I’m already a hypocrite as I write this blog, as I myself have been suffering the dreaded guilt for a couple of weeks now. hanging over me daily like rain cloud, not quite breaking but threatening to trickle....Let me explain.
I truly believe guilt is an utterly horrible waste of energy. All of us at some point insist on filling our brains with guilt about something, even if we don’t act on it. No one else cares or benefits from our guilt (not really), it only serves to drain us of our mental capacity, time, and quite frankly our sanity. Truth be told, I think the absolute worst sort of guilt, is the one we don’t act upon, nothing good comes of stressing and fretting about something we feel bad about, without doing something to fix it. But really ALL guilt is pointless.
My current example;
For the past two weeks I have been feeling mindlessly guilty because, (wait for it) I hadn't written this blog. Why on earth would that make me feel guilty? Put simply, because I said I would write a monthly blog, and that was 6 weeks ago.
Does anyone care? Most certainly not.
Am I saving lives? Not that I’m aware of.
Are there worse things in the world right now than not having my blog to read? Hardly, I mean bloody right there are.
That said (and I am a relatively rational woman) I have mentally exhausted myself for two weeks, secretly promising myself I’ll do it tomorrow night, at the weekend, when I’m waiting at athletics for my 13yr old. Who actually gives a sh!t? Absolutely no one but me, yet here I am writing it anyway…..(and all whilst experiencing the dreaded covid). "Ahhh, you utter fool" I hear you whisper.
"An unhappy feeling....because you think you have done something wrong" - Only humans would invent such a waste of time. It is spot on to be honest. Guilt drives us in many ways, but it is usually completely insular. We create a ‘thing’. Usually something we have set up ourselves or an assumption we have invented. We internalise it until we think about it so often, we’re almost frozen to do anything else, and we then just feel unhappy.
I have several versions of guilt (I know there are many more);
✓ The “Self-determined deadline” – the one I reference above. No one cares but me, and I’m not sure I really do, but it’s hard to let the deadline pass without feeling a failure.
✓ The “I should be there” – where we promise to be somewhere, do something with someone, help at a school fete we really couldn’t care less about, and really don't want to do.
✓ The “Work one” – If I say no to you, who else will help you? I would but I have booked a day off. I need to leave at 4pm to collect my children, sorry I cannot join your ‘very important’ meeting.
✓ The “Parent one” - this beast is vast; I don’t see you when you’re at school/I’m at work, I hate watching Peppa Pig. I despise your “Would you rather” questions. I make you eat mushrooms. I’m so bored of reading bedtime stories, I get hot and sweaty when you curl up on the sofa with me, but one day you won’t want to… (it goes on)
✓ The “Privileged one” – Walking past the homeless, ignoring the woman shouting randomly in the park, not putting something in the supermarket food-bank, any time you vocalise a first world problem….ohhh.
✓ The “I did something wrong one/I lied” – Rather than own it, apologise and move on – we beat ourselves up forever, assume the world is talking about it, and die a little inside every time we think of it - everyone is flawed, no one is perfect, stop dwelling on it.
✓ The “Eating/Drinking (read having fun) one” – one of my favourites. How many times do we think “Oh I shouldn’t have had that cake/donut/wine on a Monday/cheeky cigarette on the girl’s holiday to Ibiza?” Boooooorrrrrrring!
✓ The “Exercise one’ – like the self-deadline, the obsession with the Apple Watch (other abusive activity trackers are available). This one helps our guilt along. “Check your rings, you’re usually much further along by now”, "stand up you lazy cow". This was once exacerbated by my 10yr old unintentionally changing my name to “Idiot” on our apple account. Fortunately it was a good exercise day!
The list goes on (climate change, spending money (on anything), plastic usage, cleaning the house, speaking to elderly neighbours....) and I’m sure you’re already shouting at me for the ones I’ve missed – sorry!
None of these make any difference to the world without real, personal desire followed by authentic, purposeful action.
If you are thinking “I should”, trust me you probably “shouldn’t”.
If you are thinking “I shouldn’t” ask yourself “say’s who?”
Let’s be honest with ourselves, if we could strip out all these worries and concerns and just be us, as we want to be, when we want to be, would we be happier? I think so. I also think we would have a great deal more energy to actually do the good we keep promising ourselves we'll do.
This was the general theme for our first Woman Up session last month at Valerie’s in Ashford, Kent. We had 21 fabulous ladies come along for a little loving boot, to kick that guilt out of the way and focus on themselves for once. It was a great night (thank you ladies for coming).
If you missed it, you haven't missed out. Humour me and give this a go.
Grab yourself a cuppa (wine if you fancy), get a pen and a piece of paper and ask yourself the six questions below. You'll need at least 20 mins - give yourself this luxury. Answer honestly from your heart, like no one cares and there are no implications or consequences from your choices – listen to the inner voice that’s talking to you. Write down your answers as they may be very different than the ones in your head. Be truthful!
Ready for a little coaching….
1. What do you really enjoy?
(Breathe, take time to answer slowly after considerable thinking)
2. What interests you, and what do you really care about?
3. What do you really want to do?
4. What would you like your goal to be at this stage?
5. What are you assuming that is currently stopping you achieve this?
6. What if you removed that? What could you do?
(Borrowed and tweaked from Nancy Kline’s Time to Think – thank you Nancy)
Look at your answers, read them back, and sit with them for a moment. What is it you really want to do?
What is stopping you? Are you finding a reason? Who or what are you blaming? Have they asked for this responsibility?
If the people we felt guilt about, knew we spent exasperated hours worrying about them, putting our desires to one side, holding back something we’ve been pining over for years. How do you think they would feel? Punching the sky, yes? Unlikely.
Let’s flip this - If we knew our friends, family, loved ones and even work colleagues, weren’t doing what they really wanted with their life, time, energy because they didn’t want to upset us, or let us down, would we celebrate this control over their life, or be disappointed that they were effectively blaming us for something we didn’t sign up to?
Our guilt instigators haven’t asked for this. We don’t ask others to feel guilty about us. Yet we all do it, all the time.
So next time you hear yourself saying “I should/must/need to……” try saying, “I want to….” see how that feels. We all have responsibilities; I’m not talking about those. I’m talking about the rules we create for ourselves which we wrap in a security blanket of guilt to prevent us doing something we really want - what are you blocking?
So stop, give yourselves a break. The world cannot spin on guilt, we need honestly, authenticity, communication and to be ourselves.
In the spirit of honesty.... I started this blog because I thought I should, but I've ended up writing it because I actually wanted to get the thoughts out of my head. I wanted to thank the ladies who came to Valeries last month and I wanted to say to the three ladies that have kept in touch and shared their progress (yes already) I'm delighted you have reframed your world and are finding a little peace and progress - you know who you are, amazing!
So get out there today, and shake off that guilt. Try being fabulous you without it and see how that feels.
We'd love you to join us on 19th October at Valeries, Ashford 7pm for our 2nd Woman Up event; Manage Time like a Queen!! If you cannot make it in person, there might be another blog about it one day....but I'm not promising anything.