What Is Guilt And Why Does It Hold You Back From What You Want To Do
Guilt. It’s not a great feeling, is it? By definition, guilt is feeling of deserving blame for something. Often it’s a good check mechanism and a state of mind that we want to avoid. It moves us to action and gets us to do “the right thing”. Think back on your student days. Not doing your homework and lying about it made you feel guilty. That in turn ensured that you turned in your homework the next day and kept doing it going forward. Not a bad thing for your academic career.
But sometimes guilt can be a bad thing and something that holds us back from achieving the things we want out of life. We feel guilty about spending time and money on growing a side business. We take away precious time from our loved ones to attend a live event. We don’t get to tuck the kids in at night because we’re going back to school. It’s easy to fall into the guilt trap even when we know what we’re doing is important and worthwhile.
In short, like so many other things in live, guilt can be a positive thing, something that motivates you and gets you to work towards your goals and things you want to get done, or it can be the thing that’s holding you back. That’s why it’s important to pay attention to your feelings of guilt and ask yourself if it’s productive or if it’s holding you back.
Here’s the big problem with guilt. Sometimes it stops you from doing what you want to do as we discussed already. At other times it’s causing you to hold back and not give it your all. If you feel bad about missing dinner with the family, you’re not going to be fully present and committed in that client meeting or the class you’re taking. The guilt you’re feeling is keeping you from committing fully and giving it your all.
It’s also taking a lot of the joy out of whatever it is you are doing. This may not seem like a big deal at first glance, but it takes a lot of the positive energy and drive out of your sails. It’s that energy that makes you push a little harder, try a little longer, and do all the little, seemingly insignificant things that make all the difference in the end.
The guilt also gives you an easy excuse to give up. Life isn’t easy and any goal worth reaching takes work and effort. Sometimes it’s easier to give up than to keep pushing hard, solve problems, or resolve conflicts we’d rather avoid. That guilty feeling may be just the excuse you were looking for to justify giving up. By addressing these feelings of guilt and working through them, you can greatly improve your chances of reaching those goals and crafting the life you really want for yourself and your loved ones.
Time For Self-Reflection And Finding The Guilt That’s Holding You Back
We are taking a look at guilt and why it can hold us back from doing the things we want to do. In the last post we started out by looking at what guilt is and how it holds you back from living the live you want to live. In order to break through and start making some series progress, you have to let go of the guilt.
First Things First …. Find The Guilt
The first step in this process is to find the guilt. It’s obvious, isn’t it? If you don’t know exactly what you feel guilty about, you can’t come up with a plan to work through it and let go of that guilt. Of course that’s easier said than done.
It’s important that you’re committed to discovering what’s holding you back and what you may be feeling guilty about. It’s important that you’re brutally honest with yourself. It’s not going to be easy. It is however going to be helpful, eye-opening, and very productive.
Taking Time For Self-Reflection
Start by giving yourself some time to think. We live in a loud and busy world that’s full of distractions. It’s hard to hear yourself think sometimes, isn’t it? It’s also easier to stay busy and keep plugging away than it is to stop and take some time to reflect.
Find a quiet place, get comfortable and let your mind wander. Start to think about what you want to accomplish. Take a look at what’s holding you back. What thoughts or tasks start to make you feel uncomfortable when you think about them? What part of the journey gets your stomach in a tight knot? What is causing doubt to creep in? Pay attention to all of it and see if you can start to pinpoint this feeling of guilt and where it may be coming from.
A Journal Can Be Helpful
A journal is an excellent tool in this process. Grab a notebook, open up your word processor, or get a new journal and start to write your thoughts down. Putting it on paper can be very clarifying. It forces you to focus and organize your thought processes. It also gives you something to come back to and read later in the day or a bit down the road. This reading of your thoughts and what’s going on in your head can help you discover underlying causes as you “read between the lines”. Give it a try and see if you find journaling helpful in this process.
Make A Plan To Discover Guilt Going Forward
Last but not least, it’s important to realize that this will be an ongoing process. New feelings of guilt will pop up from time to time. Be on the lookout for them so you can address them right away. Again, journaling is a great tool for this. At the very least, be aware and listen to your mind and thoughts going forward.
Dig Deep And Find The Reason For The Guilt
It is time to dig a little deeper and get to the root causes for your guilt that’s holding you back. After all, you can’t work on something and start making improvements until you know exactly what it is. Digging deep and examining your feelings can get a little uncomfortable. Don’t let that deter you. Keep pushing through. It is well worth it and you’ll feel much better once you’ve faced your fears and dealt with your feelings of guilt.
