In this On Purpose episode, Jay Shetty discusses guilt.

Five different types of guilt affect the majority of us. He aims to give the listeners the tools necessary to navigate these feelings by understanding the root cause of their appearance.

Shame vs. Guilt

Jay Shetty delves into shame and guilt, emotions many grapple with. He underscores the importance of differentiating between the two, drawing inspiration from Brene Brown's work. According to Brown, while guilt makes one say, "I did something bad," shame is about believing, "I am bad." This distinction may appear subtle, yet it profoundly influences one's self-perception.

Guilt acknowledges a mistake, while shame internalizes the error, making the individual believe they, as a person, are the mistake. The voice of our inner critic can help determine which emotion dominates our psyche. By tuning into this voice, you can recognize if you are merely acknowledging a misstep or unnecessarily berating yourself.

Paul Ekman stresses the importance of distinguishing between the two emotions. He believes guilt might encourage a person to confess, while shame might deter them due to the fear of humiliation. This tug-of-war between wanting to open up about feelings and fearing the repercussions is familiar to many. Therefore, Jay seeks to offer insights and practical advice for those wrestling with these emotions.

Guilt Comes in Many Shapes

Jay Shetty discusses the multifaceted nature of guilt, drawing from research from BioMed Central to showcase the familiar sources of guilt1:

  1. Telling Lies: The top reason people feel guilty is due to lying or hiding the truth, categorized as guilt from misconduct or mistakes.
  2. Neglecting Family: People often feel guilty for not spending ample time with family or not caring enough for them.
  3. Misbehavior: Guilt surfaces from acting poorly toward others or having negative thoughts about someone. Instances include accidentally bumping into someone or gossiping about a friend.
  4. Perceived Responsibility: People often internalize guilt from incidents they believe they could have prevented or influenced. Extreme cases involve blaming oneself for accidents involving loved ones.
  5. Neglecting Individuals: Guilt arises from not being there for someone or not caring sufficiently.
  6. Self-Perceived Failures: People feel guilty for personal failures, negative attributes, or even more significant life events like divorce or affairs. This category also includes guilt stemming from procrastination or not being productive.

Everyone experiences guilt in various ways, and  pursuing perfection can magnify these guilty feelings. Jay Shetty aims to offer understanding and reassurance, telling listeners that they are not alone in their experiences.

"Guilt Blocks Growth"

Jay Shetty touches on the detrimental effects of guilt on personal development. He emphasizes that being overly focused on guilt becomes an obstacle to growth. While it can sometimes serve as motivation, it often leaves individuals feeling too far behind to make progress, likening it to being down ten goals in a game.

Familiar sources of guilt include health choices and self-indulgence. Jay reiterates that guilt implies, "I made a mistake." In contrast, shame translates to "I am a mistake." He encourages listeners to separate their identities from these feelings and emotions. It's essential to shift from thinking, "I am a failure," to "I have experienced failure."

Awareness of inner dialogue is the key to breaking free from this detrimental mindset. Jay recommends listeners write down instances when they felt guilt or shame, analyzing them retrospectively to find a more balanced perspective. Recognizing past successes and failures allows one to see their mistakes do not solely define them.

Everyone has successes and failures; recognizing and getting this balance is vital for personal growth. Therefore, Jay Shetty suggests seven steps to stop letting guilt drain your energy.

Resolve Guilt Over a Past Mistake

Sometimes, people continuously ruminate on past mistakes, often related to relationships. Jay Shetty emphasizes that this guilt doesn't just stay in the past; it gets projected onto new connections, friends, and work environments, impacting our present.

To address this guilt, Jay suggests contacting the person involved and attempting to resolve the issue. However, instead of impulsively apologizing, we should consider the other person's feelings and well-being. If, upon reflection, direct communication seems inadvisable or impossible, Jay mentions other healing methods, like energetically sending an apology or engaging in personal healing practice.

Jay recounts experiences from his tour where he encouraged attendees to contact people they hadn't spoken to in years. While not all these conversations led to a "fairytale ending," they provided healing for both parties involved. Expressing regret can be therapeutic for the one apologizing and often provides some comfort for the recipient.

Change Future Behavior

Jay Shetty highlights the importance of addressing guilt stemming from past mistakes. He suggests that the most effective way to alleviate guilt is by improving one's behavior moving forward. While we cannot alter the past, our actions in the present can shape a better future.

