Think for a moment of the hundreds of ways you make yourself feel bad throughout the day. Trust me, I’ve done it too!
There are a lot of things that bring out the guilt in me, but some are more powerful than others. Trying to lose weight always elicits major self-flagellation. I usually start well in advance of the actual process of shedding pounds by spending a few months torturing myself with how awful I look and continually asking myself, “How did this happen?”. The answer is obvious…I ate too much. But that doesn’t seem to quiet the monster of self-loathing that many of us are familiar with.
My voices continue in an inspired chorus: “You’re getting older—what do you expect? What happened to the 24 inch waist—it’s now your thigh measurement, isn’t it? I wonder what year you’ll fit into that size six you used to wear. Maybe they can bury you int it!” Then when I’m actually invested in some kind of program, the voices remind me that I didn’t exercise enough, even if I ran a 27 mile marathon; or that maybe I should eat less, even though I just finished a meal consisting of a lettuce leaf washed down with a bottle of water. I even went to a spa to boost my incentive to lose weight and was left so hungry with the micro portion that I almost ate the centerpiece.
My friend Shirley has a guilt demon that constantly reminds her that she needs to stay later at work to catch up—-even though her overtime is starting to exceed the amount of hours she was actually hired to work. I know from friends that we have in common that she spends a lot of time talking about her feelings of guilt.
In some ways this kind of drama gives us some form of negative validation—but it saps our energy and devours our spirit. If Shirley spent the same amount of time finishing her work, she could probably go home early. And if I spent as much time walking as I do talking about losing weight, I probably would have lost the weight by now.
There is a necessary reason for some guilt, it helps form a conscience. It helps us stop from being unethical in business, or mean-spirited towards our fellow humans. But it does not serve us when we use it to ruminate over mundane situations.
It takes a conscious effort to become aware of what we say to ourselves and others. But in order to do so we have to wake up to the fact that certain stories we have become invested in no longer serve us. If you change the story, you change the outcome. Remember, you are the storyteller.