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How to Stop Feeling Guilty About a Mistake

by Kyla Cruz

“A mistake is valuable if you do four things with it; recognize it, admit it, learn from it, forget it.”- John Wooden

When we make a mistake, we often feel guilt, shame, and in some cases remorse. But how can we overcome these negative feelings and channel them into something positive? A mistake by definition is an action or judgment that is misguided or wrong.

This can vary based on your morals and values. What one person perceives as wrong, you may not share in the belief. In relationships it is important to have these conversations so you are both teaching one another – what makes your partner happy, sad, feeling loved, admired, and respected, and what constitutes a mistake or inappropriate behavior to him/her.

If a mistake is made then it is time to acknowledge it and to go deeper, you should explore why the action or judgment was made in the first place. Sometimes even though action or judgment can go against your moral compass, it may be the best decision at the moment to guarantee your survival or something else where the outcome is sensible.

Your moral compass is your ability to judge what is right and wrong and act accordingly. If you are in a relationship and you’re in a situation where you can commit an act that goes against your morals or that of your partner and you are of sound mind, then you have to take accountability.


How do you recognize when something is wrong? While right and wrong are a matter of opinion or a product of hindsight they cannot exist outside of your opinion of the current moment or as an analysis of the past. It is not a mistake if you like the outcome. If your way according to your opinion will lead to a better result.

Before condemning yourself or admitting fault for an action, ask yourself, “Why did I do this?” and “What outcome was I seeking?” as well as, “Do I favor the outcome?” It is hard to have remorse for an action that you do not see as wrong or that doesn’t go against your moral compass. If you choose to recognize this action due to the belief of someone else, then you are doing yourself a disservice. If your decision is making you feel guilty then you either did not favor the outcome or another person has made you question your decision because it has negatively impacted him/her.

One thing we should never do is try to change someone. If you are making a decision it is because you are okay with the outcome. How someone else conducts themselves is not your business or place. If you are in a relationship with someone who does not share your values or morals then you need to reevaluate that relationship.

Someone may prefer an open relationship or being polyamorous, whereas another is strictly monogamous. This can be problematic and should you decide to do something that goes against your partners morals or a person trying to change you, you are not wrong. Forcing anyone to adhere to your beliefs is a no-no because nobody wins in that situation.

Related articles: What Causes Codependency?


On the contrary, if you and your partner are both on the same page about your beliefs and you happen to go against this in any manner, then yes, it is a mistake and you are prone to feeling guilty. Not because of the act alone but because you will feel as though you’ve disappointed yourself and your partner. First things first, admit it. Come clean. Coming clean and taking accountability is not to be met with vulgarity and retribution. Rather, as any good relationship coach or counselor will recommend, it is to be met with empathy. Having a safe space to confess your wrongdoing is not only important but necessary.


A mistake can be a great way to learn because the point is to concentrate on the things you can do to change your behavior rather than focusing on the act itself. If you were unfaithful, abusive, or made a decision that caused someone or something a great deal of pain and you feel remorse for your actions then you can learn and grow from that experience. Otherwise, the guilt will continue to linger.

Feeling guilty and having remorse are two different emotions: guilt is always an indication that the ego wounded self is in charge, trying to control the outcome of things with self-judgment. Guilt often indicates that no true behavior change is imminent, because no change of heart has occurred. If your behavior was a mistake but you continue to do it or repeat the act, then you are feeling guilty, not remorseful. Guilt is just manipulation to control being forgiven. Remorse on the other hand is a deep and powerful feeling that creates deep and powerful change leading to repentance and redemption.

Guilt indicates that we are off course in our thinking – out of alignment with our true self while remorse brings us back into alignment with the truth of who we are. So did you make a mistake or was it something you wanted to do and now feel guilty because of outside judgment? Is your ego just wounded?


You cannot forget a mistake if there is no redemption. Repeating something that goes against your moral compass or values will have you on a hamster wheel. For example, if you were unfaithful to a spouse and he/she has done the hard work in forgiving you due to your expressed remorse, repeating the behavior will lead to the past resurfacing making it hard for either of you to move forward.

This often happens when the offender is feeling guilty and not remorseful. You may frequently express guilt as a form of control and this kind of behavior is aligned with having an anti-social personality disorder. Due to your feeling deeply entitled to do whatever you choose, you will feel no remorse for your actions, thus repeating them.

So how do you stop feeling guilty for a mistake? First, acknowledge to your true self if a mistake was made. If so, you should have remorse, remorse leads to redemption and redemption leads to forgiveness. That will stop the feeling of guilt.


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