ISSUE 69 ISSN 1712-468

If we are lucky, we can give in and rest
without feeling guilty. We can stop doing
and concentrate on being

Kathleen Norris
O Magazine, 2003

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This Week´s Inspiration

Creating a Guilt-Free Zone

Guilt: a feeling of responsibility for wrongdoing

Have you ever felt guilty when there really was no reason to feel that way?

How much of our lives is directed and driven by guilt, rather than by fulfilling choices? I suggest that much of the guilt that you and I experience is self-imposed. 

Here’s a personal example. Over the past five weeks, my unusually busy schedule had me either away or working every weekend. At the end of the five weeks, the following week I was not motivated to work full-out. Even though I had worked four out of five weekends, I was feeling guilty about talking some time for myself that week.

Then I said to myself, Hey, wait a minute. Where’s this coming from? Because my feelings of guilt were self-imposed, I needed to dig deeper for the possible reasons. 

Before I tell you more about that, what about you and your guilt? Guilt-driven choices/behaviors are all around us. Where in your life do you let feelings of guilt drive your behavior?

  • Do you stay late at work because of guilt?
  • Do you feel guilty because you slept in, due to overwork?
  • Did you give up some of your discretionary time because someone made you feel guilty?
  • Did you feel pangs of guilt after you ate that yummy dessert?
  • Did you miss an event or concert?
  • Did you forget to call a friend?

And on it goes. 

What did I miss? What causes you to feel guilt?

Shouldn’t our choices reflect what we want to do, rather than what we feel obligated to do? 

This is not about becoming completely self-absorbed and self-centered; it’s about the step-by-step weaning off guilt-driven behavior and feelings. In some cases, it can be good to have a bit of guilt to get us back on track, so we will pay attention to the important things in our life. 

Does feeling guilty increase your effectiveness? It really doesn’t. Have you known someone who is always feeling guilty about something? Did you like hanging out with that person? Was it inspiring and motivating? If you are feeling guilt much of the time, people won’t find that an attractive trait in you, either.

Let’s return to my example. Guilt by definition means that we acted, thought, or conducted ourselves in a way that was unacceptable. But the catch this: Who decides what is right or wrong? Much of the time, it’s us. 

Why did I feel guilty about taking time off mid-week? No one else was involved in the creation of this guilt. It was self-imposed. In my background growing up on a dairy farm, time off was for other people. My parents’ claim to fame was that they worked 14 years straight without a single day off. That’s right—14 years! 

I have recently been learning how to relax more on weekends, but I still have not given myself permission to take time off mid-week. Everyone knows that’s wrong. Right!?

Over the next few days and weeks, pay attention to your own feelings and levels of guilt. Start establishing where you have guilt responses and reactions. Then give yourself permission to release your guilt feelings and choices. The goal is to feel confidence, peace, and acceptance—not guilt.

For a moment I want to touch on two serious offenses of the guilt experience.

All of us at one time or another have felt that someone else was trying to manipulate us into feeling guilty about something that we did or did not do. Why? We failed to meet his or her expectations. To justify his or her own guilt or insecurities, the person attempted to make us feel guilty about our actions. 

  1. The fact is that we only feel guilt if we let their shoulds into our heads. When someone is transferring negative energy to you, you must resist and be authentic in your choices. 
  2. You are not energized by guilt. It drains us of the motivation and inspiration we can add to our lives and others. Feelings of guilt can develop when a person has a lot of shoulds in life. We are so busy worrying about what we didn’t do or should have done, we miss the blessing of the moment. 

    If possible, limit your time with guilt-producing individuals or rid yourself of their acquaintance completely. 

    Set boundaries and communicate them to others. If they will not honor your requests, look for other options to reduce the influence those people have in your life. Note: That’s not the same as not being accountable.

I want to challenge everyone reading this ezine to look at the other side of this coin. Are you sometimes responsible for creating guilt in others? To get our way (myself included), we may try to make others feel guilt. We become the manipulators. 

In guilt creation, we make sure the other person knows that, in our opinion, he or she has created an offence and should feel bad about it. 

What would others say about you in this regard? Do you attempt to increase or decrease guilt feelings in others? 

Be aware of your reactions and feelings with regard to feeling guilty and also trying to stir guilt in others. I encourage us all to let go of both agendas and enjoy the moment.

The following CRG resources can help you on your journey to accepting yourself and others with less personal guilt and more acknowledgement of the diversity of others; the Self Worth Inventory, Values Preference Indicator, and the Personal Style Indicator. They will assist you to accept and understand yourself and others—and improve your relationships. Individuals with grounded self-perceptions generally have fewer feelings of guilt. 

Let’s all work together to create a guilt-free zone.

Guilt is anger directed at ourselves—at what we did or did not do.

Peter McWilliams
Life 101

This Week´s Action Steps

Creating a Guilt-Free Zone

  1. Do you have feelings of guilt in your life?
  2. List all the situations where you feel guilt.
  3. Look at your list to determine where these guilt feelings are coming from. Why do you think you have them?
  4. Think about your guilt feelings and ask yourself how having them helps you. You’ll find that in the majority of situations, it does not.
  5. Imagine a guilt-free zone for yourself. Think of a personal example where you have replaced guilt with confidence, peace, and acceptance. How does that feel? Better, right?!
  6. To assist you in creating a guilt-free zone, complete the Self Worth Inventory, Values Preference Indicator, and the Personal Style Indicator.
  7. Do some individuals in your life attempt to place guilt on you? If so, think of ways to limit or eliminate your time with them.
  8. Set personal boundaries so others know you will not accept their trying to make you feel guilty. Remember this is different than your being accountable or taking care of your responsibilities.
  9. Be aware of your behavior—if and when you are trying to manipulate others into feeling guilt. Simply make a choice to stop that destructive behavior.
  10. In the end, feelings of guilt are self-imposed. Make the choice to create a guilt-free zone for yourself and others around you. And pay attention to the peace and new energy that that brings to you and others.

Until next time, keep Living On Purpose!.

Ken Keis

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