Transforming the Burden of Guilt
Amanda is a loving mom of 2 beautiful children, works hard at a company she loves, and strives to be the best wife, mom and friend she can be. She struggles to fit self care into her busy schedule. And, by the way, with as much as she does for others, she chronically feels guilty. When she’s at work, she feels she should be with her family. When she’s with her family or taking care of herself, she should be working. No matter how much she does, she feels she should be doing more. Are you like Amanda, burdening yourself with feelings of guilt?
Guilt is a fundamental human emotion, and a valuable one for a functioning society. As parents, we want our children to feel guilty if they do something wrong. We rely on most people to be fundamentally trustworthy. Guilt is a way to recognize that we’re not behaving in a socially acceptable way. The emotion of guilt is described as “a feeling of responsibility or remorse for some offense, crime, wrong, etc., whether real or imagined.” I love the “imagined” part because that is often how we make ourselves feel guilty.
We feel guilty for not responding soon enough, guilty for not attending every event, guilty for saying no, guilty for not doing everything “perfectly.” We are holding ourselves accountable for an outcome we can’t possibly create, which in turn lead to overwhelm by the sheer fact that there was no true “offense, crime or wrong!”
Guilt can accumulate and become an emotional toxin. It erodes self-esteem, self-worth, and confidence. How can you be worthy if you’re blaming yourself for imagined transgressions?
Here are some tips on transforming guilt into more positive energy and emotions. Imagine that the word GUILT is an acronym for your alternative perceptions:
Gratitude – take a moment to look around yourself. What do you feel thankful for? Maybe it’s something as small as the fact that you are able-bodied enough to walk around the block, maybe recognizing how fortunate you are to have your wonderful family, or the skill set you’ve developed that allows you to serve.
Understanding – have some compassion with yourself. Would you judge your friend as harshly if he or she missed out on an event because they were just too tired or sick? Probably not!
Inspiration – find something that elevates you, such as a good book, a film, a chat with a friend. Perhaps you take out the sketch pad you never use anymore, or drop into a dance class.When YOU are inspired, you have more to give to others naturally.
Love/Lightness – guilt is heavy. Love and humor lighten you up. Love and laughter really are the best medicine! Find something to laugh about. Look for ways to spread love and joy.
Transformation – You can make the choice to transform your feeling of guilt into something more positive and supportive for you and for those around you. This type of guilt, like overwhelm, doesn’t serve you or fix the problem. It just drains your self-perception and your energy. You can transform the burden of guilt into something beautiful!