perspective on the whole situation. There are many types of short- and long-term therapies that may be recommended to you based on the severity of your problem.
If you keep thinking you are a bad person because you’re not living up to a self- perceived “standard”, then ultimately your actions will become worse. You are what you think. Always remember that. Out of everyone in your life, YOU deserve to be forgiven too. Treat yourself as you would treat your best friend or closest family members.
If you think that you really have done something to cause another pain or grief or uncomfortableness, then go to that person and apologize! They will appreciate this gesture and will either put your mind at ease by relaying to you that you did not offend them, or they will accept the apology and the bonds between you will be strengthened.
The topics covered here are by far not the only causes or triggers of guilt. Guilt comes in many forms and stems from many various reasons, and we have touched on but a few in this article. For further reading on guilt, its effects on you or how to overcome it, visit EruptingMind and read their in-depth article on understanding the psychology of guilt. Don’t ask yourself “Why do I feel guilty all the time?”, rather ask ” Why am I so hard on myself?” AnxietyPanda believes that you have to love yourself unconditionally first in order to really be able to love another unconditionally.
Please do share your experiences or advice with us. If you have any questions or feedback, please also do not hesitate to leave us a comment! We’d love to hear from you.