Let’s face it, you probably feel guilty. If you’re a mom you DEFINITELY feel guilty. You might feel guilty for feeling guilty, or my personal favorite feeling guilty because you DON’T feel guilty. Our heads are weird places, aren’t they?
I’m not an expert on the science of guilt or a mental health expert on how to process guilt, but I do have a lot of experience with this particular emotion. And I’m a woman. And I have largely learned about where my guilt comes from and why it is usually total bullshit. Have I figured it out completely? No. Do I still experience unfounded guilt? You betcha. However, I have found a path towards LESS guilt and understanding why it happens. Come, walk with me.
The stupid shit we feel guilty about is…stupid
That’s sheer brilliance right there! Literally Brilliance in that one line alone. I know you’re impressed. But really, it’s true! We feel guilty about the stupidest of stupid shit. We feel guilty because our bodies aren’t perfect, or because we said something stupid at dinner, or because our kids ate lollipops before breakfast. STAHP IT! It serves no one but yourself.
Literally the only time you should feel guilty is when you do something WRONG. Not make a mistake, but when you do something WRONG. Did you forget to defrost dinner (like I did) so now everyone’s eating hot dogs and chili? Not
So the majority of our guilt is stupid and we should stop being guilty buttholes.
‘But how? How Rebekah? Is there an off button?’
Well sort of. It’s called therapy. It takes many years, tears, and lots of hard work, but it pays off! While you get cracking on that I’ll list of some little tricks for you. Little ways that I show my
Ways to kick Guilt to the curb
Ask yourself if its reasonable to feel guilty
Literally. When you get the overwhelming sense of guilt that you forgot your third cousin’s birthday ask yourself “Should I feel guilty about this?”
Let’s break down a few examples of when you SHOULD feel guilty.
- When you knowingly and intentionally cause harm (emotional or physical). Like when you pass along a rumor, that you know to be false, for personal gain. Or sucker punch someone in the face without cause. Or create drama just because you’re bored.
- When you deliberately act (or don’t act) on a specific task. Like when you promise not to eat the last of your kid’s cake. But then you do. Even though you totally remembered your promise. Side note: I am a jerk.
- When you lie. This covers quite a bit of area, but I’ll tell you the same thing I tell my kids. If you say something that is not true and it makes you feel bad, then that is not ok. Lying has its purpose in life (surprise parties, DUH) but for the most part, it’s just unnecessary and causes hurt. Don’t do it.
Ok, so now you know that if you’re a douchebag, you should feel guilty.
What about times you SHOULDN’T feel guilty?
- When you forget something. Literally, if you just plain forget something guilt isn’t going to help anybody. If it’s a friends birthday you missed suck it up and say ‘Happy Birthday’ late. Set a reminder on your phone, write it down for next year, or what have you. But figure out how to prevent it from happening again, put forth the same effort you would have originally, and MOVE ON.
- When you say ‘NO’. Good for you! You set a boundary! That’s awesome! Do NOT let any guilt in around this. Whatever reason you said no is a REASON and it is VALID. (Even if it’s because you just don’t feel like it) Your boundaries should be respected. No means no, and that’s final. You are not required to explain yourself, defend your no, or feel guilt. Own that boundary, girl! It looks amazing on you!
- You’ve compared yourself to someone and now you feel inferior. Which leads to guilt because you’re not superhuman. Guys, I get it. Comparing ourselves to our peers is required for life otherwise we’d all be marching to really weird drum beats and no one would get fed. I mean it! If we all just did whatever the hell we wanted the world would be a really strange place. Especially us women, men don’t want to admit it, but we’re really the ones that keep things in check. So let’s be clear, HEALTHY comparison is good (‘Oh, look! Glenda feeds her kids at 5 and I feed mind at 10, but hers sleep better… hmmm’) vs UNHEALTHY comparison (‘Glenda’s stomach is SO flat. Clearly, I am worth nothing. I feel so guilty that I don’t do what she does.’) Do you see the difference? STOP.FEELING.GUILTY.BECAUSE.OF.GLENDA.
- You made a mistake. Any kind of mistake. Let your mind run wild here. What’s YOUR biggest mistake? Do you feel guilty? STOP IT. It’s not helping anything. What did you learn from your mistake? If the answer is ‘nothing’ then go figure that shit out and report back. If there was a lesson you learned, good. Now drop the stupid guilt.
Make little changes for the biggest guilt inducers
For me, this comes around food. I feel guilty when I eat basically anything. Because I have some fluff to lose, because I am Diabetic, because I have Celiac Disease, because my kids ate ketchup and a slice of cheese for dinner, because I didn’t cook something healthier, etc. Literally, NONE of these things meet my requirements for what I SHOULD feel guilty about.
The other major source of guilt I personally fight with regularly is my temper. I tend to have a shorter fuse, and I always feel horrible after I snap. So what have I learned here? What can I change? Well, I can talk about it with my family for one thing, which I have done and continue to do. Verbalizing my feelings has helped immensely. I also participate in therapy, practice affirmations, and run my ass off. It all helps. And I don’t feel guilty for a part of my personality anymore because I am working on it. While before, I just felt guilty and did nothing. Which just bred MORE guilt. Hard pass!
Mindfulness, forgiveness, and all that other voodoo
I am not even going to pretend that I know what I’m talking about here, but a lot of my guilt management has come through the power of self-discovery, working on my mind, and delving into the things I was always too cool to do. I am going to straight up refer you to my beloved Rachel
Read books that resonate with you
For me, that means book like this one.
For others it might be books like this one.
Regardless of which type of book speaks to you, read one. Find one that actually makes you think and process your guilt in a healthier way.
A final note on the selfishness of g
Wait, what? Guilt is a selfish emotion? Yes, yes it is. When you are experiencing unfounded guilt, letting that guilt control your actions and be present in your relationships is selfish.
“But Rebekah! I feel GUILTY! How is that selfish?!” I’ll tell you how.
When we let guilt be present in our lives in such a powerful manner it’s a cop-out. We can feel guilty about anything! And if we feel guilty about it means we’re showing effort and caring and being selfless and amazing…. but we’re not. We’re not DOING anything! Aside from whining! Feeling guilty is just another way to be all ‘Look at how much I care about and how amazing I am! I am such a martyr!’. And that person can be a bummer to be around. Choosing not to feel guilty about every.little.thing frees you up to be fun, be helpful (like for real), and be happier. Now, THAT person is someone people want around!
So quit the unnecessary guilt, ladies! It ain’t serving no purpose!