I’ve been thinking about my clients and friends who live with chronic illness, and are trying to make life work for everyone else, because they cannot bear to feel guilty. They sacrifice their own needs for others – just to avoid guilt.
Here is the truth: when you put yourself and your health first, you are going to feel guilty.
Guilt is one of those reflexes that are ingrained from childhood. Religious upbringings, zealous parents, school teachers who had strict rules – all of these authorities made sure we have a finely honed guilt meter.
Maybe you feel guilty of you aren’t being productive enough. Or if you seem to be “selfish.”
Others experience guilt over a house that’s not picture perfect, food that isn’t beautifully prepared every night, or emails left unanswered.
Endless guilt is a racket designed to push us harder, and make us produce more and more.
It is not helpful or healthful. Frankly you and your illness cannot afford the luxury of guilt.
You need to be able to stop, rest, take a day or an hour, move at your own pace, answer your own needs.
Guilt was learned, and it can be un-learned.
Start noticing when you are motivated by guilt, and don’t do what you are feeling pressured to do.
Don’t make that call, answer that request, go that next step.
Live with the guilt. Say to yourself, “I am going to feel guilty and that’s ok. I can live with it.”
It is easier to live with feeling guilty than to live with pain of overextending yourself, spending all your energy and losing track of what you need.
Practice paying attention to what you really need – what you want for yourself and what your body is asking of you.
Practice allowing yourself to feel guilty and not reacting to the push. You will begin to see that the guilt fades. It will pass.
You grow stronger and clearer.
You will feel guilty when you put yourself first, and you can survive the guilt.
Let me know how it goes…