Earlier this week I discussed judgment and how this prevents us from loving ourselves and others. Guilt and judgment often go hand in hand. Only when you judge can you feel guilty. Far too many of us walk around feeling guilty. We feel guilty for not being enough. Guilt builds within us because we don’t believe we are the best spouses or the best parents. But like judgment, guilt really provides us with no benefits.
When I left my conventional job my goal was to spend more time with my kids. I did that and it was wonderful. However, any minute that I was not with my kids I felt guilty. Whether it was going out with my girlfriends or just having some me time. I gave up the life I knew in order to have time with these children. Guilt had me feeling like I needed to be with them every waking minute.
As long as I was feeling guilty inside, I could never be happy with who I was. If I’m not happy with who I am, I can’t love myself. To get to the root cause of guilt, we have to take a look at judgment. I consciously judged other parents who did not spend enough time with their children. I judged my own parents for not spending more time with us as kids. I felt that I made this awesome decision to change my entire life. I did this in order to have more time with my children. To live up to this decision and to also not see myself as the parents I judged, I had to spend all of my time with my kids. As you might guess, all this guilt caused much resistance in my life.
Stop Feeling Guilty by Letting Go of Judgment and Expectations
Earlier this year I made a commitment to no longer feel guilty. For anything! In order to achieve this commitment I had to let go of judgment and expectations. I held onto the idea of what an ideal mom was for far too long. Additionally, I had expectations and often judged what made a perfect wife. Or an awesome blogger and a good friend. I know that I can make improvements in all of these areas. But judgment, expectations and especially guilt aren’t going to get me there.
When I let go of my judgment and my expectations I no longer felt guilty. I stopped paying attention to what everyone else was doing. I no longer needed to justify my actions. I spent time with my kids when I could. I set aside specific time with them. When I’m not with them, I no longer feel guilty. If I feel the need to spend more time with them, I do. But I don’t feel guilty for having that desire. I don’t judge myself by rationalizing that this desire came about because I haven’t been spending enough time with them.
As parents, especially mothers, a picture has been painted of what perfection looks like. The expectation is a loving caring mom who easily gets meals on the table at exactly the right times. Whose kids adore her and who goes about all of this gracefully with no frustration. If this is you, great! In the same way that we judge ourselves and others who don’t live up to expectations, we also need to stop judging those who do. When we let go of expectations and judgment everyone can be allowed to be who they are.
My Eureka Moment on Guilt
There is a belief in the Hmong culture that you must help others out. You do this because one day you’ll need help too. Unless you help others, no one will come help you when that day comes. The rationale makes sense and this is a noble philosophy to live by. However, in reality you have people feeling guilty for not attending events. You also have people attending events simply out of guilt. Additionally, when you don’t attend, someone else might question you to make you feel even more guilty.
One morning last month there was an event that I had decided not to go to. The morning of I was still debating whether I should go. I then asked myself why I felt the need to go. My answer was simply out of guilt. At that moment I realized that as long as I harbor guilt in my life, I can never be truly happy. Additionally, I put myself in the others’ shoes. If I have an event, I want people to come because they really want to come. Not because they feel guilty. When they bring that guilt to my event it can mess up the energy.
From that moment on I simply decided to no longer feel guilty. About anything. If I need to make changes I do. But I don’t need to feel guilty about having to make them. I will not bring my guilt into the lives of others and I sure don’t want your guilt in my life. Make the decision to stop feeling guilty. Once you do, you create the space and energy you need to accept yourself. To love your life and who you truly are.