Many of my clients come in with underlying feelings of guilt or shame stemming from decisions or actions made in the past, that they feel has negatively affected them or that they feel they are now being punished for. And whilst we all experience these emotions from time to time, holding onto these feelings over the long term can do more harm than good.

Distinguishing the difference between guilt and shame;
I love the way that Brene Brown speaks of the difference between shame and guilt; she says “guilt has a focus on the behaviour eg. I did something bad. Where as, shame has a focus on self eg. I am bad”. Guilt is an open emotion and gives us space to take responsibility and act accordingly. Shame is more of a closed emotion and is usually associated with silence and is more secretive in nature. Taking this into consideration, guilt is more productive and healthier than shame. The research backs this up, showing that feelings of shame are highly correlated to addiction, depression, bullying, violence, aggression and eating disorders.

The purpose of these emotions is to keep us accountable for our actions so we can learn from our mistakes and create new, better boundaries. However, after these learnings have taken place, holding onto these feelings is like drinking poison. It makes us feel sick and unworthy, it stunts our growth and robs us of experiencing joy and contentment with all that is good in the present moment.

 “Grant me the serenity to accept the things that I can’t change, the courage to change the things that I can and the wisdom to know the difference”.

So how do you shift these emotions in a healthy way?
Let’s face it, we’ve all done or said things that we’ve later regretted – but we are not our behaviour! We are perfectly imperfect human beings, so creating this clear separation is incredibly important.

Next is about taking responsibility and doing or saying the things that need to be said or done, whether it’s an apology or righting a wrong. Saying sorry shows our strength, not our weakness. Saying sorry is not about receiving forgiveness from the other party but rather, it’s about you and your relationship with yourself, knowing that you put your best foot forward.

Lastly, forgive yourself. Forgiveness is also an attribute of the strong and life is all about lessons and growth. Writing a self-forgiveness letter can be a very healing technique.

Tips for Writing a Self-Forgiveness Letter
• Tap into your higher self, the version of you where all love and healing reside, no ego, no resentment, anger or hurt. Write from a place of compassion and support, like you are speaking to a child or someone you care for deeply and respect.

• Know your purpose – is it to cleanse yourself? To reframe your perception of the event? Find the positive learnings? Or to give you more passion, purpose and motivation to achieve and do better in the future?
• Do not judge what comes out, just let your words flow.
• Do not use hateful language.
• Know that you don’t need to justify your actions or make excuses, this could see you falling into victimhood which doesn’t serve you.
• A nice way to finish this process is to re-read your letter to yourself, hold it to your heart and repeat a supportive affirmation to yourself.
• Many like to ceremonially burn the letter afterward and as the letter burns, so you are cleansed.

Affirmations for self-forgiveness
I choose to show myself compassion and show my loved ones that they too can and should forgive themselves 

My past experiences have made me the perfectly imperfect person I am today
I choose to love and accept myself with all of my flaws and imperfections
I choose to release myself from the past for a better tomorrow
I am brave, unique, strong and grateful and I never give up
I grow and become a better version of myself every day
I am not my mistakes, my past does not define me
I am enough, I am worthy and I am loved
I love myself just the way I am

The combination of coaching, NLP and hypnotherapy proves greatly beneficial for clients who identify with shame and guilt, enabling shifts in perspective, increased self-worth and boosted self-esteem, allowing them to become a happier, healthier version of themselves.

If you find yourself caught up in these emotions and would like to take your personal development to the next level, you can book in a session with Kate via our website

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