Do you feel like you’re constantly guilty, like all of the time? Guilty for not eating enough healthy food this week, for not drinking enough water, for not seeing your parents enough, for not keeping in touch with that old friend who’s having a tough time, for not making it to every single parent-child session in school, for not working out five times this week, for eating cake at lunch, for not feeling guilty about something in the last hour…?! Argh!!! Sound familiar?
Why do we do it?
Well as I’m sitting here now, I’m feeling sooo guilty, as I have just given my little boy the, “Mammy is so disappointed in you...” conversation. Do I feel better? Nope. Does my son feel good right now? Not a chance - I’ve realised from his expression tonight that I’m pretty good at bringing on the guilt-inducing speech that I learned from my parents. Will it actually stop him from repeating the same behaviour - I highly doubt it! Manipulation rarely works in the long run, which is exactly what I have just done - so why do it? Especially when I hated it when it was me on the end of it when I was a kid?
It’s a learned thing
What my actions have really done tonight, is to re-inforce to my son, that he needs to regain my approval for his behaviour. To some extent that’s true, we all want to make people proud. But the worrying thing with that is, the longer term secret message in there, is that the approval of others is necessary for him to feel good about himself - which is the opposite of what I’m trying actually to get him believe as a little person in this world. I actually want him to believe that he is the master of his own emotions, that other people may invite him to feel a certain way, but ultimately it’s his decision on whether or not to take them up on that! I want him to know that other people’s approval should be an indicator but not a decider on his behaviour - his inner guidance and trust in his own strength of character should be enough. I don’t want him to become the people pleaser that I was!
What’s the payoff?
One of my firm beliefs in life, is that there’s always a payoff to your emotional reaction to something. So for example, if I have a rubbish day and reward myself with a huge glass of wine because I ‘deserve it’ (c’mon, I’m not the only one, right?!), then the payoff is that I get rewarded and feel like I’ve earned the wine. Hmmm, not the healthiest thought-habit, eh? When I’m feeling guilty about something I ‘should’ be doing or have already done, what’s my payoff? Well what I’ve noticed, is that I have more of a tendency to feel and inflict guilt when I’m stressed or tired or under some sort of personal pressure. I seem to want to make someone else feel as rubbish as I do in that moment. Then I berate myself for being a mean person! That’s really going to help with my stress levels, isn’t it?! None of this was at a conscious level but it’s something I have made myself conscious of over the years, as it’s a trait I don’t like very much in myself.
A lot of the time, we just repeat old, unhealthy patterns of behaviour - often things we picked up from our parents. We are human, we lash out and we make mistakes. The trick is to get conscious about it - you simply can’t change what you don’t accept! It’s totally ok to make mistakes, get stuff wrong and press reset...as long as you’re not repeating the same thing over and over. The other thing is, if you have made a decision to do something or not to do something - just own it! Feeling guilty about it doesn’t change the outcome of the decision you made! So stop trying to guilt it away! Own it!
Become really aware of the behaviour you have that doesn’t really serve you or anyone else. You know the stuff! The conversations you have that you play over and over in your head at night but justify that, ‘you were right’! What are your triggers? What tips you over to that point where you know that really, you don’t like yourself when you go down that road? What can you do next time it happens, just to get off the train before it goes off the rails? How much better would you feel about yourself then? But whatever you do, stop feeling guilty - it doesn’t change the outcome and it doesn’t serve you at all, just take action and commit to doing it better the next time.
We are all perfectly imperfect.
Do something with a happy heart, or don’t do it at all.
Own your decisions and your actions - and ditch the guilt!!!
“Remember when thinking about life - No amount of guilt can change the past and no amount of anxiety can change the future” - Unknown
Big love, always