I spent some of the past week wrapped up in half-term MUM GUILT.
Do you get that? Anyone?? Those with children, especially younger children will no doubt understand.
Yes, I felt guiltylast week. Guilty that I was neglecting my daughters; that I was not focussing on my business; that I was not being present and taking care of my current and future clients; that I hadn’t written a blog on Tuesday – writing it now; that the house was a mess; that the ironing wasn’t done, AND….. guilt that I was feeling guilty about all of this and not achieving much of anything!
Wow. That feels good to admit it. I felt guilty and I’m not ashamed to admit it! The feelings of guilt started to consume me.
Oh, now don’t get me wrong, my daughters ARE experts when it comes to thickly layering the cloak of GUILT on me!! And, I grabbed that cloak of guilt and started to tightly wrap that beauty around me, because:
1. The guilt from children can be gut wrenching and tug at the heart strings;
2. The guilt cloak was a great way of excusing myself from certain chores;
3. The guilt was a great distraction from work;
4. The guilt was simply a way to self-punish me.
But, the children guilt, yes, that guilt hit me the most because one of the reasons I left my corporate job was to be able to spend more time with them in holidays, after school, weekends etc. I had a pretty stressful job and I was often tired, grumpy, stressed, working late, long hours, not able to get to school events and my husband had an equally, if not often more stressful job, and I regularly felt guilty that I was letting them down, missing out, not present. So, I made the decision to step back.
Yet here I was, on their half-term week, sitting in front of my computer trying to, or pretending to, be busy being busy. And before my daughter even said anything, I knew I was allowing my head to have thoughts of guilt. I wanted to work, and I wanted to spend time with them, and I felt that I was not present for them and not present in my business. Like I was letting them all down.
Yes, I think I mentioned that I had left corporate to be able to spend more time with them. So, why was I trying to work? Did I mention I got bored? So, I re-trained and am now running my own business to better suit me? Which is great, however, the balance isn’t right, yet, hence the guilt
Been there and done guilt
The crazy thing was, though, 9 years previous I suffered from feelings of guilt when I returned to the corporate world following the birth of my second daughter. The problem was the feelings of guilt back then were very toxic to me. I was irritable, upset, unhappy, missing opportunities for fun, making mistakes and because of how I was behaving, those around me were affected. I would often find myself sitting in my car sobbing at having just left them at nursery, feeling terribly guilting like I was the worst mummy in the world for wanting to work. Then arriving at work and hating being there because I wanted to be back with them.
I didn’t talk to anyone, you just didn’t do that, admit how you felt. Plus, I looked at all the other working mums and assumed they didn’t feel like me. But they did. I know that now.
And here I was, 9 years later with guilt about to wrap itself snuggly around my shoulders, about to repeat the same pattern, working but not being fully present, being with the girls but not being fully present. Full throttle towards toxic behaviour.
Guilt didn’t serve me 9 years ago and feelings of guilt certainly do not serve me now. My feelings of guilt last week were: irrational; unhelpful; unwarranted and counter-productive.
So, how, then, did I overcome my feelings of guilt last week and end up enjoying a wonderful few days of half term with my daughters? And, may I add, overcome the feelings of guilt far quicker than 9 years ago?
In the past, I leap frogged from thoughts of feeling guilty straight to the point of my guilt bursting out over everyone around me in a tirade of frustration and anger, toxic to myself and others. I wasattempting to put my guilt outside of meand not owning the feelings and dealing with the feelings in a calm, controlled and rational way.
I knew, deep down, that I wanted and needed to change. I didn’t want to carry the weight of guilt. I knew I had to release it. As I became more self-aware, I noticed what I was doing. I recognised that from my feelings of guilt I was jumping straight to the external output with frustration and anger towards those closest to me, and myself, to seeing that there were more layers to my guilt.
