Let Go of Guilt
By Tara Rummell Berson.
It's Saturday morning, and the dog is barking because he wants to go to the park, your mom is complaining that she doesn't get enough "quality time" with you, and your best friend is begging you to meet for brunch. You want to please everyone, right? But you can't. Then it hits you - that toxic, draining feeling that forms a knot in your stomach and makes you feel just plain bad: guilt. There are ways to combat this paralyzing emotion. Here, three powerful words - from 31 Words to Create a Guilt-Free Life, edited by Karen Bouris - that'll help you learn to tend to your feelings and give yourself a break already!
Too often, guilt is just this vague, nagging feeling of not doing things right - or not doing enough. To get rid of it, you need to recognize exactly what's causing it and then break it down. Try making a list of your "appropriate guilt" (over, say, lying or cheating to make yourself look good) versus "inappropriate guilt" (over taking a vacation you darn well earned!). Understanding where your guilt stems from is a crucial first step toward changing how you react to that overwhelmed feeling - and it'll help you confront and conquer it.
When you're curled up on the couch watching a romantic comedy and your mind drifts toward thoughts of cleaning out the fridge or balancing your checkbook, bring your attention back to the positive sensations and emotions of the moment. It's not irresponsible or self-indulgent to do something just for the fun of it. Make a mental "pleasures list" for yourself, including all the things you truly enjoy - taking a nap, snapping photos, reading a book in the park - then start integrating these happy little interludes into your everyday life. You'll come alive when you permit yourself to satisfy a few just-for-you cravings.
Going after what you want most can be daunting, but no one is going to do it for you. So if you're cursing yourself for signing up for skydiving lessons - even though they're on your "things to do before I die" list - because they're too expensive or frivolous, stop and think about what inspired you to take the plunge in the first place. Don't push aside goals just because you think they'll take too much time, energy, or risk. Write a list of five dreams or desires and log all of the benefits next to each one to remind yourself why and how much it matters to you. Let your gut - not your guilt - guide you.