“The butterfly does not look back at the caterpillar in shame, just as you should not look back at your past in shame. Your past was part of your own transformation.” ~ Anthony Gucciardi
Breakups are one of the most painful experiences we experience as humans.
No matter what events lead to a relationship ending, it still doesn’t lessen the pain.
What makes breakups so painful is that the future you once envisioned for yourself is now gone. That person who was part of your daily life is not there anymore. Even if the breakup was needed, it’s still a shock when it happens.
Several years ago, I went through an incredibly tough breakup. It was a short-lived relationship but one that I thought would last years, if not forever. I had built up this grand vision of my future with this person and thought I had finally found the one.
When it became apparent early on that this relationship wasn’t right for me to be in, everything changed. This person was in serious need of support and help that I just wasn’t willing to provide.
My physical body didn’t feel right whenever I was around them. I felt tense, unsure, and nervous. Being a highly sensitive person, I was picking up on their internal demons that they themselves were not ready to face.
At first, I ignored these feelings and just thought it was my own nerves and anxiety. I thought there was no way I could end this relationship; we were supposed to have this fairy-tale romance.
This future I built up so highly in my head was soon crashing down. I remember I was working with a therapist at the time and she told me words I will never forget. She said, “A start of a relationship isn’t supposed to feel like this; it’s supposed to be fun and full of love.”
These words hit me like a ton of bricks, and at that moment, I realized I had to do the thing I had been fearing the most: end the relationship right then and there. I wasn’t ready to be someone’s caretaker and massive support system. I deserved to be cherished and loved, too.
I went to work the next day and was so nervous I didn’t eat. I knew I had to end it that day and not look back. I had to cut the cord and decide it would be no contact. It seemed harsh, but it was what I had to do for myself at that moment.
So that’s exactly what I did. I sent that text that ended everything and never looked back. I made a decision that I was worth it, that I deserved a real relationship full of love.
It was the hardest and most painful decision I had made, even if it was the right one. It felt like I just cut off one of my arms and the pain was unbearable. I was closing the door on the dream that I had envisioned for months up until that point.
I called one of my friends and was in total shock. I remember just sitting on my couch and not being able to move for hours. I experienced every single emotion in the span of half a day and was completely drained.
The days that followed were still painful. For the first time in my life, I experienced an emotion so strong that it practically took me off my feet.
Guilt was rearing its ugly head, like nothing I have ever felt before.
I suddenly felt so guilty for ending the relationship and how it would impact the other person. My decision to end it really came out of the left field and I left no room for conversation. As much of a shock as it was to me, I know they were feeling it even more.
I couldn’t shake this feeling of guilt and it was affecting my ability to focus on anything. The guilt was constantly berating me, asking if I did the right thing. Even though my conscious mind knew it was in my best interest, I couldn’t shake the guilt.
It was a point in my life that I decided to look at this emotion head-on and learn what it was trying to teach me. If I knew that the breakup was right, why was I carrying around this shame? Why was I suddenly so consumed by how the other person felt?
The lessons I learned from that time were life-changing and I am sharing them with you today. I don’t want anyone else to let guilt or shame lead them to compromise their best interest.
Looking back years later and being in a happy and loving marriage, I wouldn’t trade that experience for anything. That dark time led to one of the best years of my life and eventually brought my soulmate to me. Those painful lessons are now the teachings I am here to share with the world.
So if you’re going through a tough breakup or feeling guilt around a decision, this article is for you. Come back to it anytime you need these healing reminders.
6 Reminders For When Guilt Feels Too Heavy:
1. Guilt stems from people pleasing.
One of the main reasons why guilt was so loud during that time was because I was a people pleaser. Up until that breakup, I made every decision based on other people’s feelings. I didn’t want to upset anyone or cause conflict.
But being a people pleaser is what caused my daily anxiety and low self-esteem. I put so much stock into what people thought of me and my actions and I did everything I could to hide from judgment.
So when I finally stood up for myself and chose a different future, guilt was yelling at me. Guilt was making me feel like I was a horrible person for causing someone else pain. It wasn’t until I confronted those feelings and told myself I deserved better, that the guilt finally started to lessen.
If guilt is showing up for you, ask yourself if it’s because you’re thinking too much about another person. Chances are, the answer is yes. Of course, it’s okay to care about and love other people; it’s crucial for happiness.
