Thursday, March 8, 2012


Hey! Been a while. Sorry. This has become a bit of refrain: Every time I think about beginning a post, I feel guilty that I should be doing something else like looking for work, playing with J, or cleaning the house. It's so foolish, I know. One of my mom's sayings I've always remembered is, "Guilt is a wasted emotion. You can almost always do something about it." She's right: I can do something to alleviate it about 90% of the time. Not to mention a decent portion of that guilt is self-imposed by something I feel I haven't done or should do or could have done.... And where does it get me? Nowhere, with a terrible feeling in the pit of my stomach, mentally beating myself up and not helping myself in any way. I have always been far too hard on myself, but I also know I'm a person with excellent intentions and poor follow-through, so the cycle continues.

I think a lot of media taps into that. It's great for marketing:

You shouldn't eat that/you should lose weight! Why aren't you making yourself healthy for those who love you?!?!? Buy our product/join this gym, and it will all change!

If you feed your baby crummy food, he'll develop ADHD! If you don't breastfeed for X months, he'll likely develop allergies! Why do you feed your baby bad food and formula?!?!?

Post "I want breast cancer to end" as your status and then what color underwear you're wearing. Obviously, if you don't do this, you don't care about ending breast cancer. This is the most obvious way to support this cause! Why aren't you doing it?!?!

And so on. So much of guilt simply has to do with our intentions and the way we view it: If, at the end of the day, you can look back and say, "OK, I did most of the things on my to-do list and those I didn't, I'll tackle tomorrow," that's fine. Or my friend M, as a mother, tells herself, "I'm not being the best mom right now and there it is. In 20 minutes/tomorrow, I'll do better," and then doesn't beat herself up about it because she's a human being and therefore, fallible.

Recently I went away to the Hudson Valley for my sister's bachelorette (16 women renting a house: Lots of great meals, fascinating conversation, a bit of debauchery, and lots of love for my sister). Her one friend K is working on helping people 1) become aware of their present surroundings, in terms of not focusing so much on the past or future. As she put it, we too often focus on our unhappiness because of something in the past or something we're striving for in the future that we don't have. Focus on what can be done in the present instead. 2) make intentions realistic. She gave the example of her mentor in this project asking her a goal she wanted to accomplish and K said she wanted to work out four times that week. The mentor replied, "OK, what's the percentage of likelihood for that?" When K thought about it, she realized it was about 75%, if that. The mentor said, "What about three times?" 85%. K then figured it was 100% likely that she'd work out two times, and then she'd reach her goal and likely surpass it. We too often have goals that are too lofty, then we beat ourselves up for not achieving them, and the cycle of negativity continues.

I read another article recently that talked about goals being SMART: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timely. All of this helps narrow down what I want to accomplish and helps alleviate that stupid guilt. No matter how often I use it, it's not a terrific motivator. If I break things down, it's more likely things I will cause things to occur rather than waiting for them to somehow manifest with no help.

So now that I've rambled for a while, I hope some of this makes sense. Any of you ever deal with this? How do you manage to get rid of your own guilt and treat yourselves gently? If you don't do so, please try. And don't beat yourself up if it takes a while.

1 comment:

Rachel said...

I relate with everything you've written here.

Recently watched this TED and really liked it:

It's about happiness and goals and productivity. xo