The feeling of guilt does serve a purpose. For most people, feeling guilty is pretty horrible and it makes us think about our actions. In an evolutionary sense this is very useful as it helps us get along with others. However, it can be blown out of all proportion and dwelling on feelings of guilt and being hard on yourself as a result are not helpful. In fact, they can make life a bit miserable.
Sometimes you won’t do everything you mean to do, but punishing yourself isn’t going to change the past. It’s what you do next time that counts. There is a great tool that can be used for reflecting on things that didn’t go as well as hoped. It will help you work through what happened and how to deal with it next time.
You start by asking yourself three questions:
What happened? Use this to briefly outline what went wrong.
So what? This part should outline why it was a problem.
What now? This bit should be your plan for the future.
Let’s look at an example:
Had a long week at work and didn’t have any food in the house because I hadn’t had time to go to the supermarket. I ordered a pizza and ate three quarters of it.
The meal wasn’t balanced and was much higher in calories than I needed. It will mean that it will take longer to get to my goal weight and I feel guilty for not being organised enough to have anything decent to eat in the house. I didn’t even enjoy the pizza.
I am going to set myself up with an online shopping list including some freezer food and quick meals so that there will always be something good to eat in the house even if I don’t have time to go to the supermarket.
Here we have acknowledged that something went a bit wrong and we have made a plan so it won’t happen again. And that should be the end of it. Don’t beat yourself up about it and make yourself miserable – it doesn’t often help!