Jay says, "The only way you make yourself feel better about the past is by doing better in the future." He points out that dwelling on the past without making positive changes in the present is counterproductive.

Moreover, Jay Shetty sees guilt as an indication of self-reflection. When he feels guilt, he interprets it as a sign that he is reflective and aware, questioning his actions and recognizing imperfections. However, he warns that unchecked guilt can morph into shame, which is more detrimental. Addressing guilt is necessary for personal growth as it points out areas you need to heal.

Acknowledge Your Part of the Guilt

Jay Shetty discusses the importance of understanding and acknowledging the other person's emotions. Brushing off others' feelings may be the impulse, especially if you didn't mean harm. However, Jay suggests that this could only magnify the guilt and distance between both parties.

Instead of getting defensive or dismissing their feelings, validating their emotions and understanding their natural reactions is crucial. By genuinely recognizing and respecting their feelings, you can avoid deepening the wound and intensifying your guilt. It's a step toward building understanding and healing.

Two Sides of the Story

Jay Shetty discusses the complexities of guilt and responsibility in our interactions with others. He emphasizes that every story has two sides and that our biases shape our perceptions. By being more self-aware, we can prevent misunderstandings and avoid causing hurt.

Jay also urges listeners to recognize their role in conflict but stresses that they shouldn't shoulder all the blame. Even in situations where you might feel you weren't at fault, he advises not to accept responsibility for the past events but rather for the kind of future you desire. Coaching, he explains, focuses on taking charge of future actions rather than dwelling on past mistakes.

Moreover, Jay highlights the importance of determining what aspects one is willing to take responsibility for rather than being guilt-tripped by others. He highly recommends therapy, having partnered with BetterHelp on his podcast. Therapy provides a secure environment to reflect and grow, ensuring individuals don't develop harmful behaviors or mindsets. Taking responsibility isn't about accepting blame for past events but about paving the way for a better future.

Make Time for Important People

Jay Shetty discusses the guilt of not making time for loved ones. He advises that if you regret not spending time with someone in the past, you should prioritize making time now. Even if someone you once overlooked no longer wishes to spend time with you, Jay suggests making time for others.

Instead of focusing on past regrets, show appreciation to those who've always been there for you. If you missed out on giving time to someone before, offer it to someone else. Recognizing this shortcoming and being present for those you care about is essential.

Reflect on Your Priorities

Jay Shetty talks about understanding the reasons behind our past actions, especially when we feel guilty about them. He uses the example of parents who worked tirelessly to provide for their families and later regret not spending enough time with their kids. Jay highlights that it's crucial to remember why certain things were priorities at particular times in our lives. Often, looking back, we may forget the challenges we faced and judge our past decisions harshly.

Some people feel guilty for having privileges, like growing up in wealth or safety. Jay Shetty mentions that some individuals feel guilty because they have certain advantages while others do not. He admires those who transform this guilt into a purpose, using their privilege to help others through philanthropy and other means. They see their privilege as a responsibility to assist and share with those less fortunate. Moreover, Jay also stresses the importance of individuals building something on their own, even when they come from privileged backgrounds.

Share Your Experiences

Jay Shetty discusses the topic of "survivor's guilt," a feeling some people have when they've endured hardships while others haven't. This can be particularly challenging, as one might feel they didn't deserve to make it while others didn't. Jay suggests that this guilt can be transformed into an opportunity to assist others. Sharing personal experiences, offering support, and guiding those earlier in their journey can be therapeutic.

One of the main issues with guilt is the perception that our feelings aren't valid. Jay emphasizes the significance of expressing these emotions, whether it's with therapists, coaches, friends, or family. Open conversations in safe environments allow everyone to understand they're not alone in their struggles.

By aiding others, you can also promote your healing process. Jay Shetty urges his listeners to embrace insights that can reshape their perspectives on guilt and shame. He encourages his audience to share the episode with others who might benefit from it.

More From Jay Shetty

Listen to the entire On Purpose with Jay Shetty podcast episode on “5 Types of Guilt You Are Going Through And 7 Steps to Stop Letting It Drain Your Energy” now in the iTunes store or on Spotify. For more inspirational stories and messages like this, check out Jay’s website at

1Luck, T., Luck-Sikorski, C. The wide variety of reasons for feeling guilty in adults: findings from a large cross-sectional web-based survey. BMC Psychol 10, 198 (2022).

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