You’ve made a mistake at work… you’d had a long day and sent an email out in a rush to the entire board AND the all male sales team with the word tit instead of it!

As you desperately try to recall it, you see that it’s already been read by some and some banter has already arrived in your inbox. 

The guilt and shame hits you hard, you just wanted to do one final thing, get it off your to do list to be try to relax a little more guilt free… yet you’ve just made yourself feel a whole heap worse! 

… This was a BIG mistake I made early on in my career, just as I was starting to step up the corporate ladder.The next day after a sleepless night, a bottle of wine, I had a very squirmy and embarrassing meeting with my Director. There was nothing he could say to make me feel any worse than I already was. 

The guilt of letting him down 

The guilt of embarrassing myself 

The guilt of all the tit jokes that followed! 

I work with many incredible women in the corporate world and so many of them flip flop between family time guilt, guilt of not being fully present mum, to work guilt, and back again. It’s constantly with them and weighs heavy on them.

 

To keep living in that, is a life that is built on surviving and not thriving, it means you never truly in the moment enjoying and draining that ONE experience. It’s a distracted way to live that leads to continued disappointment, creating stress and can really affect mental health long term. 

Why do We Feel Guilty? 

Essentially, it’s our own feeling that we’ve broken a moral code, or a behavioural norm. From a brain point of view it’s a way of keeping us safe… by keeping us true to how the group behave… so as not to stand out and risk separation. 

Let’s go full geek for a moment! Here’s some of the Noggin Knowledge behind the guilt… and shame as its sets some context. 

Guilt and shame share some neural networks in the frontal and temporal areas of the brain, but their patterns are distinctly different. Guilt arises when your behaviour conflicts with your conscience. Shame is triggered when we think we’ve damaged our reputation.

During fMRI studies, German scientists from Ludwig-Maximilians-University in Munich found that shame set off high activity in the right part of the brain but not in the amygdala. In the guilt state, there was activity in the amygdala and frontal lobes but less neural activity in both brain hemispheres. The researchers concluded that shame, with its broad cultural and social factors, is a more complex emotion; guilt, on the other hand, is linked only to a person’s learned social standards.

What to STOP feeling Guilty About Right Now 

Women seem to be able to feel guilty constantly and also let it weight them for a day, or longer … ruminating over a small mistake that then spoils a whole day. Here’s something we can stop feeling guilty about right now! 

  • Cancelling Plans

We all need our downtime, and no matter how much we love our friends and family, alone time is priceless. If it feels heavy and not for right now, give yourself permission to say NO… not that we’re likely to post lockdown!

  • Working actual work hours

Now so many are working from home, it’s harder than ever to have that separation between work and home. It’s not a BAD thing to set your office hours and stick to them, showing your value and worth is a reminder to everyone else. 

  • Eating what you want

It’s so ingrained into women that certain foods are bad, or naughty or only for a treat. Whether your idea of indulging is a big bowl of salad or a cheeseburger, it’s nobody else’s damn business.

  • Knowing when your plate is

Whether it’s work, volunteering or helping friends, it can be incredibly guilt-inducing to not say yes when asked for your support. But the reality is that you alone know if you know that if you don’t have time or energy, feel safe to say no. 

  • Doing nothing

From looking at social media you’d think everyone was living a daily highlight reel. If you want to spend a weekend in your PJs and not leave your bed or declutter your jam packed wardrobe and nothing else that’s okay. 

  • Saying NO at work

It’s hard when the boss for yet another mammoth, superhuman request of work with no idea knowing that it’ll take hours you don’t have… but you have the right and freedom to say NO or make them aware other things will need to stop. 

  • Splurging on Something you LOVE

We’ve all hidden shopping from our partner a bit ashamed and embarrassed. Spending money (that you have worked hard for) on something you love is never something to feel guilty about. It’s what you work so damn hard for. 

  • Being emotional and sensitive

There’s long been the aching double standard of ‘passionate’ men vs. ’emotional’ women. It’s okay to be vulnerable and show how you feel, it’s not weak and is at the heart of powerful leadership. 

How to Stop Feeling Guilty

  1. Stop Catastrophising

Ask yourself if your self-punishment fits the crime. It probably doesn’t. We can all too often be our harshest critic… bring things back into perspective with the evidence and the truth. 

  1. You are not your actions

You’re responsible for your actions but they don’t make you a bad person, e.g. your child lying once does not make them a liar. 

  1. Self-compassion

Forgiving yourself means you can move on more quickly. Thinking you’re a bad person makes you act worse, one bad thing in your eyes does NOT make you a bad forever person. 

  1. Apologise

Say you’re sorry for what they think you did wrong, not what you think you did wrong. Lead with the impact on others and show your understanding…

  1. Find the Lesson

Ask yourself “What can I learn from this?”, use the guilty feelings to take the lesson from your feelings, it’s how we grow.


If you’ve found this useful, I’d love you to share? And which from the list above will you start with? Message me here to let me know.

If you want help to stop feeling guilty, I have just 2 VIP client spaces to work with me. Drop me a message or email me here

If you found this useful please share, and here’s my daily Clarity 10 min Kickstart to help you keep a clear head and that “balance”… just click here to download your FREE copy!

BIg love

Nic x

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Big love

Nic x