Do you often feel guilty for everything you should and shouldn’t have done? Maybe you should have worked a little longer, maybe you should have gone to the gym more often this week and you shouldn’t have had that piece of cake yesterday or the one the day before. Whatever reason, too many of us struggle with a guilty conscience.
But what is conscience and how does it work?
The Greek word “conscience” literally means “co-knowledge, or knowledge with oneself”. We possess the ability to look at ourselves and make moral judgments. So the bad conscience is really just a way for us to judge ourselves, which we do way too often.
Why do we do that?
In today’s society we get recognition based on our performance. We are under the assumption that there is this unwritten rule that we at all times should be a great parent, a loving partner, be a wonderful friend, have a great career and the list goes on. We feel that society expects an awful lot of us, and believe that we only have value as human beings if we accomplish all those things. And when we don’t, we feel guilty.
What happens when the guilty conscience takes over?
Perfectionism, constant pressure and high demands on ourselves and our performance can actually drain us of both energy and joy. Imagine walking around, constantly punishing yourself, not feeling good enough. Must be exhausting. Too many people set high standards for themselves, their work and their private lives – and they have a difficult time saying no and setting limits. Meanwhile, sick leave increase and stress related diagnoses takes over.
So what can we do?
First off, we got to realize that we, ourselves, are the ones that set those high demands, and become victims of our guilty conscience. Experiment with lowering your expectations and change your mind set about what is expected of you. And get rid of the words “must” and “should”! They don’t belong in your vocabulary. Realize that you can’t be best at everything and that’s fine! You are allowed to lower your shoulders and not be on top of your game at all times. You don’t need to get straight A’s all the time, it’s ok to let the laundry lie in the corner of the floor one more day, that the house isn’t shining and most importantly: it’s more than ok to eat something unhealthy or skip the gym from time to time.
It’s all about how you choose to face the challenges in your life. So let the guilty conscience go and be the best of you, because that’s more than enough.
By: Henriette Danielsen