Let’s play a game. It’ll be an experiment. Begin by setting a time limit. Let’s say for example that the time limit is one day. For one day don’t do anything out of a sense of guilt. See what happens. If your life doesn’t fall apart with your unleashed freedom – try extending the experiment to a couple days.
Does even thinking about doing this experiment raise fears of a quick downslide into utter hedonism – a descent that will be so steep you’ll never climb out of it? If so – then consider that guilt may be running your life and it’s time to take back the reins.
Seriously, it’s worth pausing to notice how much of what you do is motivated by guilt. It can be a sobering realization. Guilt is an icky energy. Any acts of service you give from a sense of obligation and guilt are covered with that icky energy. Think about receiving a gift from someone that’s covered in guilt. How does it feel to receive that?
If you don’t like the idea of receiving or giving from guilt, what’s the pathway out of it? The best path out that I’ve found is more self-love. That may seem counter-intuitive, but hear me out.
As I see it, true love for others starts with how you treat yourself. Do you talk lovingly to yourself? Do you laugh at and find humor in your imperfections? Are you lenient and forgiving towards yourself, or do you judge yourself harshly? When you’re tired or burned out, do you listen to that and find ways to take care of yourself? Immediately?
When I can find love for all the parts of me – when I can take my impatient, cranky, defeated, worn out self and imagine sitting her on my lap – hugging her close and showing her compassion – maybe even getting her to giggle a little – that’s when I hit the jackpot. That ability to love all of me causes my heart to open up, not just to myself, but also to all of the people around me. As I embrace my imperfections I am able to more easily embrace the wonderfully imperfect people in my life. But first it starts with listening to me and caring for me. Often that means I need some time alone or time in nature. Or it means I need another way to lovingly attend to my needs – the way a loving mother would attend to me. I’ve found it often doesn’t take that much to care for me and reboot my system. It’s always worth the time and effort.
As soon as I’ve done the job of taking good care of me, I feel able to serve others. Service becomes a natural outpouring of my soul. It comes easily and joyfully. It’s what I WANT to do.
With the ebb and flow of the demands of life, I can still fall into giving from a place of guilt. It’s an easy habit to slide back into. So I’m trying to train myself to notice when I’m feeling resentful, or tempted to give out of a sense of guilt. The minute I notice that, alarms go off in my head. It’s my signal that I’m overdoing and I need to back off and move into self-care. It’s like putting my own oxygen mask on before assisting those around me.
Care to put your own mask on and join me in some deep breathing? Just thinking of you joining me in loving self-care brings joy to my heart!
~ Sue Hardman-Conklin
Questions To Ponder:
- How much of your kind actions are motivated by a sense of guilt?
- Imagine what it would feel like if guilt never factored in to what you do? How much energy would that free up?
- Do you have strategies for being kind to yourself? What are they?
- Do you have a habit of talking kindly to yourself?