"Guilt is often associated with low self-esteem, with feelings of inferiority, lack of confidence, thinking we're not good enough, or that we did something unforgivable. We tend to view ourselves in unloving ways and beat ourselves up, certain that we could have known better. We give ourselves grief judging ourselves, certain that others are doing the same. What draining way to go through life. How useless to be so hard on ourselves about something that happened in the past which we have no possibility of changing. If we feel guilty about something that's happening now, we can use our guilt as motivation to change it.
There's another way of working with the energy we produce when we feel guilty about something we did. We can use it to recognize our mistakes and to motivate change.
Perhaps you need to apologize to someone. Perhaps you need to write a letter or to figure out a new way of behaving. Instead of getting down on yourself, telling yourself how horrible you are, treat yourself with compassion. You deserve it. Life is a learning process, it's natural and human to make mistakes. Recognize your guilt, redirect your thoughts and improve yourself. If you're condemning yourself or beating yourself up, you're disempowering yourself...Treat yourself with kindness by saying, 'I'm not a bad person. I simply did something that was wrong. I'll learn from my mistakes and I won't do it again. I'm human...' When you use your guilt feelings as a messenger, whatever you did has value because you learned from it. You've stopped blaming yourself and started taking positive action. You're not a bad person; you simply made a mistake. Join the human race. Once you've evaluated your actions without blame, you can take positive action that will alleviate the guilt."
- Lucinda Bassett, From Panic to Power