Recently, a friend of mine asked me a question about guilt. So, I came here to copy from my post on guilt. Only to discover, there is no such post. I was so positive that I devoted an entire post to guilt, but I cannot find it anywhere. I'm still sort of in disbelief about it, so if these is repetitive to anyone, I apologize.
But guilt is one of the top joy-zappers. So, if it hasn't been posted about yet, it needs to be.
HH would tell you that I am sort of a Guilt Professional. Or at least I used to be. I could find a way to feel guilty over anything and everything. And I did. And then it, literally, sucked all my energy away and I had to choose to lose the guilt or spend the rest of my life laying in my bed.
So, I called a wise sister-in-law for help. She gave me a lot of great advice that day, but I think the thing that helped the most was when I asked her about guilt. This was her response:
"Cheryl, guilt is something you're meant to feel when you're doing something wrong. So, if you're choosing to do drugs instead of spend time with your kids, you should feel guilty. But if you're spending a little time taking care of yourself, there is nothing to feel guilty about."
She's smart and funny. I'm so blessed in my family.
Anyway, I realized that what she was saying was true. And that I needed to truly make myself believe it.
That was the hard part.
But I prayed for help. And then whenever I started feeling guilty, I would stop and assess the situation. Was I doing something truly wrong, or was I just failing to be Super Woman?
Because that is why so many of us are Guilt Professionals, just like I was. We see other women with their perfect hair and figure and their perfect children dressed in perfectly clean clothes who never fight. We read their blogs and find out about the gourmet meals they prepare, the cute quiet books they make for their children, the service projects they organize, the fun outings they take their children on daily, and that their two-year old just finished reading the unabridged version of Les Miserables. And we know that they never raise their voice.
And then we look at our imperfect lives and try to figure out what we're doing wrong. Because, surely, we must be doing something--or everything--wrong.
Has anyone else ever been there, or is it just me?
Since I won't get your comments right away, I'm going to assume that you know what I'm talking about here.
The point is, forget about the Super Women surrounding you. We all know that in reality, no one is that perfect. But that doesn't really matter.
What matters is that you cut yourself some slack and give yourself a break.
Sit down, take a look at your life, prioritize, simplify, and trust in the evidence.
Sit down--Seriously, there is nothing wrong with resting from time to time. You don't have to be going non-stop all day in order to feel like you're doing all you should. Sit for five minutes and do absolutely nothing. And feel good about it. Because you deserve it. Or take a bath. Or eat a chocolate. Or read a book. Or do whatever. Just repeat after me: IT IS OKAY. And believe yourself when you say it.
Take a look at your life--Figure out the things that really need to happen. I actually made two lists. The first was the absolute bare essentials because I really was completely wiped out and I needed to completely change my perspective. It looked like this:
- Keep the children alive
Then I made another one that included things like put food on the table, spend time with the kids, read my scriptures, exercise, and sleep.
Still pretty basic. And I didn't put any requirements or stipulations on it. I try to cook healthy meals from scratch, but serving hot dogs and chicken nuggets is not a sin. And I didn't set time requirements on any of the other things. I would do what I had the time and energy for.
But I do want to put in a little plug for taking care of yourself. That has to make the list. I know you've all heard it before, but you can't take care of others, if you're not taking care of you. That includes physical exercise as well as something rejuvenating--like a hobby or a passion or an indulgence. Just do it.
Simplify--I cut everything else out of my life. And since Guilt hadn't made either of the lists, it had to go, too. Then, as I felt better, I added other things in. Only if I wanted to. Except Guilt. It is never welcome back.
Trust in the evidence--Or, find a better way to judge your success. People are always telling me what well-behaved and happy children I have. It used to be that when someone would say this, I'd think (or sometimes even tell) about the times when they screamed for four hours a day, or something. But then I thought about it, and I realized that they are pretty happy and well-behaved. And though I can't take full credit for that, I can take some. If I was the horrible mom I was telling myself I was, they couldn't possibly be as content as they are.
When your child gives you a hug, know that they're telling you that you're the best mommy they could ever have. Because it's true. They don't need a perfect mommy. They need a real mommy. One who tries hard. One who has good days and bad days, but isn't afraid to come back after a bad day and try again.
When your spouse tells you that you made a great meal, or cleaned the house well, or whatever, don't crowd out that compliment with thoughts of the times you've fallen short in that area. Just say "thank you" and believe him.
And most importantly, rely on the Spirit of the Lord. When you start to feel guilty, say a prayer and ask Heavenly Father about it. You can ask Him what you should be doing, or where that feeling is coming from, or sometimes just for a witness of His approval. And He will let you know that He is pleased with the work you're doing. He knows you. He loves you. He knows what you are capable of. And if you can be doing something more, He will gently guide you in how to do it. And He won't make you feel like a horrible person in the process. Unless you are committing sin, those feelings of guilt are not coming from Him.
There you have it: Combating Guilt 101.
What about you? How do you get over unnecessary guilt? What makes you feel good about yourself and the effort you're making? How do you stop from comparing yourself to others?