5 Easy ways to stop feeling guilty and enjoy your life!
I recently asked on social media “What is the biggest thing stopping you from looking after yourself?” The resounding answer was GUILT! Parenting guilt, work guilt, friendship guilt, not good enough guilt. Very many of us are feeling guilty a lot of the time. When guilt goes unchecked it breeds insecurity, lack of confidence and anxiety. Ultimately carrying guilt around gets in the way of your success at work and at home. It prevents you from having fun and enjoying your life.
In this post I am going to share how to spot guilt and how to stop it ruling your life.
I get it…
I really get this whole guilt thing. My mum went to school at a convent. She appeared to have guilt instilled in her from a very early age. This guilt was duly passed on to me. For most of my adult life I found myself saying sorry for anything that happened even near me. If someone else spilt a glass of water in my vicinity I would apologise. I had a desire to shrink from things or run around trying to make everything ok for other people. Constantly looking out for others and feeling bad if things didn’t go to plan.
I would make sure everyone else was taken care of before myself. If I took any time for something I wanted to do, I would feel guilty that I should be doing things for other people. With a part-time job, I felt guilty that I didn’t do enough for my team and when I was working I felt guilty that I wasn’t spending ‘quality’ time with our children. And despite the fact that I was at home with the children, took responsibility for having most of our household stuff running, bought and put food on the table I felt guilty that I wasn’t providing as much financially as my husband.
Looking back on it now, I can see that when our daughter was ill with anorexia, it was almost simpler. With a completely clear conscience, I felt that there was justification to only focus on one thing. That being to support her to recovery. However, on the journey, I discovered the importance of putting down my own guilt and the positive impact this had on Katharine and the rest of my family.
Five ways to stop feeling guilty:
- ‘Fill Yourself up First’ – I know this feels counter-intuitive. You feel guilty so it is really hard to do this. AND it is a muscle, until you start exercising it you will get no strength in it. I discovered If I didn’t look after myself I wasn’t fit to look after anyone else. In the darkest days of Katharine’s illness if I hadn’t been resourced myself then life would have been much worse for her.
- Breathe – There is always time to stop and breathe. Even if it doesn’t feel that way. I know you are breathing all the time, but whenever you feel discomfort, stress, anxiety, guilt overwhelm or frankly any emotion, taking a moment to notice that you are breathing changes how you feel. When I was in the thick of the emotional roller coaster of guilt taking a breath allowed me to move from reaction to response. It helped me put down the guilt.
- Notice – Unless you notice something you can’t do anything about it. Mindfulness has become a bit of a buzz word over the last few years and it doesn’t have to mean sitting on a mat chanting. In all our programmes we teach various ways in which you can start to become more aware of what you are feeling. Once I became aware of my guilt and the things I was telling myself, I had a choice as to what to do with them.
- Know what is yours – It is important to start noticing and distinguishing what is genuinely your responsibility. As a guilty person, I thought I needed to be responsible for everything. As I gradually started to become aware of what was mine to take care of and what belonged to other people, I began to put down the guilt. Now I am really clear about what is mine and what is somebody else’s. This has been a huge relief. I don’t feel guilty anymore, but this one step alone left far fewer things to feed my guilt monster.
- Practice gratitude – One of the simplest things we now teach, gratitude impacts every aspect of your life. Regularly noticing the things you are grateful for, the things that are working, the things you love. Doing this starts to build your ‘good enough’ muscle. A strong ‘good enough’ muscle is a great opponent to guilt.
Feeling guilty is really normal…
Having read this, if you are feeling guilty it is really normal AND you don’t have to stay that way. And please don’t feel guilty about the fact you feel guilty! You are not bad or wrong, you simply haven’t mastered the tools yet. I have shared just five of them here today and they are definitely worth putting into practice for a guilt-free future. But please don’t use them as a stick to beat yourself with.
It takes practice…
All the things I’ve shared with you here and that we share in our programmes are simple, but that doesn’t mean easy. I have talked about needing to look after yourself, taking a moment to breathe, noticing what you are saying to yourself, knowing what is yours to take care of and practising gratitude. In order for them to have an impact, you need to actually do them. It is possible that the biggest thing in the way of you doing them right now is your guilt!
Dont go it alone…
On our ‘Pathways to Happiness Supported’ programme you get everything you need to take these 5 simple steps and more! You will see you are not alone, you will find easy ways to make these changes. You will get the support you need so that you too don’t have to feel guilty again. You can feel like a great parent, you can feel on top of your work and a success in all aspects of your life. You can put down the stress, and anxiety and you can enjoy life.
We want you to take this step because we know you are worth it. Your guilt may stop you feeling that way. If that is the case we ask you to do it for the people around you. We know that when you learn to put down the guilt life is better for you and everyone around you.