I noticed that when I started to ruminate over matters and my thoughts turned into feelings of guilt, my body become tense, I went into overthinking, my head would feel full and heavy. I would hear the voice in my head talking, talking, talking. The words and expressions I threw at myself became more unpleasant and less forgiving. I would procrastinate and stew. I became less productive. And, eventually, the inner feelings, thoughts and sensations would start to seep out and sometimes explode outwardly on to those in my outside world.
This understanding was a moment of real clarity.
These days, I am far more aware of myself. Through much self-development, self-discipline and mindfulness I am far more in tune with my mind and body. I quickly notice the feelings creeping up on myself and I am better able to logically and rationally reason with the thoughts leading to the feelings of guilt, acknowledge the thoughts, find solutions and most of all FORGIVE myself.
Last week’s guilt
As my daughter’s eyes welled up with tears half way through the half-term week because she didn’t want to tell me that she was sad because I was spending lots of time in my office and she wanted me to spend time with her, I caught my breath. I knew she was right.
I knew that I hadn’t planned my time well, I knew that I was responsible for my actions which were causing her to feel sad and all the thoughts I had were about to cause feelings of guilt to surface.
From my past experience, what I knew was that feelings of guilt were not going to serve me well. Period. So, I moved from the feelings of guilt back to my thoughts. There was no point judging myself or criticising myself, what I needed to do was change my thoughts and look at my actions.
Simple? Always works? No, because it does take practice and persistence. BUT I am persistent, and, I do not want to feel how I did 9 years ago for the length of time I did. I understood the guilt was a feeling, an emotion and it had come from a thought which I had put in my own head and so therefore I could remove the thought or better still reframe it, in turn eliminate the feeling of guilt.
The Way Forward
Being self-aware is really important, and, as I have mentioned above, I have taken time to understand how I do guilt and found ways to get rid of it when it shows up. Feeling guilty can be destructive and stop you from enjoying your life.
I highly recommend you take the time to monitor what causes you to feel guilty and how you then do guilt. Once you are aware you are better able to manage it for a happier more joyful life.
7, easy to implement, ways I use to help me to get rid of my feelings of guilt:
1. Forgive yourself– Forgiving yourself enables you to move forward with your life and get back to enjoying life. It is so important to forgive yourself and others and to let guilt go. Appreciate yourself and all that you do. Would you forgive others more easily than you are yourself? You will probably notice how harsh you are on yourself. Let go.
2. Stop judging yourself – When you judge yourself you are being critical and that in turn can lead to feeling guilty. Put the situation into perspective. Whatever it is you are judging yourself on, notice it and let your thoughts of judgement go. Nothing in your past can be changed it can only be learned from. Judging yourself is wasted energy.
3. Notice where you feel the guilt – You are often more likely to feel guilt before your mind registers it. Using mindfulness to be more aware of yourself, how you react, the feelings in your body is a great way to stop it before it gets too damaging. As soon as you become aware of the sensation you can reframe the thoughts which will remove the feelings of guilt.
4. Talking – If you start to feel guilty about something, having a confidant can really help. Not someone who will judge you or want to impose their thoughts on to the situation, but someone who will listen in a non-judgemental way.
5. Writing – When you feel guilty it can quite literally feel like it is consuming you. A way of releasing that feeling is to express it in a journal. Putting your feelings down on paper including your reactions and everything you notice about how you do guilt can be a good releaser and a great way to make changes. In addition, write down what you did well each day and 3 things you are grateful for. Review regularly to remind yourself of your worth.
6. Acknowledge – Guilt can happen for any reason. Acknowledging it is a great leveller. Admitting to yourself and others that you feel guilty helps you get through the feeling quickly, deal with it and move on. You might recognise that you need to make some changes or do things differently and that is great because you can do something about it.
7. Self-Care – It is OK to have you time without the need for guilt. Those around you need to know self-care is important for us all. Be honest with everyone and yourself that you need you time and embrace you time without apology.
IT’S TIME TO LET GUILTY FEELINGS GO – THEY DON’T SERVE YOU!