11 Ways To Get Over Feeling Guilty About Following Your Passion

“Ollin, I’m trying to follow my passion, but I feel so guilty about it. How can I overcome the guilt I put on myself?”

“Ollin, I’m trying to follow my passion but society/friends/family are making me feel guilty about it. How can I overcome the guilt they are putting on me?”

Confession: I am one of the most guilt-ridden people on earth.

I feel guilty about not waving back to a stranger who greeted me two weeks ago. That’s how filled with guilt I am.

So, yes, I am very familiar with guilt, and what I can say for sure about guilt is that you can’t get rid of it. Those who say you can rid yourself of guilt are wrong. Because guilt, like fear or doubt, is just a natural part of our emotional repertoire, and it will always will be. We will go on feeling guilty about everything from accidentally breaking someone’s heart, to accidentally breaking our sister’s printer, for the rest of our lives.

With that said, you can work with guilt so that it doesn’t hinder your progress–whether it’s progress with pursuing your passion, or something else. So, today I’d like to share what has helped me overcome my feelings of guilt. I hope these tips work for you, too.

Here we go:

How To Overcome Guilt You’ve Put On Yourself

1. Remember That You Can’t Get Rid Of Guilt

Sometimes you feel happy, sometimes you feel sad, and sometimes you feel guilty. That’s what makes you human. Please stop trying to stamp out guilt like it’s some virus. It’s just an emotion, and, just like all emotions, it will pass. But, also like all emotions, guilt will come back again.

So, just let it come and go as it pleases. Don’t stress over having to stamp out guilt because you think feeling guilty will make you a weak, imperfect person. You’re not a weak, imperfect person. You’re a human. And humans feel guilty sometimes. But they don’t feel guilty all the time, so that at least can reassure you.

2. But You Can Get Rid of The Guilt You Have About Certain Things

Although you can’t get rid of the emotion of guilt itself, you can stop feeling guilty about certain things.

How can you do that? Well, first you have to:

3. Speak The Guilt Aloud

What exactly are you guilty about? You won’t know until you speak the guilt out loud.

So, start by saying:

I feel guilty about…

Then finish that sentence.

4. Investigate The Guilt

Many of us allow ourselves to feel our emotions but only few of us ever investigate where those emotions come from. Trust me, every emotion you are feeling comes from a very real place. It has a root. There’s a reason you feel a certain way and often the root of your guilt is not outside of you, it is inside of you. And because it is inside of you, it is hidden. And because the root is hidden, you have to go looking for it.

So speak your guilt out loud:

I feel guilty about… pursuing my passion.

Then investigate the guilt. Ask yourself:

Why do I feel so guilty about pursuing my passion? 

List the reasons why. 

5. Analyze The Guilt 

Now, examine the reasons you have listed for feeling guilty. Ask yourself:

“Where do these reasons come from? Did they come from me? From society, from teachers growing up, from family, friends?”

Then ask yourself if these reasons make any sense to you. Not to others–to you. Do these reasons make any sense to YOU.

For instance, if one of the reasons is:

I feel guilty because I’m not contributing anything valuable to society by pursuing my passion.

You need to ask yourself…

This reason may make sense to my parents/my friends/my boss/my teacher/society, but does this reason make sense to ME?

Your answer may be…

No. What could be more valuable than pursuing my passion? It fills me with love and positive energy that I can then share with others–and how can love and positive energy not be valuable? No, this reason does not make any sense to me.

6. Forgive Yourself

Finally, forgive yourself. Forgive yourself for feeling guilty. Forgive yourself for making the mistakes you think you have made. Forgive yourself for the mistakes you think you are currently making. Forgive yourself for not doing what society, or others, think you should do. Then acknowledge that you are making yourself feel guilty for reasons that don’t even make any sense to you. Then shake the guilt off and move on with your passion. 

How To Overcome Guilt That Others Have Put On You

1. Make It Clear To Others Why Your Passion Is So Important To You

Make sure to read 6 Strategies To Help Get Your Family On Board With Your Passion. In this post, I outline how you should make it clear to family and friends what your passion is and how they can support you. You must first make sure that your family and friends are clear about what your passion is before you can come to the conclusion that they won’t support your passion.

We can make a big mistake by assuming that others will not be supportive of our passions. But we don’t want to come to any conclusions until we have the facts.

2. Let Them Know How You Feel

Are you sure that the family member or friend who makes you feel guilty about following your passion is even aware that he or she is doing this? Maybe you need to make it clear to this person how you feel first, before you come to any conclusions.

Tell them:

“You may not realize it, but when you say this or do that you are making me feel guilty about following my passion.”

See how they respond. Maybe they didn’t even realize that they were making you feel guilty. Who knows? After you share how you feel, your friend or family member might even apologize and leave the issue alone. But you’ll never know unless you communicate your feelings with them.

3. If They Still Keep Guilt Tripping You, Then Realize That They Are Making An Unfair Attempt To Control You

Okay. Here’s where it gets tricky.

