Guilt is the Thief of Joy

Mental Health, Physical Health, Presence, Self Awareness
03/20/19 - Nicole Wood

I sometimes think of my brain like a cul de sac. There are let’s say 10 houses around it, and each one is a component of my life which is currently demanding my attention.

Refinancing my house has a spot. Taking the dog that won’t stop puking to the vet – that’s got one right now too. Planning that trip with my parents – haven’t done any maintenance to that one in a while, but I know it’s still there. Running ALV – that’s a big, gaudy mansion that you just can’t miss.

There are only so many spots. I can only fit so many things in my brain before it feels like it’s going to explode. Something needs to clear out of a spot before I can let something else in.

My husband doesn’t operate like this. He’s a dabbler. He likes to have a million little apartments sitting on his cul de sac. Each day 3 or 4 will grab his attention, but none are so demanding that they require all of his energy.

Neither system is right nor wrong. It’s simply how different people function and prioritize.

The problem with my cul de sac, however, is that there’s a toxic pollutant in town. Guilt.

It’s a thick smoke that can permeate the walls no matter where I am. When I’m worried about spending too much time in one house over another, the guilt seeps in. Feeling bad about all of the things that don’t even currently have a spot on the street? Guilt again.

I’d argue that when most people, women especially, become parents, the toxicity of the guilt becomes a crisis. Even for the dabblers. No matter where we are, we’re blinded by the smoke, feeling constantly that we’re doing something wrong. Or not doing enough.

An important component of minimizing guilt’s impact is understanding your values and ensuring that the things you allow in your cul de sac, and the corresponding size of each, is a reflection of those values.

But I think a bigger solution is just giving ourselves a gosh darn break. We are doing the best we can. We are running this thing with no manual. We are focusing on the things that are most important to us at that time. Why should we feel bad for that?

Like mine, guilt may always have a presence in your neighborhood. But please, let’s stop letting ourselves be consumed by it.

This week’s challenge

Figure out the top 5 things you want in your cul de sac right now. Take a look at your list of values, and determine which 5 things are the most direct reflection of them.

For everything else, practice saying no. And practice allowing yourself to say no without feeling guilty about it.

We know you want to learn more. Here are some of our favorite additional resources:

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