Shame and guilt are two of the heaviest emotional burdens we can carry around as human beings. Like most of us, I am my own worst critic and understand first-hand what it is like to carry around stories and feelings that are self-defeating. While I have learned that it is helpful to learn from the blips in the road and so-called mistakes. I have also realized that holding on to things that don’t serve me, only perpetuates more of the same.
From this viewpoint, I can’t help but ask myself if given the choice, ‘would I rather allow shame and guilt to fester and linger on?’ Or, ‘would I rather take action to stop these draining emotions from robbing any more of my time and joy?’
Whatever perceived or real reason we may have for lugging around heavy emotional baggage, there is hope that you can live a different way that feels lighter and more joyful.
These are a few approaches I have adopted over the years to help pull me out of the muck of shame and guilt.
1. Write a letter and then destroy it:
Set aside some time for yourself where you can be free of distractions so you can honor your process. This isn’t an activity you want to squeeze into your day or rush through. Give yourself time and compassion and then pour your heart out on paper. Let out the emotionally charged thoughts and stories you've been hanging onto, the ugly bits and all. Think of it as an emotional cleanse and release. Don’t worry about grammar and spelling. Don’t put a lot of thought into it either, just let it flow from your heart.
Every time I do this, I give myself permission to write knowing I will be the only one who will ever witness my words. It helps me feel safe knowing that I can write whatever I need to, without worrying how it will come across to anyone else. This process is purely for me, and I feel safe knowing I can be 100% honest with how I am feeling.
This next part is important: Destroy the letter. Shred it, burn it, or perhaps eat it (just kidding). Make sure to do what works best for you in order to ‘safely’ get rid of your emotionally charged letter. I always approach it like it’s a special ceremony or ritual to help me ‘let go’ of the stories and heavy burden I’m carrying around. The point of this exercise isn’t to make you feel worse, or to hurt your loved ones with your words. The intention is to release the stories and emotions that are causing you pain.
2. Get back to basics:
Do things that ground you. Spend time in nature, write in a journal, or do an activity you love that will nurture you. Spend time connecting with loved ones who see you for you, and who genuinely want you to succeed in life. Go for a walk with your dog, cat, kid, pet turtle, or have a heart to heart with your goldfish. Just do what you know works best for you so you can savor the moment before you.
Engage in activities that fill ‘your’ heart up with joy. Better yet, write a list of the things that bring you joy and then commit to doing at least three items from your list each day. While you are enjoying those treasures from your list, give yourself a pat on the back and remind yourself that ‘hey what I’m doing right now is filling me up!’ Yay You!
3. Focus on the present
All we ever really have is the moment we are in right here and now. It's comforting to know that at any time we can hit the ‘reset’ button and live in the present moment from a place of joy, gratitude, and love. When we approach life in this way, we are breeding more of this same feel good stuff.
We all have a choice, we can either fill our moments with regret, guilt, sadness and shame; or we can give ourselves some compassion and love for roads we’ve traveled down, and then we can choose differently. We can decide to love ourselves, give ourselves a break, and open ourselves up to the limitless joy and love that exists in this moment.
When we live in the past or fret about the future, we rob ourselves of the opportunity to bask in the joy of ‘right now’. So bask away and you may be surprised to see that more of the same is right around the corner.
Above all, be gentle and kind to yourself and re-write your story in the present with thoughts and words of abundance and joy. You are worth it!
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