This week’s post comes to us from an anonymous guest-writer.
Cheers to moving past guilt as we move toward a meaningful holiday, plus a new year & new beginning! [Don’t take it with you!]
I just ate over 1000 calories in one sitting and I don’t feel bad about it. Mac-n-cheese is my
guilty pleasure now and again, so when I do indulge, I enjoy every morsel! I’m sure you have
your own guilty pleasures too. But, why do we feel guilty about things we enjoy? I don’t even
like the term guilty pleasure. Pleasure should bring happiness! Guilt is one of the most useless
emotions we waste our time on. We’ve all felt it, but when does guilt ever really help the
situation? It doesn’t, except in those cases when it’s your actual conscience letting you know if a
decision feels right or wrong. In those cases, the guilt we feel can help us experience growth. But
in many cases, guilt is negative, fear-based, and keeps us in an endless loop of yuck. As the late
Erma Bombeck said, “Guilt: the gift that keeps on giving.” Good one, Erma! It doesn’t seem
very logical to replay a scenario in our heads and continue to feel bad about it over and over
again…but we’ve all done it. All we can do is learn from a situation, make amends if necessary,
and move forward. We do the best we can with what we know in the moment, and that doesn’t
make us bad people. It makes us human.
So, let’s talk about guilt… There’s a big difference between your moral compass and icky, obligatory feelings of guilt. Follow your compass, but take a step back when you notice feelings
of guilt coming from external sources. Much of the time, the guilt we experience isn’t even based
on our own thoughts. It’s based on ideas we got from someone else or society. How many times
have you had someone try and guilt you into doing something? It’s the old switcheroo…”If you
don’t do what I want you to do, then you’re being selfish!” Huh? Who is the selfish one here?
We need to remember that we are in control of our feelings and nobody can “make” us feel
guilty, unless we let them. Take back your power. If you really don’t want to do something; then
don’t. It’s healthy to have boundaries, but it’s unhealthy to feel guilty about having them. You
are not responsible for how other people feel. That’s their job.
I think the whole notion of doing something out of guilt rather than desire is backwards. Do
everyone a favor and consider doing things because you actually want to do them. This
simplifies things quite a bit, now doesn’t it? Yes, I realize there are certain things nobody likes to
do such as pay the bills or clean the house, but ultimately, we do those things because they make
us happy in the long run. I enjoy coming home to a clean house, not to mention electricity and
running water! I’m talking about doing things because you think you should, but you really don’t
want to. The word “should” feels negative because it sounds like we don’t have a choice. We
have choices, people! Disappoint some folks if you need to. Life is too short to spend it doing
things out of obligation or guilt, and that leaves little time to spend doing things out of
So, how do we tackle this guilt monster and send it packing on its own guilt trip? I think that
whenever you notice feelings of guilt creeping in, you should stop and ask yourself some
§ Where is this feeling coming from (self or others)?
§ Why do I feel guilty?
§ Do I really want to do this?
§ Will this choice make me happy in the long run?
§ Do I feel a sense of obligation?
§ Is my conscience bothered?
The only obligation you truly have is to yourself. It pays to question your thoughts and see if the
feelings are coming from your conscience or externally. We don’t have to live up to external
standards; only our own. You can also ask yourself if the situation will matter in 10 minutes, 10
days, or even 10 years. This helps put things in perspective.
Another tip you can try is observing how often you say things like, “I should do xyz.” You might
be surprised at how often you “should” yourself. Try re-framing it and say something like, “I
could do this,” or “I choose to do that.” My boyfriend is great at gently reminding me of this
when he catches me using the dreaded “should” statements. Try asking a friend or significant
other to call you out on this. One of my personal favorites is, “I should go to the gym, but I don’t
feel like it.” When I reframe it as a conscious choice, rather than an obligation, then I’m in
control. Even if I choose to skip my workout, it’s my choice and there’s no reason to beat myself
up over it. It’s scary, yet absolutely refreshing to be responsible for your own decisions instead
of blaming something or someone else for your actions.
This post is fitting as the holidays approach…a potential minefield of guilt. It’s a wonderful time
to do nice things for others, and I hope that you do, but beware of the disease to please and any
accompanying guilt. If you find yourself grappling with thoughts like, “Did I buy enough?” or
“Did I do enough?”– remember to step back and examine where those thoughts are actually
coming from. Most importantly, don’t forget to ask yourself, “Does doing this make me happy?”
Make conscious decisions that honor your choices, and come from a place of [pure!] love rather than
obligation. Lastly, remember that there’s no reason to feel guilty for taking responsibility for
your own happiness.
“Happiness is something that multiplies when it is shared.” – Paulo Coelho