But never let people pleasing or guilt get in the way of your best interest. Remind yourself that there’s a better future and relationship out there for you.
2. Guilt serves no purpose.
After feeling guilt so intensely and then confronting it, I realized that guilt serves no purpose. It wasn’t making me feel better and it was actually trying to keep me in an unhealthy relationship.
Guilt was blocking my healing journey and ruining my confidence. I made the decision I did for a reason; guilt wanted me to change my mind.
And if you think about your own situation, what is guilt really doing for you? Is it moving you toward your desired future or just keeping you stuck? Is it providing you with self-love and care or making you feel less than others?
You may think I am advocating for everyone to be a thoughtless, soulless being with no regard for others, but that isn’t the case. I am advocating for humans to love and care for themselves first, so they can enjoy meaningful relationships with people who love them back.
3. Remember why the relationship ended.
Once you realize that guilt serves no purpose, you can remind yourself why the relationship ended. Sure it’s easy to remember all the good times and happy feelings, but why did you or the other person decide to call it quits?
If nostalgia is really getting you down, take out a piece of paper. Write down all the reasons why the relationship ended and why it no longer serves you.
You can even write a letter to your ex with no intention of sending it, but where you can really let your heart out. Detail how they made you feel, the tough times you experienced, and maybe you even thank them for the good memories. Once the letter is written, burn it or throw it out.
I did this in my journey and it was incredibly healing. I put everything out on the paper; I listed out why this person wasn’t right for me, the love I didn’t feel from them, the way they portrayed themselves that wasn’t reality.
I also thanked them for all the lessons and pain because I knew that once I finally did meet my great love, it would’ve all been worth it.
Do this letter-writing exercise and you will feel relief and hope for the future.
4. Learn what you desire and deserve.
Along with writing the letter above, you can also write out the things you desire and deserve in your next relationship. Remind yourself of the future relationship you are moving toward.
Maybe in your last relationship, you didn’t receive honesty or respect. Maybe you weren’t getting the same effort back that you were putting in. Or maybe you felt like you were being misled in some way.
These are all great lessons as to what you don’t want in your next partnership. You can make a vow to yourself now that you value trust, honesty, and respect from the person you are with.
You may even find that your last relationship did have qualities you liked, but it ultimately didn’t work out for either of you; that’s totally okay. You can list these out as something that is still important as you meet someone new.
This is a great exercise for when guilt feels like a 50-pound backpack you can’t take off. Creating a list of what you deserve creates evidence that it’s possible for you. Refer to the list often as you continue on your dating journey.
5. When shame appears, connect to your inner child.
When a tough emotion is showing up, it means that your inner child is begging for attention. Even though we physically grow up and add years to our life, it doesn’t mean the childhood version of you ever goes away.
At your core, you have an inner child who just wants to feel love. Your inner child wants to feel safe and protected. Adult-you now has the power to step in and provide that love and care, even if you didn’t receive it from your caregivers growing up.
I wrote this article for a powerful exercise to connect to your inner child.
It feels especially painful during a breakup because that child version thinks they won’t ever get love again. They feel they’ve been abandoned in some way, and they take on unbearable guilt.
This is a beautiful opportunity for you to show yourself and your inner child some love and protection. Hold your hand on your heart and remind yourself that you are safe, that you are loved, and that you’ll always be there for yourself.
6. If guilt is too heavy, work with a trusted guide.
I mentioned that during this time of my life, I was working with a therapist. I don’t think I would’ve made the decision to end the relationship as quickly as I did without her help. I am so grateful this trusted guide came into my life when she did.
Sometimes guilt and shame really are too much to bare and can last for years. This is where the help of a guide or healer comes in. You never have to take this journey alone and just know that there are people here to help.
Whether it’s a therapist, coach, energetic healer, or close friend, it’s always better to reach out for help during challenging moments. Once you open up and look for a guide, they will make themselves known to you.
The amazing thing about humans is that we all go through the same emotions and feelings. Whatever you’re going through, you are not alone. There are countless other people that have experienced it and healed it. There are also other people that are going through it now, too.
I know that these emotions are tough and can feel impossible to shed, but I promise you that the minute you ask for help, you’ll feel immensely relieved.