"In order to heal we must first forgive..
and sometimes the person we need to forgive is ourselves"
- Shannon Yvette Tanner

For any co-dependent person, people pleaser or perfectionist, the guilt that comes from making a mistake feels different to you than others. By this I mean, it hurts. I mean really hurts, so much so that we feel scared just thinking about it. We fear the consequences of making a mistake because the feelings of guilt and shame seem to spiral out of control the moment we make one. These consequences can be self-inflicted criticism or criticism from others, both are equally as damaging if you don’t know how to deal with…

In order to avoid criticism, we try and do everything right, every single second of every single day. But when that doesn’t work, and we inevitably mess up, the feelings of guilt become too overwhelming to work through. So, in response, we either suppress them, project onto others, or become trapped in self-hate.

Living with guilt vs. Dealing with shame

There is a clear difference between guilt and shame. Guilt is a natural human emotion that comes from doing anything considered to be wrong. This can mean going against our character to disrespecting, hurting or letting someone down, which happens often because everyone makes mistakes. If we can accept the fact that being imperfect is okay, over time the feeling subsides and we are able to work though it. 

How do we deal with our guilt in a healthy way?

Owning your mistake : Apologising and taking full responsibility for your actions allows you to move through the experience. You are able to learn something from it, and, ultimately,  let it go. But this will seem very simple and idealistic for anyone struggling with co-dependency, perfectionism or people pleasing because the weight of our mistakes often feel too heavy to simply “work-through”. Hence, we suffer from shame. 

The shame story

The shame story is our negative self talk. It begins to unravel every time we mess up and can replay over and over, thus preventing us to move forward. For any perfectionist, people-pleaser or codependent, our shame story is the mind playing tricks on us. An example of this can be, instead of saying “damn, I really messed that up”, our story goes “damn, I am such a mess up”. In other words, we end up defining ourselves based on the mistakes we’ve made. This is a trap of self-hate, where we reach our most vulnerable point and can stay stuck in for long periods of time if true acts of self-love are not continually practiced..

Where does our shame story come from? ​

Many of us are completely unaware that we have a bully living within our minds. This “bully” is known as our ego. It will try bring us down at every turn and keep us living in a state of fear. Although fear is a necessary survival mechanism, often our fear is irrational and thrives off feelings of guilt. The ego only provides us with negative emotions. and for any co-dependent, people pleaser or perfectionist, we get attached to those negative emotions. Therefore we become stuck in shame, because the ego begins to dominate our thoughts.

The Ego vs. Our True Self

Any thought that isn’t encouraging or supportive is not coming from our true self but rather our “inner bully”.  Our true self, being unconditional love, says it’s okay to fail and make a mistake. It encourages us to try again and not beat ourselves up over wrong doings. But many of us are so far removed from our true self, as we have invested too much in our relationship with the ego. We fail to hear it over the loud, critical bully in our head and tend to accept the self-sabotaging story which replays in our minds. This denies us the opportunity to learn from our mistakes and work through feelings of guilt. 

"Choose everyday to forgive yourself, you are human, flawed and most of all, worthy of love" - Alison Male

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