Funny how things all of a sudden one day become more clear to us. Although they still may not be clear enough for us to fully see the big picture. Or maybe they are that clear, but we still can’t totally change the picture to be what we know it should be.
Excuse me, I’m rambling. My point of this is that it has recently become clear to me that I live with a lot of false guilt. To the point where I often have a hard time working through to figure out what is legitimate guilt and what is false guilt.
What do I mean by false guilt you may ask? (Some of you know EXACTLY what I am talking about though.) I tend to take on feelings of guilt any time I do or say something that may make someone else feel bad, may hurt their feelings or may inconvenience them.
It is really unhealthy. In addition to adding a lot of unnecessary stress and anxiety to my life, it also causes me to take on too much and to burn myself out because I don’t say No. I burn out physically, mentally and emotionally.
This is something I’ve been working on. My therapist told me real guilt is what I would feel if I was to steal a tube of lipstick from the store. Each time I open it to use it, I would feel bad because I knew I had obtained it by stealing it which is wrong. I don’t even wear lipstick so in my case I would also feel guilty about stealing it and then never using it.
However, in my case I feel guilt when I make a choice that is good for me, but it may inconvenience or hurt the feelings of someone else. I am in effect, taking on responsibility for everyone else’s feelings. This is crazy! It is false guilt – something that feels like real guilt but has a false basis.
In the past year I’ve been working through this. I’ve been learning to say No to things and to make choices that are best for me and my family and to not back down due to how it may make others feel.
One thing I struggle with though is finding that line between taking care of myself and and letting go of this false guilt and becoming a selfish person. I’ve been told since I’m concerned about this – it is a good sign that I won’t probably ever cross that line. However, it is a big concern for me. Probably something I will always struggle with until I leave this earth. It will get easier, but I think it will never fully go away. This concern that if I start to let go of this false guilt, I may become a selfish person who no longer cares or considers the feelings of others and just does what I want all the time.
I think part of this stems from the fact that I have a little gremlin living in my head that tells me when I do something that is good for me, I’m being selfish. That thinking about myself and what I want is a bad thing. So then that false guilt creeps in on top of it and if I don’t catch myself I spiral down into that black hole of lies.
So there it is – my struggle with false guilt. Not sure I had much of a point with this post other than to share my struggle and see if maybe someone else out there can relate. Does it help to know others struggle with this too? Do you have things that you’ve found that help you and you would be willing to share?
I will admit I believe I’m on the right path to working through this. At least I’m at a point where I can admit I have this issue with false guilt and sometimes I am even able to identify it – usually after the fact, but sometimes right up front. I’m even getting to where I can talk myself out of it. I often need the helps of some close friends though – people who know I struggle with this and have agreed to help me. If I start to question myself I will run things by them and they help me see the right path a bit more clearly.
I am eternally grateful for these friends – you know who you are. I do feel a bit guilty at times going to them to work through these things. But once again that is the false guilt raising it’s nasty ugly head and they help me stomp it back down.