How to Choose Gratitude Over Guilt

How to Choose Gratitude Over Guilt

Gratitude is a word you hear quite a bit once you start exploring self love, positivity and mindfulness. While the traditional definition—being thankful—is important, I’m going to challenge you to think of gratitude a little differently. For me, gratitude isn’t just about being thankful. It is about being truly present in the moment I’m experiencing, instead of feeling guilty about something outside of my current experience.

Let me explain. If you’re a working mother like I am, you spend a lot of time feeling guilty that you’re not with your kids, instead of feeling grateful that you’re at work (and vice versa). The moment I flipped my internal switch from guilt to gratitude, my happiness increased exponentially. And this doesn’t just apply to real-time conflicts. Oftentimes, it’s the guilt from the past or guilt about something in the future that takes the joy out of a present experience.

"Choosing yourself might be the hardest decision you ever make because guilt, shame, and fear are powerful gatekeepers. Do it anyway."

Guilt robs you of the moment you’re in. Gratitude reclaims it. When we focus on the moment we’re in and practice gratitude instead of guilt, we ground ourselves (and especially our runaway thoughts) in joy. Once we do that, self-love becomes second nature.

What Does Self Love in Action Look Like? 

Throughout the day, clock your thoughts and keep a gratitude vs. guilt tally. At the end of the day, see how many times you caught yourself in a moment of guilt, as opposed to a moment of gratitude, and challenge yourself to see those guilty moments through a new, more grateful lens. Continue to tally them throughout the week, and see if by the end of five days your gratitude thoughts/feelings outweigh your guilty ones.

Here are some examples of what that internal belief system shift could look like:

  1.  GUILT: “I feel so far behind. I'm 40, not married, still renting, no kids..."
    —Instead try—
    GRATITUDE: "I'm thankful that I can afford an apartment that I can call home, a job that provides for me, and friends that I can call family."

  2. GUILT: “I have so many unread emails and texts. I hate disappointing people with my lack of response.”
    —Instead try—
    GRATITUDE: "I'm thankful that I know my limits and can set up boundaries of self love and self care when I'm maxed out."

  3. GUILT: “I'm hurting my kids every time I leave for work. I'm not giving them the best of me. How can I do more to help them?”
    —Instead try—
    GRATITUDE: "I'm thankful that my kids have a strong role-model as a mother, someone who not only provides for them, but emotionally cares and shapes them."

  4. GUILT: “I need to do better."
    —Instead try—
    GRATITUDE: "I'm thankful that I'm allowed to be in process. I'm thankful that I'm committed to growth, as well as self love and self care."

Dedicating yourself to journey from guilt to gratitude in your daily life is hard work—I get that! Choosing yourself might be the hardest decision you ever make because guilt, shame, and fear are powerful gatekeepers. Do it anyway. You are more powerful than they are. Much more. 

This passage is a modified excerpt from The ABCs of Self Love by Melody Godfred. Interested in reading more? Pick up your copy below.