5 Reasons to Let the Guilt Go and Start Taking Better Care of Yourself

Taking time out for yourself is often the first thing to go when life gets overwhelming or busy. Even when you are thriving, taking time out for yourself can be a challenge.

Women who dare to start the adventure of looking after themselves often share with me how much guilt they feel. Comments like “I can’t go to the gym, I have to ______ “, “I really wish I could, but I ____ ” or “I shouldn’t have ____”.

Well, what if we looked at this a little bit differently and recognised that when we look after ourselves, we actually have more to give other people?

In this post, I am going to share –

  • The Gift of Mindful Self-Compassion
  • What is Guilt?
  • 7 Quotes on Guilt
  • What is the Difference Between Shame and Guilt?
  • 5 Reasons to Start Taking Better Care of Yourself

Let’s get started…

The Gift of Mindful Self-Compassion

Before we start exploring guilt, we need to make sure you have some mindful self-compassion. Therefore I am going to share a few definitions of self-compassion with you.

In his book The Mindful Path to Self-Compassion: Freeing Yourself from Destructive Thoughts and Emotions Christopher Germer refers to self-compassion as “… simply giving the same kindness to ourselves that we would give to others.” 

Dr Kristin Neff in her book Self-Compassion: The Proven Power of Being Kind to Yourself, refers to self compassion as having three components –

  1. Self-kindness – be gentle and understanding with ourselves rather than harshly critical and judgmental.  
  2. Common humanity – feeling connected with others in the experience of life rather than feeling isolated and alienated by our suffering (i.e. experiencing our imperfections). 
  3. Mindfulness – that we hold our experience in balanced awareness, rather than ignoring our pain and exaggerating it.

Also, in the The Force of Kindness, Sharon Salzberg wrote – “this kind of compulsive concern with “I, me and mine” isn’t the same as loving ourselves… Loving ourselves points us to capacities of resilience, compassion and understanding within that are simply part of being alive.”

What is Guilt?

There are a number of definitions of guilt out there including –

  • “the fact of having committed a specified or implied offence or crime.” ~ Google
  • “the fact or state of having committed an offence, crime, violation, or wrong, especially against moral or penal law.” ~ Dictionary.com
  • “a bad feeling caused by knowing or thinking that you have done something bad or wrong.” ~ Merriam-Webster
  • “a feeling of having committed wrong or failed in obligation.” ~ Oxford Dictionaries

7 Quotes on Guilt

The following quotes related to guilt, also give us some insight in to guilt.

  1. “Guilt is anger directed at ourselves.” ~ Unknown
  2. “The past has no power over the present moment.” ~ Eckhart Tolle
  3. “People have a hard time letting go of their suffering. Out of a fear of the unknown, they prefer suffering that is familiar.” ~ Thich Nhat Hanh
  4. “You will never find the real truth among people that are insecure or have egos to protect. Truth over time becomes either guarded or twisted as their perspective changes; it changes with the seasons of their shame, love, hope or pride.” ~ Shannon L. Adler
  5. “Lack of forgiveness causes almost all of our self-sabotaging behavior.” ~ Mark Victor Hansen
  6. “When you are guilty, it is not your sins you hate but yourself.” ~ Anthony de Mello
  7. “The difference between shame and guilt is the difference between ‘I am bad’ and ‘I did something bad.” ~ Brené Brown.

What is the Difference Between Shame and Guilt?

In her book, I Thought It Was Just Me (but it isn’t): Making the Journey from “What Will People Think?” to “I Am Enough”Brené Brown looks at it this way –

Guilt is an emotion that comes from self-evaluation. Guilt comes from the thought “I have done something bad”, “I have done something wrong” or “I made a mistake” – which focuses on the behaviour.

Shame is also an emotion that comes from self-evaluation. Shame comes from the thought “I am bad”, “I am wrong” or “I am a mistake” – which focuses on the person or self.

Another way of looking at the differences between shame and guilt is that guilt holds an action or behaviour up against our values, morals or ethics. For example – when we make a mistake, we evaluate the behaviour (e.g. eating too much) and can feel guilt when the behaviour is inconsistent with who we are or who we want to be (e.g. fit and healthy).

Shame is focusing on who we are or what we have done (e.g. – I am useless and cannot stick to a healthy lifestyle and focuses on something being wrong with me). The danger with shame is when we continually say it, we begin to believe it and live that way.

Some other differences in relation to shame and guilt include –

  • Shame often leads to disconnection from other people, whereas guilt can be healing and helps build relationships with people.
  • Shame does not lead to positive behaviour change, however guilt can. Brené Brown has been quoted as saying ~“You cannot shame or belittle people into changing their behaviours.”
  • Shame is often about attacking and causing harm to another person, whereas guilt is often about accountability and recognising we have made a mistake.

No doubt there are more differences, so feel free to share them below.

5 Reasons to Start Taking Better Care of Yourself

By now, I am hoping you can see why it is important to let go of guilt and start taking better care of yourself. If not, here are 5 more reasons –

  1. You Have a Purpose and Gift to Share.  Yes, YOU. There is something only you can do. Love and value yourself enough to follow your dreams and passions. As Hayley Okines has shown, life isn’t about the length of your stay here on earth, it is about what you do with the time you do have. Are you giving everything you can to sharing your purpose and gift?
  2. You Can’t Give What You Don’t Have – For example – if you are tired and run down most of the time – what do you have to give? If on the other hand you took better care of yourself by nurturing yourself, eating well, taking time out, having fun and exercising – what do you think you could give then? This is articulated in the following clip by Dr Wayne Dyer
  3. You are Worth It! I believe it is important for every person to take care of themselves as we are all worthy of love and belonging. “Owning our story can be hard but not nearly as difficult as spending our lives running from it. Embracing our vulnerabilities is risky but not nearly as dangerous as giving up on love and belonging and joy – the experiences that make us the most vulnerable. Only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light.” ~ Brené Brown
  4. You Cannot Change What We Refuse to Confront. Yes, I know it takes courage to change. Some days I wished it was easier, however what I continue to realise are my experiences are lessons I need to learn so I keep on showing up. I choose to pay attention to myself and gently lean in to the uncomfortableness. Yes, it’s painful and challenging some days (OK a lot of days), however somehow I get through it and if I didn’t have tough experiences I wouldn’t trust myself as I do today.
  5. Ignorance is Not Bliss. Exhaustion, stress and burnout do not equate to personal effectiveness or good results for anyone. “Nothing in the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.” ~ Martin Luther King Jr.


I hope this post has helped shed some light on why it is important to start looking after yourself and let go of guilt.

If you are ready to reclaim your courage and take the next step towards freedom and opening your heartwhy not join our Toolkit?


Brown, B. (2007). I Thought It Was Just Me (but it isn’t): Making the Journey from “What Will People Think?” to “I Am Enough”. New York, USA: Penguin.

Germer, C. (2009). The Mindful Path to Self-Compassion: Freeing Yourself from Destructive Thoughts and EmotionsNew York: Guilford Press.

Neff, K. (2011). Self-Compassion: The Proven Power of Being Kind to Yourself. New York, USA: HarperCollins Publishers.

Salzberg, S. (2010). The Force of Kindness: Change Your Life With Love and Compassion. Canada: Sounds True Inc.


  • surendra Jain

    Reply Reply November 2, 2016

    Your letter was thought provoking ,. keep posting

    • Jane

      Reply Reply November 2, 2016

      Thanks Surendra 🙂 Was there something in particular you enjoyed?

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