Even the word seems cutting, never mind the lacerations the actual feeling leaves on our minds and souls.
Women especially, seem to carry an overloaded batch of guilt, like a big boulder in our handbags, lugging it around everywhere, wondering why our shoulders ache at the end of the day.
We’re guilty about all kinds of things – eating too much chocolate (how can this even be a thing?), not being funny/lighthearted/good/busy/competent enough, not spending enough time on people, even though we spend ALL our time on people.
No matter what issues I’m coaching on, guilt inevitably shows up in some form or other.
But often the feelings of guilt are rarely due to the actual meaning of guilt.
To feel guilty is to feel bad and sorry for some thing you’ve done. I call this Heathy Guilt.
Instead I see women beating themselves up with fake guilt which is really when they feel bad about someone’s situation, and then feel responsible for fixing it. I call this Damaging Guilt.
Healthy Guilt can be managed – usually by apologising, or making up for, the guilty action or words.
Damaging Guilt on the other hand, can’t be managed because it’s like trying to surf a tsunami on an envelope.
I know this well. Since my mum died, I’ve felt ‘guilty’ about my dad. He’s a competent, active, sociable man who fills his days with volunteering, learning, socialising and hanging out in numerous clubs, doing various activities.
But I also know he is lonely. And despite the fact that I see him often, I still feel ‘guilty’ …but it’s not that I regret something I’ve done (healthy guilt), but instead feel sad for him, and take on the responsibility of ‘fixing’ him (damaging guilt).
Yet nothing I do will change his circumstances.
It’s not my job to ‘fix’ him; it’s my job to love and support him.
As conditioned nurturers, facilitators and carers, women are so prone to believing it is their responsibility to make everyone else happy. Often at the expense of themselves.
Newsflash: It’s not!
The people around us will benefit when we’re happy – and being overwhelmed by Damaging Guilt does not make us happy. It makes us stressed, overwhelmed, feel like a failure, eat lots of chocolate and drink lots of Gin (or maybe that last one is just me?)
So, as we all rush around this Christmas, making sure everything is done, and everyone is catered for, let’s keep a check on the double servings of Damaging Guilt as well as the brandy cream. They serve absolutely no-one, especially us.
So here’s to a happy, guilt-free, ass-kicking Christmas, full of fun, freedom to enjoy, and festive frivolity, because your job is to make no-one happy, but yourself.