Guilt Be Gone! Simple strategies for taming guilt
Guilt is a sure sign your thinking is unnatural. —A course in miracles
One of the most common issues I hear from fellow Moms has to do with guilt: “I went out for a little ‘me’ time and felt guilty the whole time I was out;” “I lost it on my kids and felt guilty for days;” “I just don’t know how to not feel guilty.” Sound familiar?! We’ve all, “been there, done that” and many of us still, “go there, do that” … until today. You’re about to discover why guilt is the greatest waste of emotional energy and how you can turn those nagging feelings into something much more productive – for both you and your family.
What is this guilt thing anyway?
In its simplest form, guilt is an inner signal telling us we’ve done something wrong – either we’ve done something that goes against our values or against our idea of how things “should” be. As an inner signal, guilty feelings simply mean, “pay attention to what’s happened here and learn from it.” In this basic way, guilt is actually an important opportunity for us to identify what’s gone wrong and either change our actions or our thinking. Once we’ve addressed guilt in this way, we can let go and move on.
Unfortunately, most of us rarely deal with our feelings this simply.
Rather than resolve guilt in this, “learn and let go” kind of way, many of us allow the guilty feelings to stick around. We ruminate over how horrible we feel for whatever we think we shouldn’t have done. We think, “How could I let this happen?” and, “What kind of mother am I?” We use up all of our present moments blaming and judging ourselves for something that is over and done with – something we can never change.
This is guilt gone awry and, “a sure sign our thinking is unnatural.”
Staying stuck in blame and guilt is not only a very unloving thing to do to ourselves, but it also immobilizes us and wastes a lot of energy that could be much better spent with our family. In this way, guilt is the greatest waste of emotional energy.
So how can we use guilty feelings in a constructive way and prevent them from contaminating our thinking and immobilizing us from being the kind of Moms we want to be? Here are some strategies you can try…
Strategies for taming guilt
• Take a closer look at your expectations. Moms are notorious for setting unrealistic expectations for themselves and focusing on doing what’s “best” or what they think they “should” be doing: Moms are not supposed to lose their temper; Good mothers always know what’s going on with their kids; Moms should take the time to volunteer at their child’s school; Moms are supposed to keep a tidy home; Good mothers raise well-rounded, good-mannered children.
This is a perfectionist approach to parenting that puts a lot of stress on both you and your family.
Since it’s impossible to live up to these kinds of expectations, you’ll only be setting yourself up for failure, mistakes and more guilt by hanging on to them. If this kind of thinking sounds true for you, consider ways you can shift your expectations to more realistic.
• Be your own personal coach. Imagine that a close friend of yours came to you with the same issues of guilt you’re feeling … what would you say to her? Try speaking to yourself in the same way you would your best friend. You’ll be surprised at how your inner dialogue changes!
• Catch guilty feelings when they come up. Become more aware of guilty feelings as they come up and ask yourself: “Did I make a mistake I can learn from here or am I being too hard on myself?” Once you identify where the guilt is coming from, you can either change your future behavior or change how you’re thinking about the situation. For example, feeling guilty upon discovering you made a sandwich with moldy bread for your child’s lunch is a valid cue to change your sandwich-making behavior in the future – pay attention, Mom! Feeling guilty about not ironing the bed sheets is a sure sign to change your thinking – lighten up, Mom!
If you have trouble sorting out guilty feelings, try using a notebook or journal to write down your thoughts about what you think you’ve done wrong. Talking to a close friend can also be helpful.
• Practice forgiveness. Making mistakes is part and parcel of being a parent – it’s part and parcel of being human for that matter! We all make mistakes as Moms, and we will continue to make mistakes – some big and some insignificant. Being able to let go of blame, anger and judgment for things that happened in the past is key to learning and growing and, more importantly, to becoming a more loving person. Let go of the past. Focus on what’s real and important to you now in the present moment and you can never go wrong.
Dr. Kelly Pryde is a parenting and self-development expert and the founder of DreamKids. A speaker, author and mother of two, Kelly holds a Ph.D. in Psychology and offers inspiration and wisdom for today’s Mom. To learn more visit http://www.DrKellyPryde.com or http://www.dreamkids.ca.