11/05/2012 03:12 pm ET Updated Jan 23, 2014

Give Up Guilt: No One Is Keeping Score

With the elections almost here and the country so divisive as to whether Obama or Romney should win, whatever the outcome we will need to use our energy productively to turn the economy around.

This is a time when most of us are called to do more with limited resources. So it is important to look at what zaps our power and let go of destructive habits -- clearly, holding on to guilt is one of them.

Why are so many of us plagued by guilt? Well for one thing, given all the roles we play, we simply can't be all things to all people, and we feel guilty for falling short.

But why do we even take on this impossible assignment? Because some of us have heard these messages early on and were brought up to acquiesce -- to be "nice."

Here's the truth: The only person you really need to be "nice" to is YOU. Many of us forget this, relegating our self-care last on our list. Mistake!

Right now, make a commitment to turn this around as you heed these tips when a guilt attack comes on:

Challenge yourself. Question a guilty thought, like, "Why wasn't I at my daughter's chorus rehearsal -- other mothers were there?" You and your daughter made that choice together. What was really important to her was your being at the class party next week, and you are planning to do that.

Change your thought. So when you become aware of taking on a false belief that makes you feel bad, you can question it and let it go. Then change your thought -- take on a more affirming one, like, "My daughter is rehearsing now, I can't wait to hear about her day when I get home."

Compromise when necessary. If there are situations that make you feel uncomfortable because people you care about need your help, but you also have work demands piling up, go within and ask for guidance about what action to take. Your "higher self" knows what to do, and often you will be shown a compromise.

Create a new plan. As you practice letting go of guilt and using your energy more productively, it will get easier to short cut guilt attacks from coming on full force. Make a plan that you can follow when you start feeling queasy sensations that signal guilt, something like: "I can feel discomfort, question the thought behind it, and change my thought to a more affirming one."

Champion yourself. Get into the habit of not condemning yourself. There are enough people that will be critical of you -- you don't have to be one of them. Keep acknowledging all you do for those close to you, what you accomplish on the job, and other ways you serve people. If you take in these things, you are apt to be more kind to yourself.

For more by Helene Lerner, click here.

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