You feel guilty. What about? What standard of behaviour have you failed to live up to in your mind? Who set that standard?
Now, before I start I want to make it clear that I do think it's important we have rules of behaviour and laws in society, otherwise there would be chaos. However, I also see daily evidence of women feeling guilty about all the things it appears they 'should' be doing.
If you work, you feel guilty you aren't at home with the kids.
If you don't work, you feel guilty you aren't using the education, you put in years to gain, into practice in the field you trained for.
If you have time for yourself, you feel guilty that you aren't 100% available for your family or your work.
If you don't take time for yourself, you feel guilty that you aren't looking after you.
You feel guilty because you make more money than anyone in your family.
You feel guilty if you have to ask your family for financial support when you don't.
Guilt can simply drag you down and make you feel rotten about yourself. It can keep you stuck and it can hold you back. So what to do?
I love watching Marie Forleo for inspirational snippets and there are definitely aspects to what she says here about guilt that I agree with. Click to watch.
Whilst I agree with most of what Marie says here, I disagree with the fact that "guilt isn't useful." All negative emotions; guilt, anger, sadness, frustration have a place in the human emotional spectrum. (Have you seen Inside OUT? LOL) It's what we do with it that counts.
So, I say. 'Is guilt guiding you or hiding you?'
What do I mean?
Well, if guilt is guiding you, you are listening to it, all but briefly, and then taking the action signals from it and assessing where the truth is in the guilt and then how you can act in a way that is in alignment with your values, moral code and beliefs.Do this and guilt is useful.
For example, you feel guilty you haven't contacted a friend for months. The truth is you do want to speak to that person, but you haven't made time. The other truth is in the last 6 communications you have made the call. Therefore, you have nothing to feel guilty about. You have done more than your 50% of the 100% in that relationship. Whether you choose to contact this friend now is down to you, but you don't need to feel guilty. Take action that is going to be good for you, not because you feel bad you haven't made the effort with a friend who previously, evidence shows, has made little effort to contact you. This example can help you grow and create better boundaries around how you are treated by others. Use it. Make it useful.
At this point, depending on the strength of your people pleasing saboteur, guilt will try to make you feel bad if you don't make the call. This is where you may end up using guilt to hide not guide you.
What do I mean?
Well, if you make the call simply because you can't bear the idea that that friend will think you are a bad person if you don't keep in touch, NOT because you would enjoy the communication and love to hear from the person, you are hiding your true feelings, values behind the guilty feelings that are judging you. In fact over time you will begin to resent the said friend and only be ringing out of a sense of obligation. Is that loving? Is that friendship?
Using Marie's example above, if you are feeling guilty about creating a business that makes you happy and is financially rewarding and this feeling stops you from doing it, for fear of making others feel more upset about their work situation or financial situation, is it not the case that you are not using the guilt feelings to guide you positively. As Marie says, "You being miserable too won't help them." However, creating a great business where you can create rewarding jobs for others or donate time and/or money to others is an action that will bring a positive out of that guilty feeling. Don't hide your true self behind the guilt.
If you are feeling guilty right now, what is it about? Why?
Is it guiding you? Listen. Evaluate. Act.
Is it hiding you? Listen. Evaluate. Act.
Tell us how guilt is helping or hindering you in the comments.
Pop over to my Facebook page for more inspiration on guilt all week.