New issue each Monday
Issue 15,  July 27, 2009     —      Daylle Deanna Schwartz, Lightening Guilt

In this issue:   FEATURE: His Holiness, The Dalai Lama, Consciousness   Jack Armstrong, Illusions of the Physical World   Guy Finley, Harness the Transformational Power in Self-Reliance   Sharon Elaine, Affirmations for Spiritual Matters   Mark Bowser, The Keys to Empowered Leadership   Daylle Deanna Schwartz, Lightening Guilt   Wider Screenings, Borat Does Bruno    Events   Reviews   Earlier issues   Submit Article

Guilt is a big happiness buster. We all feel it at least sometimes. Your mom or romantic partner may be especially good at making you take responsibility for what they don’t like. But if you accept it, guilt can eat at you like rust on metal. At first, rust discolors but eventually it breaks down the surface. If it’s allowed to continue, it spreads and makes holes. Guilt does that to your happiness and self-esteem when you let others control what’s right and wrong with you or your behavior. Then you feel unworthy to receive all of life’s goodies. Yet most guilt is unnecessary and unfair to you! Let’s put it into perspective.

There’s no need to let guilt pervade your life! Happiness can’t thrive amidst guilty feelings. In my doormat days, saying “I’m sorry” was as frequent as saying hello. I rarely knew what I’d done wrong but if something didn’t go right or someone didn’t like my choice or behavior, I figured it was my fault. Many of us are conditioned to feel responsible for the displeasure of others. If we don’t live up to standards that are often too high, we beat ourselves up with guilt.

Women are “supposed to” nurture everyone and fix problems in a relationship. If your guy treats you wrong, do you believe you must deserve it? NOT! Guys are “supposed to” be providers and earn enough money for his family’s needs. Do feel it’s expected that you protect your family, know how to fix things and handle every situation well? If you don’t make enough money or you make a mistake, does guilt make you feel like a failure? NOT!

Being human, which you are, makes you imperfect. And not being able to live up to roles or making a mistake (or three) isn’t a good reason to beat yourself with guilt. Yes, just accepting responsibility for something gone badly hurts you. Feeling wrong never feels good. If you purposely hurt someone, it might be warranted for a limited time. But some of us live in it as a lifestyle. It’s hard to be happy if you live in a state of doing wrong.

Be careful. Guilt is often used to manipulate. Someone wants something and blames you for her unhappiness or his failure so you’ll do what they want. Some moms are pros at laying on the guilt to keep us jumping. But friends, co-workers and lovers also use it for their benefit. If you’re not enlightened, you may give in to soothe bad feelings as you wonder what you did wrong. 

If you want to be self-loving, be fair about whether guilt is necessary. Feeling it often reflects that what someone else thinks is more important than your own perception. Why let her make you guilty for saying “no” because you’re busy? Why allow guilt to be dumped on you for doing something reasonable that he doesn’t like? You don’t have to accept what someone decides you should or shouldn’t do. You’re responsible for you just as others are responsible for their choices.

It’s your choice to accept guilt if you did nothing wrong or said “no” to something not right for you. Why let other people’s opinions override yours? Why punish yourself for not being perfect? Why let guilt dilute your happiness if it’s not your fault? Reframe the thought that creates guilt into a fair perspective about your role in what makes you feel guilty. For example:

* “I feel guilty not helping her.” can be “I’m sorry I couldn’t help but I have no time.”

* “I let my buddy down” can be “I can only be in one place at a time and while I wanted to be there for my buddy, I had to be there for myself.”

* “I wasn’t able to give him what he needed” can be “I can only do my best.” 

* “I broke her heart” can be “There’s no easy way to break up with someone but I had to do it and wish I didn’t have to hurt her in the process but that’s life.”

It’s hard to break guilt habits, but you can. It’s your choice to let guilt ruin your day so practice choosing not to! If someone blames their troubles or unhappiness on you, do you reassure yourself or wallow in bad feelings, even if you don’t understand how you’re responsible? Consciously evaluate whatever makes you feel guilty and if you realistically deserve it. 

Not giving someone their way when you have no obligation to isn’t wrong, unless what they think is more important than your view. Be honest about whether or not guilt is warranted. Pay attention to what triggers it and change your perception of the situation. If someone tries to instill guilt, remember that you’re a good person who can’t do it all. Guilt is self-punishment. Love yourself enough to skip that! If you feel guilt brewing, ask yourself:

- Did I purposely hurt them?  If the answer is no, think about why you feel so guilty. Not jumping when someone wants something from you doesn’t make you wrong or bad. 

- Was what I did in my best interest? Often people would prefer you do what’s in their best interest. But that doesn’t make you wrong when you take care of you.

- Did I try my best?    If that wasn’t enough to satisfy someone, oh well! That’s all you can do. And you shouldn’t feel guilty if you can’t be what others would like you to be.

- Was I truly wrong or is someone trying to make me feel that way? I’ve found selfish people are first to call others selfish – to guilt them into giving in to their requests. Be objective instead of worrying so much. Not doing it his/her way doesn’t call for guilt. 

- Have I done something that warrants ruining my day with guilt? Did you commit a crime? Screw someone over? If your intentions were good and you accept you can’t be everything to everyone, there’s no need to suffer for not being perfect in someone else’s eyes. Guilt won’t make the person more satisfied or undo a situation so move on from it!

When you forget to do something, don’t have time to help a friend, say something inappropriate, or do anything that brings on the ol’ guilt vibes, put it into perspective:

Feel bad it happened for the moment.

Apologize if necessary

Forgive yourself for being human

Let it go

You can’t be everything for everyone, including yourself. Stopping guilt in its tracks is a loving act that makes your perception most important. If you can’t see how you’re at fault, affirm, “I did nothing wrong and shouldn’t feel guilty.” As you trust your judgment more, you’ll have fewer reasons to go there. Accept that you’re a good person and don’t owe everybody what they’d like. Forgive your mistakes. Let guilt take a back seat to self-love. That keeps your happiness factor at a smiling kind of level.    ###

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