Think of all the times in your life you’ve berated yourself for doing something wrong. I bet that most of those instances weren’t particularly serious—that is they weren’t life threatening or particularly harmful to anyone—but the level of self-flagellation was brutal. Many of us just seem to be incredibly adept at beating ourselves up and feeling guilty about everything. Unfortunately, we can also have some individuals, usually family members, who could be the curators of the Smithsonian Institute. They have kept files of your wrongdoings and periodically remind you of them, which only adds to your angst.
It’s important to realize that some guilt is useful; after all, it helps form a conscience. Those who have none are called psychopaths. Guilt can be useful in stopping us from being unethical in our business practices or mean spirited toward those we love. But leaving dishes in the sink, not making the bed, or taking time out for yourself does not fall into the same category. Some of us are not only passengers on the guilt mobile, but we also spend time ruminating over our feelings of guilt. Ruminating seems to be more inherent in the female species. I think that comes from years of conditioning that leads us to believe we need to take care of everyone. When we can’t fulfill the quota, we take on the mantle of guilt.
There have been many books written about why some of us seem to have more of a propensity toward feeling guilty, and I’m not talking about egregious acts. Some of us have acquired a whole host of individuals that reside in our minds that continually chastise us about what we haven’t done. Our family of origin can be a huge purveyor of messages that train us to feel that nothing we do is enough. However, we cannot hang our hat on that forever. Discovering and challenging ourselves to create our own value system is part and parcel of becoming an autonomous human being. Work on becoming the CEO of your own thoughts. Spending time feeling guilty over what we haven’t done on a daily basis is exhausting and deprives us of living consciously and in the present. When the guilty chatter starts rattling around in your head, counter those voices with an assertive comeback, Say, ”Look, I may have had some failures in life, and I acknowledge them. But I’m a decent person , trying to do the best I can, so spread your guilt elsewhere!