This is it. The big one. The number one issue that holds the people I coach back, away from self-care, growth, rest, authenticity - you name it, they can feel guilty about it. That deep down clench-in-the-gut, steals-the-breath-from-your-lungs, sticky feeling. I get it. This was how I lived for the first 30 years of my life too!
I felt like everything about who I was inside was "wrong" and "bad", so I did my very best to hide it from the world. Not just by keeping quiet about it (although I did a lot of that too)... I changed how I acted, how I dressed, how I spoke, how I showed up at work, the works. On the surface, I looked very successful, but underneath? I was sick and sinking fast.
What's really happening when we feel guilty?
Often, the thing that helps us to break the cycle is hitting a new low. It could be a health crisis, a relationship wobble, a truly awful day at work or the moment you yell at the kids for breathing too loud. It might seem like the end of the world, but it's a really strong signal from the universe that we need to change. What an opportunity wrapped up in a shitty package!
So let's get clear on some key ideas...
Feeling guilty: at the start of my journey, a very wise woman told me that guilt isn't an emotion. Guilt is a judgement - you are guilty or not guilty. Think of it as a mental court of law - look at your past or planned behaviour and ask yourself, is this actually wrong? Does it go against the law of the land, your religion or your conscience?
(For example - taking a rest when you're tired - not against any laws, rules or moral codes... The verdict? "NOT GUILTY")
Shame: if you aren't doing anything technically wrong, but you're still stuck in the emotional mud, you're probably dealing with shame. Shame is the emotion that tells us that no matter what the objective truth is, we've crossed a line and are open to criticism. That can be an internal line or one that society has taught us over the years.
(Same example - if you believe that to have value in this society you must be a superhuman, non-stop productivity machine, that's a shame that society has taught you...)
Internalised beliefs: we call carry around an internal set of beliefs about ourself, others and how the world works. It's like a mental filing cabinet - something happens to us and we file it away in the dark organisation system of our mind. We might not get it out and look at it, but it's there under the surface affecting how we act on a daily basis.
(Resting again - what does it mean to you personally if you do take that break? Is it that "resting now would make me a bad mum because my kids might need me?" "Resting is for lazy people?" "I must be terrible at my job because I'm the only one who needs a rest right now?")
If you're feeling a bit called out right now, hang on in there...
If you're ready to change the pattern, you're in luck. There are lots of options for you can to create wonderful changes in your life! Even better - you've already done step one if you can see that the pattern exists!
Working with shame can feel truly uncomfortable. It's exposing those deep, sometimes unpleasant thoughts, feelings and experiences - even if it's just to yourself. You can see why people might avoid looking at it too closely. So ask yourself - if I let this pattern continue, where will I be in three months time? Three years time? Three decades?!
(If you're still not sure about that rest, imagine what a future at this pace will do to you. You might be snappy with the kids or your partner, hurting their feelings or causing friction in your relationship... You might be headed for burnout - a total body shut down designed to force you to rest (by taking away your health for anything else)... You could make a mistake at work, leading to missed opportunities and financial difficulties...)
Ready to avoid the cost of your guilt? Why not consider one of the following:
Emotional Freedom Technique: an alternative treatment for physical pain and emotional distress. It’s also referred to as tapping or psychological acupressure. Practitioners believe tapping the body can create a balance in your energy system and treat physical or emotional pain.
A Powertypes Release: a dynamic meditation where we soothe the part of you that is feeling the shame and recruit the PowerTypes to give you new, powerful beliefs that will serve you better in the long run.
Connection: shame loves silence - it keeps you circling down and down into secrecy. Brené Brown says that reaching out to someone and telling them what's happening is a brilliant way to reverse the process. If you don't feel comfortable saying it out loud, why not write a letter to someone (even if you never ever send it!)
Coaching, therapy or healing practitioners: find yourself a guide who can help you through the process in a safe way. Before you start, check with them to make sure they have the skills, experience and beliefs to support you with some heavy stuff.
If you want to talk any of this through further, why not click the button above to book a free chat with Anna? It's a no-pressure, no-judgement space to start on what could be the best gift you ever give yourself!