How to Turn Guilt into Success and Happiness

Dr. Debi Silber
5 min readSep 14, 2022

We’ve all made a mistake we regret or feel guilty about at some point in our life.

Mistakes are part of the human experience, but we often make mistakes that cause guilt to creep in and take up space in our minds, generating tons of emotional and physical unrest.

When we use guilt to motivate us towards a different action, it can be useful. Using guilt to motivate us towards a different way to act in the future is like taking out the garbage and cleaning up your space. When we simply feel guilty and don’t do anything with that feeling, it stays inside of us and can be very damaging to the body and mind. Harboring that guilt is like piling up the garbage inside; it can only negatively impact everything it touches.

Feeling guilty can lead to continuous self-judgment and criticism of yourself because of something you did or didn’t do. If you betrayed someone for example, you may feel guilty for your actions or fear the person you betrayed will discover what you’ve been trying to hide. If you’re the one who was betrayed, you can feel guilty that somehow you did something wrong or weren’t enough in some way (which is never the case and is a complete waste of your time but it’s a typical go-to response.)

Guilt can linger endlessly; holding you back even after others have forgotten or forgiven whatever happened. For example, a few years ago I met up with a high school friend after losing touch for 30 years. Excited to get together, I was eager to learn where life had taken her during that time. After we hugged, the first thing she did was apologize for something she did to me in high school. I was stunned. “You’ve been carrying this for 30 years?” Her response: “Yes, I couldn’t wait to see you and apologize in person.” I responded: “I appreciate it but…I don’t even remember the incident you’re talking about.”

Even though guilt may seem like a terrible thing, it has a lot of power to help you acknowledge your actions and fuel your motivation to change. It can direct you to think about what you could have done differently and what you can do differently if the same situation arises in the future.

Here are a few ways to turn guilt into something positive:

Remember that everyone makes mistakes. Nobody is perfect. We all make mistakes or do things we aren’t proud of. As imperfect humans, it is impossible not to make mistakes. So don’t…

Dr. Debi Silber

Dr. Debi Silber, founder of The PBT (Post Betrayal Transformation) Institute helps people heal from the trauma of betrayal.