Once you have explained to the other person that your passion is important to you, and after you explained to them that they are making you feel guilty about it, see how they react. If they still keep making efforts to guilt trip you, then you’re going to have to realize that this person is unfairly trying to control you.

For whatever reason, they do not like what you are doing. Either your efforts at pursuing your passion threaten them, or they may be genuinely afraid for your well-being.

Either way, as an adult, they have to respect your decisions. You are no longer a child that needs to be protected from the boogeyman. If you’re about to cross the street, no one needs to look both ways for you. You can do that on your own.

Others may be convinced that you are making “the biggest mistake of your life” by following your passion. That’s fine.  They are entitled to their opinion. But they are not entitled to your life. They are not allowed to control you. You’re an adult. You make your own decisions, thank you very much.

4. Realize That You Can Never Change Them

The type of person described in item #3 above will only keep trying to make you feel guilty. They’ll only keep being convinced that you’re making a big mistake. Unfortunately, you can’t change them. So, don’t put any of your energy into trying to change them. Instead, put all of your energy into moving forward with your passion.

5. But Always Respond To These “Guilt Trippers” With Consistent, Repeated Statements To Make It Clear To Them That You’re Not Gonna Change Either

Don’t fight against this person who wants to unfairly guilt trip you, but don’t bow down to them either. Think Thoreau. Think Gandhi. Think peaceful, non-violent protest. Think civil disobedience. Don’t waste your energy in fighting back, but make it clear that their punches aren’t gonna keep you down.

The person who wants to keep guilt tripping you may never change, but you need to make it clear to them that your’e not gonna change either. You’re sticking to your passion no matter how much they try to control you.

In fact, every time they come back and try to play their guilt game with you, make sure to have a response ready–and then repeat this response every time they try to play their guilt game. Say something like:

“I can’t stop engaging in my passion because it gives me joy and/or it gives my life meaning. It’s important to me. I’m sorry you don’t understand/agree with me. But I’m never going to stop pursing my passion, so please let me be. Thank you.”

Whenever they come to play the guilt game, repeat your statement. Repeat it over and over again. You never know, but eventually they may stop bugging you because they’ll already know the answer they’re going to get if they try to guilt trip you again.

Meanwhile, you get back to your work, guilt-free.

much love,

Ollin

How do you overcome guilt? Please share your wisdom with us in the comments below!

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14 comments on “11 Ways To Get Over Feeling Guilty About Following Your Passion

  1. struggletovictory says:

    To answer your question, I overcome guilt by forgiving and being forgiven. Once I’ve made peace through forgiveness, I move on and refuse to let guilt control me any longer. Guilt, fear, excitement… they are all emotions that can guide us, but we get into real trouble when we let emotions control our decisions.

  2. Jaky Astik says:

    You can’t burn it off…but gradually pass over it. It’s possible to get over guilt. Just, gradually.

  3. Lynne Spreen says:

    As you said above, Ollin, a person has to decide what’s legitimate and what isn’t. Sometimes we are just raised that way.

    In my family, if I get something other people don’t have (like money or time), I can’t enjoy it unless my family benefits. That can be good (helping my parents monetarily helped me not feel guilty over the fact that my last words to my dad before he died were somewhat abrupt). It can also be bad (for many years I was barely surviving monetarily because I gave all my paycheck away to needy relatives).

    As a 57-yr-old, older and theoretically wiser, I now have a new battle: between feeling like “I’ve learned not to give it away anymore” and “This is a situation where I should help.” Your column is about passion but the same compulsion applies wherever guilt arises.

    • Ollin says:

      You are right. The above exercises pertain to all kinds of guilts. Thank you for sharing you story, I’m sure many will identify.

  4. Alexander Bengtsson says:

    Reblogged this on Commonplace.

  5. 83October says:

    Thanks for this Ollin! I needed this post.
    I think one of the ways I try to get over my guilt, especially when it comes to pursuing my passion is reminding myself that there is no one path. A lot of the guilt has to do with taking the road less traveled on (ex. becoming a doctor, working in a corporation, or becoming a lawyer). I’ve come to realize that while this roads are promising and lucrative they aren’t the only road and when i remember that, i get to put aside my feelings of guilt.

    • Ollin says:

      You’re welcome! You’re right, many of us feel guilting for taking the “unconventional” roads. But hey, someone has to take those roads eventually, right? Why not us. Good luck to you!

  6. This is so helpful. I feel a lot of guilt about how much freedom I have, and how fortunate I am to have my lifestyle.

    This comes from me, not my family and friends. It’s up to me to let myself appreciate and relish the life I have carved out.

    Your article will help me. Thanks for bringing up this big issue. I’ve been grappling with how to write about it for a long time.

    • Ollin says:

      You’re welcome Cynthia! I hope you plan on still addressing this issue, I’m curious to see your view of it. I’m happy to be of service!

  7. […] to write?  Check for prompts.  Want to get over your guilt at following your passion?  Check out this post here.  I’d repost that over on my other blog and at some point, write up my own viewpoints and […]

  8. […] it a family who doesn’t fully support your passion? Is it intense feelings of guilt? Is it an attachment to the end result? Or is it a bit more complex, like […]

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