This is part II of my blog 9 Things to Stop Feeling Guilty About. If you missed the first part, click here to catch up.
Feeling guilt or feeling guilty about a situation robs your present moment of all potentials: being happy, enjoying the now, being thankful for your life, as well as the opportunity to learn and grow… I could go on and on about the toxic effects of guilt on your energy but let’s focus on the reasons why you need to stop this vicious cycle today. In this 3-part blog series, I focus on 9 common actions or behaviors to which people typically attach guilt around, and why there is no reason to continue this pattern. Remember that living in guilt robs you of the endless possibilities of enjoying your life right now.
Give up on People Who Don’t Contribute Positively to Your Life.
Oh this is a good one, isn’t it? Before chewing on this bone, let’s admire the meat around it. How do you know when someone contributes positively to your life – whether that someone is a friend, loved one or co-worker? If this person truly and genuinely makes your life better in one or more aspects of your life, then by all means keep them around and nurture the relationship. This person is what you would call a “keeper.” Now, when I say “making your life better,” I’m talking about a person who genuinely cares for your happiness by being there for you when you need help with a challenging situation in your life. This person is simply happy to help and feels “paid” by seeing you happy. This person may also teach you valuable life lessons by example or they might teach you to consistently make good choices for you and your family. When a person truly and genuinely makes life better, they go beyond being the “fun buddy” that always make you laugh, always pick up the phone, or tags along to parties and vacation trips – see the difference? Now, if you can’t figure out how this person makes a genuinely transforming contribution to your life – then why are you keeping them around? Is it because you feel you “owe” them because they were there for you once, because they lend you money or because you suppose you should have someone to call an “old friend”? All those answers point to very hard-to-spot, deeply-rooted guilt – because it sucks to let people go, you don’t want to be perceived as mean or the “bad guy”, or you may be attaching a deep hope that even though they haven’t been the best of friends, one day they will change and things will be better. Will they? The bottom line is when you give up on people who don’t contribute positively to your life, two outcomes will stream from your decision: 1) either the person doesn’t even notice you’re gone, in which case you will get even more validation for your decision; or 2) the person will notice and do something to remediate the relationship because they do care and this will benefit both of you and right there is real growth. Either way, your decision will grant you inner growth. Don’t let fear of the unknown stop you!
Eat what You Love.
This is another area where people commonly dump guilt into because if taken literally, you could end up overindulging. On the other hand, if you are too hard on placing restrictions on yourself, you may end up pleasing yourself with guilt (hence the common expression “guilty pleasure”). So, let’s explore this polarity briefly. Without over-thinking, what is your favorite food? If you were to ask me, I would say steak and potatoes. Would I eat steak and potatoes every night of the week or more than 3 nights a week even? No. That seemed easy, right? Well, what if I had said dark chocolate? Sure I could argue that if I keep it to maybe a piece or two a day (or 1-2 ounces if I want to be precise), I could possibly eat it every day, right? Maybe, but what if I get into an argument with my mom, and it’s raining, and my husband is out of town, and my pet has a psycho-attack on my favorite shoes, and the kids won’t stop screaming, and my period starts… then guess what happens? I start recruiting excuses to eat dark chocolate more and more, well because “I deserve it” or because “this is how I love myself when no one else seems to appreciate me” or because “why not”? So you see, guilt doesn’t always manifest in “negative” self-talk, after all you do deserve to indulge from time to time and you should love yourself and sometimes you don’t need a reason to eat what you love… right? Right.... On the other hand, we are beings with varying degrees of self-awareness and we do know when there has been an episode of over-indulging and we don’t want to undo the hard work we’ve accomplished at the gym or elsewhere. So we also tend to go to the other extreme and think that everything we put in our mouths is out to get us, out to make us fat, and so on and so forth and next thing you know as you’re chewing on the yummy food of your choosing, instead of focusing on how good it tastes or the different layers of flavors exploding in your mouth, all you can think of is “this is so bad for me and I bet this has 5,000 calories.” The next thing you know, you are NOT enjoying this food you love so much anymore. There are studies out there that support the notion of guilt as the direct contributor in weight gain – look it up, it’s a thing. So, no to extremes and yes to balance. I love eating steak with my husband (and he makes a melt-in-your-mouth one, too!) and I loooove that my son and I share a liking for dark chocolate. I don’t have either of these treats every day and that makes it all more special to me because when I do have them, I feel zero guilt about it.
Establish Boundaries in Your Life.
I love boundaries, I respect them and they keep me and others from getting in trouble and loosing balance in my life. One of my personal and favorite boundaries is: I don’t associate with people who create or promote or attach to drama for themselves or others. So, because I’ve decided this to be my personal boundary, my actions reflect my choice, meaning: I don’t engage with manipulative people, I don’t follow people on social media who in my opinion break this boundary, and I don’t feel sorry for not engaging with that kind of manipulative, energy-draining behavior. Why? Because why would I? My peace of mind, my emotional stability, my sanity and my happiness are priceless to me. I work hard to keep it that way. If you worked hard at having the best yard in your neighborhood, would you let someone come destroy it? Exactly! So, as much as guilt tries to make you believe boundaries mean you’re “selfish” or that you lack sympathy for others… don’t fall into this common trap. You have worked very hard for your beautiful yard, so protect it and don’t even contemplate letting guilt give it all up for a reason which does not align with your boundaries. If you need further proof of how important boundaries are- look at those people you know who don’t have any. What is their life like? Are they successful? Are they happy? Do other people (including yourself) wish they were that person? Or, think also about the last time you did decide to let someone come into your yard and mess it up – what happened? What “price” did you pay? Create or edit your boundaries with the intention of honoring yourself and who you really are, and you can never be wrong. After all, who else will create and enforce boundaries for you?
So what are your thoughts on how guilt creeps into your life? Are you done with enabling it and need a few pointers to get yourself started with a guilt-free way of life? If so, let’s talk! I’m here to help.