Find a quiet place where you can think for a while without being interrupted. If you prefer, you can work through your feelings in writing using a journal or the likes. Some people find this helps them focus and stay on track. Otherwise, thinking through it can work just as well. If you find that you have a hard time pinpointing where your feelings of guilt are coming from, it can be helpful to talk it through with a trusted friend. Ideally this is someone who know you well and can guide you along the way. Encourage them to ask probing, open-ended questions until you get to the bottom of the matter.
Let’s say you have been thinking of doing a little freelance work as a writer while you’re home raising your young children, but a feeling of guilt stops you from taking the first steps to give it a try. When you sit down and start to examine these feelings you start out with the idea that you will take away time you could spend with your children. As you think more about it this and start to imagine how it could work, you realize that you have time while they are napping or in preschool and that you will have even more time on your hands once they start school.
Digging a little deeper, you realize that you’re worried about how getting back into your old profession could be perceived by those around you. Your spouse may feel like you don’t have enough time for him, and the neighbors may think that you’re a bad wife and mother if you focus on your freelance career. By facing these thoughts, you realize how silly these fears are. In most households both parents work and you would have the added benefit of a flexible schedule.
You start to feel a little better about the whole idea, but there’s still a knot in your stomach. There is one more feeling that’s holding you back and it’s the thought that’s manifesting as guilt. You realize that what you’re really worried about is that you won’t make it. You’ve been home for a few years and haven’t done much writing, freelance or otherwise. What if no one will give you a project to work on or publish your writing? This right here is the real issue and the one you can now work on.
Forgive Yourself And Start Loving The Real You
It doesn’t matter what’s holding you back from doing what you really want to do. Once you’ve started to figure out what you’re feeling guilty about, the next step is to work towards forgiveness and self-acceptance. Here’s the thing that most people don’t realize. You have to love the real you before you can start to make the small changes that lead to big success. If you’re ready to start crafting and molding the life of your dreams, start by loving yourself first.
We are all human beings. We make mistakes, we mess up, and we don’t do what we set out to do. When we learn to forgive ourselves and love enough to try again, we learn and get better. That’s why this step of forgiveness and love is so important. Start by examining what you feel guilty about. Look at what you’ve done and what you haven’t done to get you closer to your personal goals.
Embrace the good stuff and feel proud about what you’ve already accomplished. Acknowledge where you messed up and didn’t follow through. Forgive yourself for it and accept it. Maybe there’s an important lesson you’ve learned from your mistakes. Maybe it was simply some much needed practice to set you up for future success.
At the end of the day it’s up to you if you let your failures and missteps derail you and keep you from living the life of your dreams, or if you see them as the learning opportunities they are. It’s a matter of perspective.
Yes, this is easier said than done, but if you can come from a place of love and forgiveness, it is much easier to see things in a positive light. Get in the habit of looking for the best and most positive in each situation. Be kind to yourself and don’t condemn what you do or did. Forgive yourself and keep working towards those positive, and possibly life changing goals.
It helps to start small. Find a little something you did today that you aren’t proud of. Forgive yourself and see what you can learn from the experience. Then build on that one positive and forgiving act and use the energy to do it again, and again, and again. When you actively work on loving yourself and forgiving yourself, amazing things start to happen. Most importantly, you start to build a positive habit that will help propel you forward.
As an added bonus, you’ll feel better about yourself, gain a ton of self-confidence, and end up with plenty of positive energy to tackle whatever life throws your way. Isn’t that worth making the effort to forgive yourself and love the real you?
Take A Few Baby Steps Toward Your Big Goals
Big goals can be scary. It doesn’t matter if it’s losing a significant amount of weight, paying off a large chunk of consumer debt, or changing careers. When we look at those big goals, we get intimidated. We put off working towards them because we either don’t know where to start, or because the task simply seems too daunting.
The key to reaching any goal, no matter how big or lofty, is to get stared and take baby steps. You can reach any goal and make any change if you consistently take small steps towards it. Motivate and inspire yourself to take a those first few baby steps toward your big goal.
The best part is that you don’t’ have to have it all figured out to get stared. You don’t need to know exactly what you’ll have to do at every step along the way. You don’t need to come up with a plan to pay off your entire credit card debt. You don’t have to figure out how exactly you’ll lose all of those 65 extra pounds. You don’t need to know what it will take to buy your dream home. And you don’t need to know everything there is to know about opening and running your own bakery.
It is all about making a little bit of progress and getting started. This gets you over that initial hurdle and builds momentum. It will also help you realize that you can figure out the rest along the way. Ready to take those first few steps right now?
Start by looking at your big goal, the changes you want to make, or what you want to get out of life. Know what your end goal is, but don’t worry about everything you need to do to get there. Just make sure you have an idea of the general direction you want to head in. At this point, it’s fine to simply decide that you want to lose some weight and improve your health, or pay off those credit cards and student loans to give yourself some financial breathing space. Go that goal in mind? Great!
