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Guilt: The Saboteur of Life

I’ve been allowing myself the time to reflect on my habits and behaviour and I’ve identified a major player in my psyche that needs some serious work. Guilt. The saboteur of life. This predatory emotion seems to permeate in every nuance of my life: whether it’s self-care, eating, all forms of enjoyment, even when buying something for myself; there’s a persistent niggling voice that there’s something more important that “should” be done or that needs to take priority over my own needs. And it does not go away until I stop whatever it is I was doing or really wanted to do. I feel like I’ve been hypnotised and have no control over what I’m doing – and I automatically (almost subconsciously) leave whatever it is I was doing and return to the alleged “priority” because it’s not important enough.

And it seems I’m not alone in feeling this way. Guilt comes up in conversations amongst my friends often. The common vibe is that the lingering presence of guilt hinders our best laid plans – especially if they’re related to taking some time out for ourselves. Then there’s self-sabotage, guilt’s loyal side-kick, that’s also become a constant in our day to day lives, along with the incessant whispers that everyone else must come first. Even if you attempt to ignore the dreaded guilt and take a stand and decide to take time out, your conscience quickly transports you into that dark space of being selfish – when in reality, you are merely topping up your cup to be able to fulfil your daily duties/obligations of meeting everyone else’s needs – which is nowhere near enough to simply replenish the cup to its functional level!

Society also places a lot of invisible, implied guilt upon us which stifles any chance at breaking free of it– whether a new mum goes back to work soon after childbirth or forgoes her career to be a stay at home mum, there’s judgement for her choice. The guilt associated with enjoying our choices or to even explore them is profound. Guilt immediately sets in when you’re perceived to be enjoying yourself while you should be at home attending to your children, or at work etc. There’s mum guilt, sister guilt, daughter guilt and even friend guilt! So insidious you don’t see it coming until it’s possessed your mind and body!

If we actually unpack the concept of guilt and what it conjures up, we realise how futile it is both to us and to those around us. It’s stifling, it’s regressive and it’s counterproductive. Being selfless is admirable but it takes a lot of energy and effort, and it is often taken for granted. It’s time to shift that guilt and replace it with replenishment of our selfless cups before it’s completely depleted and there’s no more self to give. And more importantly, we need to remember that taking time out or a break from our daily duties is not being selfish, it provides the fuel for us to keep giving and being ourselves.

I will not allow guilt to sabotage my life, I will let it go. I will enjoy my chai latte at my favourite cafe and binge reading Harry Potter when I should be making dinner (not every day though!) and take comfort in knowing my children will be happy when mum is happy. Guilt and self-sabotage need a one way, non-refundable ticket to Saturn (is that far enough??)

How will you manage your guilt and tackle self sabotage?

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