Here’s How to Stop Wasting Your Energy on Guilt

In some ways, guilt can be helpful, as it allows us to address wrongs we might want to change. The problem I see is that we waste a lot of time and energy fretting over things that aren’t wrong with us.

Sometimes it feels like you just can’t get it right.

As a mom, there is a ton of guilt up for the taking. We feel guilty for working and leaving our child in childcare, or we feel guilty for staying with them and not bringing in income. There’s guilt around the food we feed them (that applesauce is organic, right?), and the amount of screen time we allow (isn’t that young to watch a whole movie?). And those are just the big ones.

How about guilt around what we eat. Good lord, where do I even start! We demonize food as “bad” and feel guilty for eating certain things. We follow plans to keep us from eating incorrectly, which inevitably fail because that’s not how we are supposed to approach food, but we don’t see that. All we see is ways we are guilty and need to do better.

How many of you have worked out primarily because you will feel guilty if you don’t? We find ways to see our bodies as evidence of our guilt.

We find ways to see our bodies as evidence of our guilt.

What about guilt around how clean our home is? We are quick to offer apologies for how messy our homes are, almost without thinking. Are you really bothered by the state of your home, or is there an invisible standard you constantly believe you are falling short of?

The difference between guilt that can be helpful, and the guilt we waste energy on, is that one comes from within us and the other is planted by our society. We take on guilt in the form of things we “should” be doing.

Here are some helpful questions to ask yourself, and actions to do to lessen your guilt load.

Keep a list for 3 days (2 weekdays and 1 weekend) and list all the “should/shouldnt’s” you say.

It’s going to be lengthy! Spend some solo time with this list and assess where each comes from. Put some music on, grab a favorite drink, and sit where you will not be interrupted. If you are into Tarot, this is a place your can use your cards. It’s also helpful to have a journal to write down anything revelations or get confusing thoughts out.

For each item, ask yourself why you feel guilty.

Maybe you wrote, “I shouldn’t be eating past 8.” Why? Where did you get that number? What are you afraid will happen should you eat past 8? This one likely stemmed from some list you say that is founded in diet culture. But, that’s just my two cents. If you know you have stomach issues or have trouble sleeping when you eat past a certain time, yeah, I can see why that is something you want to live by. However, if it’s because you fear you’ll gain weight for eating at 8:10, is this really something to feel guilty about and change?

Go through each and ask yourself is this truly important to you, or is it something you have been told should be important? You may have to trace things back if it’s a belief passed down from childhood. If you were to be a blank slate, are these ideas and rules things you know would make you a better person, or would it be a relief not to have to keep worrying about it?

If you were to be a blank slate, are these ideas and rules things you know would make you a better person, or would it be a relief not to have to keep worrying about it?

Identify all the items you’d like to shed, and determine what you believe instead in it’s place

You’ve decided that you don’t want to subscribe to feeling guilty for working and having your child in daycare. AWESOME! Unfortunately, just deciding that is not likely to cease all guilt. But, you’ve made an important first decision.

That guilt is going to pop up at times so you need a new thought pattern instead of a guilty-induced spiral. What do you want to think instead? Perhaps its, “My work and my child are both priorities.” or, “Following my career goals is a way I care for myself and my family.”

Whatever you choose to believe instead is going to take practice. Keep repeating it.

Read This: Quit Comparing and Stop Your Mom Guilt

Identify the items you determine are important to you, and shift what isn’t aligned

I’m going to give a personal example for this one. I joined Moms Demand Action, a group dedicated to protecting people from gun violence, and felt guilty for not prioritizing time in my schedule to take actions like emailing or calling representatives, and sharing with others how to take action.

I quickly determined that this was not guilt put upon me, rather a misalignment of values and priorities. I say, and feel, that this is a highly important issue for me, and I giving back to my community is something I value. That is where the guilt came from. I am saying this is important, yet I am not making time.

That is where the guilt came from. I am saying this is important, yet I am not making time.

So I shifted. Or, rather, I am in the process of shifting. I am blocking some time each week to check the website for any action I can take, and when I get an email that has an action included, I do it or mark time to do it.

If you feel guilt because you are living in a way that does no align with your values, decide what action you will take. Action is what makes guilt go away. And, maybe that action is putting this priority on the shelf for a year. That’s OK, too!

I help ambitious women set and hit purpose-powered goals without overwhelm, and getting to the bottom of guilt is part of that! If any of this resonated with you, let’s talk.

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