Now come up with one or two little things you can do right now that help you move into the right direction. It doesn’t matter how small those steps are. They may seem insignificant when you look at the big picture, but they will quickly add up. Most importantly, they get you started. Let’s look at a few examples of what those baby steps may look like.
If your goal is improving your health and losing weight, your baby steps may be to go for a 10 minute walk each day, or replacing soda with sparkling water. Maybe it’s trying some new healthy recipes and getting into the habit of eating a salad or steamed veggies with two meals per day. If the goal is to save money or pay off debt, it could be to have $20 per month auto drafted into a savings account or to pay the principal of your debt. Or maybe it’s going through bills and cutting out some monthly extras like canceling magazine subscriptions or downgrading your cellphone and cable bills. Maybe it’s skipping the coffee shop in the morning and packing your lunch. Find one or two places where you can save a few dollars and start applying them towards your financial goal. If you want to change careers or start your own business, read up on what you need to do or find someone to talk to who’s done what you want to do for direction. In short, do something today.
Watch Out – Those Guilty Feelings Will Try To Sneak Back Into Your Life
The secret to reaching any goal is to just keep taking those baby steps and adjusting your course as needed. Sounds simple enough, doesn’t it? Unfortunately, there’s always something that will throw a wrench into your plans, potentially halting your progress. It’s something you should watch out for and be prepared for. If you know it’s coming, it’s much easier to prevent it from stopping your progress.
Not only does guilt prevent you from starting to go after your dreams in the first place, it also keeps trying to sneak back into your life. You’ll notice those little negative thoughts popping back in your head after the first excitement of making progress and going for it dies down. That’s when you have to be prepared so these feelings of guilt or self-doubt don’t derail you.
I’ve mentioned how helpful a journal can be when it comes to self-reflection. It’s also a great tool to help you spot guilty feelings popping back up. If you get yourself to journal regularly about your feelings and your progress, you have something to look back on. You have a record of what you’re doing and how you’re feeling. You can then look through your daily entries and find those instances of guilt quickly.
As we’ve discussed before, it’s easier to get over the guilt and in this case prevent it from taking hold when we know what it is and that it’s coming. When you know what you’re feeling bad about, you can find arguments and proof against it. Reminding yourself of the positive impact the changes you’re making will have on your life also helps you stay the course.
For example, that piece of cake may be tempting you and you may feel guilty about not eating the confection that your aunt so lovingly prepared. Or you may feel guilty about letting perfectly good food go to waste. By reminding yourself that your health will be much better and that you’re able to run around the park with the kids, you can quickly overcome these feelings of guilt. The same holds true if you’re feeling guilty for not going out to lunch with your friends at work, or not buying your kid the latest pair of designer sneakers because you’re being financially responsible. Do you see how this works?
Confidence Is Your Secret Weapon To Building The Live Of Your Dreams
The key to success in any area of your life is confidence. I like to think of it as a secret weapon that helps you keep doubt and guilt at bay. It’s your very own super power that you can (and should) develop and nourish over the coming weeks and months.
Starting to make progress and taking these little baby steps can be a great confidence builder. That’s one of the reasons why I got you started on them right away. Don’t be afraid to go back to taking small baby steps whenever you feel like you’re losing confidence in yourself or stressing out about how monumental the task you’ve set yourself is.
Setting and reaching milestone goals are another great way to break it down and boost your confidence in yourself. If your goal is to lose a large amount of weight, break it down into 10 pound increments and focus all your energy on reaching that next 10-pound loss. Celebrate your successes. The same works when you’re paying of debt. Start with one credit card for example and get it paid off. Reaching those smaller goals are a great confidence booster.
Tracking your overall progress is another great way to feel like you’re making progress. Sometimes it’s hard to see how far you’ve come in the day to day activates of regular life. Chart your progress on a calendar, a large graph hanging on your fridge, in a document on your computer, or even in an app on your phone. Look at how far you’ve come whenever you feel like giving up. It’s nice to have a visual reminder that what you’re doing is working and giving you the results you want and need.
Last but not least, find some cheerleaders to cheer you on and tell you how well you’re doing. This could be a close friend or family member, or it could be a group of like-minded people that you connect with locally or online. The beautiful thing about the internet is that we can find people with the same or similar goals in lots of groups and forums. Our very own Facebook group is a great place to connect, compare tips, ideas, and results, and of course celebrate each other successes and serve as a source of encouragement.
The most important part is that you keep going and keep working towards crafting the life you’ve always wanted. Good luck and keep up the great work.