EMBRACE THE GUILT | It's not all bad...
Ooh, this one has come up a lot recently. And I mean a lot! With friends. With family. With clients. This one is always a real toughy. Particularly for us girls. And, particularly for us girls over 40. And, if you're a Mum/Mama/Mom or carer...wow, it can be even more intense.
We're taught to feel guilt really well aren't we? And from a ridiculously young age too. It starts small. You do someting as a small child that you aren't even really conscious of and all of a sudden...BAM, your Mum, Dad, carer, teacher or other steps in and says something like "What did you do that for?" or "Why didn't you share that?" or "Let that other little boy/girl have a go now." It's subtle at that stage. As young as you are, you start to become aware of the feeling though and begin to question things before you act or speak. Now, I'm not saying that's a bad thing in itself. Of course, that's how morals and ethics are taught. But, as we get older and as other people and things step in to our little worlds, it can become intensified. In some cases, it remains manageble. In others, it starts to get out of control.
In my case, it got wayyyy out of control. If you're part of my little community here, you probably know by now that I grew up with my violent paranoid schizophrenic mother until the age of twelve. It was crazy and chaotic and, as a child, it was impossible to understand. My mother was an expert at making everyone around her feel responsible for the way she was, acted and behaved. Me included. And so, I learned guilt and helplessness very very early on. At around age seven, my mother became involved with the Jehovah's Witnesses. Initially, I was hopeful that they might help. In truth, they only served to exacerbate the situation. Oh boy, did they teach guilt really well! In fact, if guilt was an olympic sport, they'd be right up there on the medal podium.
Add to that a string of teachers, preachers, partners and poison employers and boy, I became something of an olympic champion myself.
And there's so much we're taugt to feel guilty about isn't there? What you say/what you don't say. What you do/what you don't do. You should feel guilty for putting yourself first. Guilty for not taking care of yourself. Guilty for speaking up. Guilty for not speaking up. It's too long a list to go on any further here. I mean, we're even supposed to feel guilty about feeling guilty for cripes sake. 'Cripes'. Is that even a word? Well, I like it so it is now. Maybe it'll make it in to the Oxford English one day like bloomin' 'bouncebackability'. Anyway, where was I? Oh yes, guilt.
So, here's my take on guilt. The ability to feel guilt is good. Yep, that's right, it's a GOOD thing. You see, without the ability to feel guilt, it would be impossible to feel empathy or compassion. They're inextricably linked I'm afraid. When we get that little pang of guilt, it's an opportunity. An opportunity to review what we're about to say or do and either decide to go ahead, or decide to say it or do it differently. Where guilt becomes a problem, is when it becomes disproportionate and damaging. When the emotion of guilt sits in our mid range like a boulder. When we're crippled and stifled by it and find it impossible to move forward. That's a bad thing. Definitely a bad thing.
So let me give you an example. You lovely members of my community know how utterly passionate I am about self care, right? Well you should. I bang on about it often enough and I make no apologies for that. So, just last week, I was with my post yoga class buddies having our usual life affirming chats. Well actually, sometimes we just drink tea and laugh a lot about the knots we got ourselves in to and the totally ungamely way we unwound ourselves from various positions that, when demonstrated by our friend and teacher, looked so easy and so graceful. But anyway, I digress. So, we were chatting about how guilty we feel when we do things for ourselves and how guilty our family and friends and those we feel obligated to care for, make us feel when we don't put them first. Well, let me tell you, that's utter rubbish! Who are you kidding Miss/Mrs Martyr? You see, no one - and I mean NO ONE - can make us feel anything. So, stop blaming your other half, your kids or your best mate. If you feel guilty, it's becasue you're allowing yourself too. Yep, sorry, you're giving yourself persmission to feel guilty. How batshit crazy is that?! And the same goes for any number of other emotions we might 'choose' to feel. But hey, that's a whole other blog post so I won't get started just yet.
Guilt is a BIGGIE. Particularly with us girls and particularly with us girls over 40 it seems. By this stage, we've probably got family and other dependents and well, let's face it, we've spent decades getting good at feeling guilty. We've really mastered it. So, it's hard to shift. But hard is doable, right? Actually, I personally believe that even impossible is doable but that's yet another blog post. You see, what we have to do is embrace the ABILITY to feel guilt and understand that it means we're empathetic and compassionate. Nurturing and protective. That we have a sens of responsibility to those we care about. BUT, we have to recognise when it's becoming damaging. When it's presenting obstacels. When it's getting in the way of us taking care of ourselvs, doing the things we love and living the best life we can live. It's our duty, having been given the precious time on this planet that we have, to make the very best of it. And, when we do the very best for ourselves and reach a truly satisfied and appreciative state, everyone around us benefits too. I mean, we're no fun to live with when we're dissatisfied, unhappy and grumpy are we? Well, I'm not. Maybe I shouldn't speak for you but I'm guessing you're not your best you when you feel that way.
So, go embrace your guilt. Understand what it means and develop strategies for controlling it. Be selfish because in the end, being selfish (within reason and without harming anyone), becomes selflessness. When you're happy, everyone around you is happy too. And if they're not, well.....oops that's yet another blog post.
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Go have a fab day. Notice what you're choosing to feel and I'll see you soon.