True Guilt vs Someone Else’s Distress (Rethinking Guilt with Dr. Becky)

I am a huge fan of psychologist Dr. Becky (at Good Inside) and her recent short IGTV video shares a powerful reframe.

In this short video, Dr. Becky presents the difference between what she calls “true guilt” and what is someone else’s disappointment (or someone else’s distress).

Watch Dr. Becky’s short video, “Rethinking Guilt,”:

Video on IGTV:

My takeaways (watch the short video before reading this bit)

Here are two good questions to ask ourselves when we’re not sure if it’s our guilt or someone else’s distress:

  1. Is this decision (or action) in accordance with my values?

2. Who owns this feeling?

If it is true guilt (we aren’t acting or deciding in accordance to our values, or we’re acting in a way we don’t want to be), we can learn from this and shape our future choices accordingly. Dr. Becky briefly mentions that true guilt is helpful when we don’t add shame or overwhelm to the experience. I’ll add that true guilt can be helpful when we don’t add excess rumination or brooding as well. Learn the lesson, apologize, change the behavior in the future.

Boundary setting can be difficult to get used to when we have previously prioritized wanting to please others over honoring our own needs.

It is important to consider others' feelings, but that consideration and empathy doesn’t need to be at the expense of our own needs and values.

Boundary setting is vital to our own happiness. We deepen our connections with ourselves and honor our needs, which allows us to strengthen our relationships with others. A good reminder from Elizabeth Earnshaw: “When people set boundaries with you, it’s their attempt to continue the relationship with you. It’s not an attempt to hurt you.”

Learn more about Dr. Becky at Good Inside here.

Sending you love,


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