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How to Cope with Guilt

Sometimes we experience guilt after behaving in a way that doesn’t align with what we want or what we value. Guilt is typically an uncomfortable emotion, and sometimes people go to great lengths to get rid of this feeling. Experiencing guilt is a normal part of being human, and we all go through it at some point. Here are some suggestions for dealing with guilt:

  • Try to learn from guilt: When guilt arises, it typically tells us that there is a gap between who we want to be and who we are. That said, there’s a lot to learn from guilt. Instead of focusing on what you did that made you feel guilty, see if you can shift the focus onto how you’d like to act in the future. Use it as an opportunity for learning to not behave the same way next time.

  • Practice self-compassion: Nobody is perfect. We all do things that we’re not proud of at some point or another. Ask yourself: If a friend was feeling guilty for this, would I berate them for it? Most likely, the answer is no. Treat yourself as you would a friend.

  • Let the emotion come and go: When we try to get rid of an emotion, it typically tends to linger even longer. See if you can non-judgmentally observe your guilt and let it pass in its own time. You won’t feel guilty forever.


Bethany Kriegel, LMHC, earned her master’s degree in mental health counseling from Boston College. She has experience working with adults in residential treatment settings, helping those struggling with eating disorders and obsessive-compulsive disorder, among other issues.

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