How to Put Your Next Guilt Trip In It's Proper Place
Tell me if any of these sound familiar…
You spend an afternoon with a really toxic person in your life and realize you really need to set some boundaries and maybe even cut them out of your life.
But when they call you a week later, you find yourself thinking, “They really need me. I can’t just abandon them.”
You spend 20 minutes thinking about how much you really need a massage. Maybe you even go online to set up an appointment.
But eventually you find yourself thinking, “I shouldn’t spend that much money on myself right now,” and you scrap the plan.
You’ve been working overtime at work, trying to help the team, but it’s been wearing you down. You decide you need to step back and start clocking out earlier.
But as the work piles up on your desk, you tell yourself, “We should be onboarding the new hire in a few weeks. I don’t want to let the team down. I can hold out a little longer.”
Trust me, if you recognize any of these scenarios, you are not alone.
But, WHY??? Why do we feel guilty for doing what’s best for us?
To unpack this, first let’s start with the definition of guilt. Here’s what Merriam-Webster has to say:
guilt (noun): a feeling of deserving blame for offenses
Hold up. Go back and take a look at those scenarios again.
WHAT OFFENSES do you see?? 🧐
In every single one of those scenarios, you might feel guilty for just thinking about doing something. Then you let that guilt keep you from taking action because you're already anticipating who you might hurt.
It's wild, but I've been there, I get it. We punish ourselves for even thinking about taking better care of ourselves. We talk ourselves out of necessary changes, we overanalyze every possible "what if", we may even believe that wanting what's right for ourselves is selfish.
But you know what? That stops right here, right now. Because what you focus on gets bigger and it becomes your reality. The reality is you deserve what's best for you, and only YOU know what that is.
Release the guilt tied to disappointing others. When you focus on all the ways you might disappoint other people you lose sight of all the positive ways that choice could impact your life. Where your attention goes, energy flows. So give your attention and energy to the things that reciprocate peace, joy and health.
When you STOP dwelling on how the decision might disappoint other people and SHIFT your attention to why this choice is good (maybe even downright necessary) for you, the good gets bigger.
Either you’re going to make the false sense of guilt really big, or you’re going to make your peace and sanity really big.
The choice is yours.
Okay, so let’s go back to those oh-so-familiar scenarios.
You’re thinking about pulling back from a toxic person in your life. Your first instinct is to worry about how they’ll react and sacrifice your sanity for their feelings.
But if you STOP and SHIFT to thinking about how distancing yourself from this person would bring you peace of mind and free up the mental energy you spend on the relationship, that becomes the heart of your choice to do what's best for you.
You’re thinking about getting a massage. (And we’ve talked before about how healing that is and why it’s so important!) Your first instinct might be to think that there are lots of other ways you should spend that money.
But if you STOP and SHIFT to thinking about how that money would support your mental health, that becomes the focal point of a good investment.
You’re thinking about setting some firmer boundaries with your work schedule. Your first instinct is to think about how you’ll let down your boss or your coworkers.
But if you STOP and SHIFT to thinking about how that time to decompress will help you have more energy and bring your best self to work, to your family, to your other commitments, that becomes the truth that grows.
Now, listen, you might say, “But both of those things are true! Scaling back my work hours would disappoint my boss, AND it would help me get the rest that I need.”
And of course you’d be right. The difference is where you put your focus.
If you get distracted by guilt, remind yourself of the good things that can come out of this choice, too. Instead of feeling gripped by guilt, just keep gently pulling your focus back to the good.
Guilt is like empty calories, friend. It serves no purpose. It’s not healthy for you.
It fills you up for the moment, but in the end, it leaves you feeling hollow.
So what's the answer?
Be brave enough to do what’s best for you.
Then and only then, will you be able to put guilt in its proper place.