Guilt is poison. Guilt is a toxin. And so many people I know are (or have been) virtually crippled by guilt. As in it’s the emotion they feel more than any other – and it keeps them from living the life they want to lead.
That seems counterintuitive at first read, doesn’t it? Don’t we assume that guilt serves a purpose and the purpose is to motivate us? Maybe it worked when we were kids and just developing our moral compass and stuff. But now?
Let’s be honest. Most of what we feel guilt about has NOTHING to do with right and wrong. We feel guilty because we had a cookie. We feel guilty because we didn’t call somebody back, or because we were late walking the dog, or we left the mail in the mailbox for an extra day, or because we cut 5 minutes off of our workout, or because we snuck in an extra episode of Travelers and it almost counts as binge watching.
Sure, sometimes it’s bigger stuff. Why didn’t I know to get my mother to the hospital sooner? I should have known. We should be able to fix things for our parents, our kids, our friends, our spouse, our co-workers, the world. Right?
But here’s the thing about guilt. It’s a con artist. It pretends to be useful. It pretends to motivate us. But in reality, it is stealing us blind. It steals our real motivation out from under us. It robs us from true responsibility. And it definitely thieves meaningful action. Think about it. How do you show up when you feel guilt? Hint: it’s probably not your best self. What kind of actions do you take out of guilt? And if you do take action, what are you thinking about and feeling when you do? I’m gonna guess you aren’t thinking thoughts that lead you to feel gratitude and appreciation and enjoyment, and you aren’t striving to do your best. (Oh God, please let me just get through this and stop feeling guilty.)
So guilt is optional. Yup. You can definitely kick it out of the club. You can call it the liar that it is and say adios. Because guilt doesn’t just happen. It’s a feeling that you feel because of a thought you are thinking. That thought probably starts with something like “I should…” and maybe we don’t want to… and we make it mean that we are a terrible person because we don’t want to or haven’t already… and so we feel guilty.
As I’ve mentioned before, we don’t usually stop to fact check our thoughts, we just think them on auto-pilot. You can pick different thoughts though, because you have that super power.
If guilt is eating you alive or getting in the way of something you want to do, email me: firstname.lastname@example.org. Let’s set up a free mini-session and I can give you some solid tips on how to kick the guilt habit.
And remember: in all things – progress, not perfection!