Guilt is a powerful force of self-destruction, an evil glitch that can throw you completely off track.
The type of guilt I am reflecting on now is the type of guilt that occurs when you feel the weight of responsibilities as yet unfulfilled. You have a responsibility to your job, to your studies, to your family. Often times, these are responsibilities that impact others. While these responsibilities are unmet, whether through neglect or just not having time to address them yet, you feel guilty as they hang over you, like last year’s Christmas lights hanging over your porch in June.
Why Guilt Sucks:
- It’s unproductive–counterproductive, even. It does not inspire action. It makes the important tasks feel MORE urgent, more difficult, and it becomes therefore more likely that you will put them off for lack of knowing where to begin, fear of failure, or the belief that you can’t finish at this time. This guilt glitch stops your progress everywhere.
- It is a negative force. You fixate on your weaknesses, the times you’ve failed, your doubts. I’m openly skeptical about zealous belief in the “power of positive thinking,” but it’s undoubtedly true that a positive outlook contributes to positive outcomes. If you focus on the negative, you’re more likely to experience more of the same.
- It causes you to neglect yourself (this is the biggie for me). You feel that to do something that only benefits yourself (for me, yoga or writing or reading for pleasure), is irresponsible when there’s a to-do list of “more important” responsibilities. The irony I’ve discovered, however, is this: I feel this guilt BEFORE doing these good-for-me things and I will feel guilty if I DON’T do them. Lose-lose.
Since becoming a mom, I now have the pleasure of adding mommy guilt to my guilt repertoire. Mommy guilt is the weight of feeling responsible for the well-being, happiness, health and development of another person. It’s a feeling that you can and should be doing better, but whether through lacking or slacking, you’re not measuring up (and therefore your kid is going to be forever scarred or somehow less-than). Oh, joy.
My hunch (hope?) is that even the healthiest of us are sometimes overwhelmed by carrying an excess of guilt. Every so often, if I’m feeling a little down, I’ll realize that I’ve been actively and passively abusing myself with a glut of guilt. How do we overcome it? I’ll be exploring that in my next post, which I will deliver in a timely manner, lest I die of blogger guilt.
Are you ever crippled by a guilt glitch? What type of guilt do you carry?
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“motherhood: it’s like you put your heart outside your body, yet you still needing it to survive” – jean, one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever read. Mothers are brave.
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Having always been a very busy, responsible person to
just “be”, “hang out”, not produce anything seems like I am wasting the gift of time and yet I do know that often not doing anything today makes the next day more productive. Sometimes our bodies and our brains just need a rest!
Thanks, Mom. Yup, sometimes we just need a break. I know dad is always telling you to take them! Sometimes you should listen 😉
Guilt…keeping me motivated since 1982!!!
Thank you, Jean, for this. It is well-written, and helpful!
I have “godfather guilt”, because I have two godsons who are very close, and neither of them have great home environments, so I feel sometimes that I “should” spend more time with them.
That word “should” is problematic.
Thanks for reading and commenting! I’m sorry about the situation with your godsons–that sounds very difficult. But yes, I think sometimes releasing some of the guilt has to do with recognizing what we can and cannot control. Sometimes the “should” is so strong that we lose sight of what’s even possible. Good luck to you!
So good to see you back. Your baby is adorable. I don’t think I could have ever gone to school and blogged while raising the girls. No, I was a wife, mother and had a job, then as the girls left the next, then I could start blogging. I’m in awe of those moms out there who fold laundry and blogging into their day.
Thanks, Georgette! Yes, being a mom is a whole different kind of busy–like can’t-pee-alone sort of busy. But it’s great, too!
Thanks for reading. Part of returning to blogging will involve more reading/commenting, too!