Tag Archives: guilt

Ask Mabel: ‘I feel guilty for leaving home’

Letter from concerned client: I decided to leave my hometown and move to accomplish my career goals, and now I really miss my family. My parents are getting old and they don’t understand why I decided to leave and not stay with them. My mom has always told me to ‘live simple’ and despite not agreeing with my decision to move she still supports me. It makes me feel even more guilty, like I am letting them down.

Mabel: I understand your desire to make your parents proud. You said your mom wanted you to ‘live simple’ but still supports you in your goal, however hard it may be to attain that goal. It is a little like how I wanted my kids to enjoy playing music but instead, their interests are art and tennis. Even though art and tennis are not my desires, at the end of the day seeing my children enjoying and working towards their own goals makes me profoundly happy. For them, learning to master these things frustrates them a lot of the time but that is part of life and reaching a goal. You decided to move because it is important to you in the reaching of your goals, and it isn’t always easy. The process of living in a new place and working can be very frustrating. Your mother has a desire for you to live a simple and happy life because that is what she knows of happiness. Most of us mothers have our own desires, however, supporting our children in their own dream is a lesson in parenting. A lesson that it’s not about us but about the child. It is about learning how to love someone, and how to see the world beyond us. It is an important lesson for all us parents. My dream is for my children to soar in whatever they choose to do, even if I have little understanding of it. If guilt is something that weighs them down, like most mothers, I would love to take that weight off their shoulders so they can fly more freely. I am not sure if this is how your mother feels, but my hypothesis is that most mothers share these similar sentiments.  

Guilt is Grandiose

Guilt is defined, from a psychological perspective, as “a feeling of responsibility or remorse for some offense, crime, wrong, etc., whether real or imagined.” The key part of that definition for me is the fact that guilt stems from this deep-seeded belief, or desire, that we are much more powerful in a moment than we actually are. Often times it is the belief that we could’ve done something to prevent the situation, even though in reality we couldn’t. It is grandiose.

The assumption that you were actually in control

Grandiose is the thought process that you are the “big fish,” you are “better than others.” When you feel guilty for something it is you assuming that you could have done better, that you are a better person than your old self. It is the assumption that you were actually in control in the moment. When the reality is you made a decision in the moment with what you had at the time. You decided to make the choice that you did with the information you had on-hand at the time. 

We are humans, we are not going to make perfect decisions all the time. Guilt is the assumption that you could have made the perfect choice.

We are only human. We act on our desires, our emotions, and while not always the best choice or the socially-acceptable choice, our decisions are part of us. No one can perfectly predict, or see every side of every situation in a moment. To think that we are capable of ignoring our human desires or predicting the future is a grandiose thought. 

Why do you think we feel guilty?

Research sources for this post:

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/shame/201305/the-difference-between-guilt-and-shame

What is Grandiosity?

Guilt & Shame: Whose Life is it Anyway?

Guilt, we all know that deep-down gut feeling and some of us know it all too well. We feel it all the time. About everything. But why? What real reason do we have to condemn ourselves to such feelings all the time? It is draining and it makes our life events less enjoyable. 

Clients come to me all the time telling me they feel guilty for taking a break, for actually using the vacation time given to them, and for choosing to stay at home when feeling sick or drained. I always ask them, what does that guilty voice say? Whose voice is it? And, whose life are you living? Is this your life, or the voice of life’s past?

Why do we feel guilty all the time?

1.)We want people to like us. We are people-pleasers.

2.)We are focusing on the “shoulds”— the stuff we tell ourselves we should be doing. We should be cleaning the house. We should be folding the laundry. We are comparing ourselves to what we think other people are doing with their time, instead of caring for ourselves.

3.)Perfectionism—we have a fear of letting people down, of not allowing ourselves to make mistakes.

4.)Childhood conditioning—we were taught as children to always put people first and to feel responsible for other people’s happiness. Sometimes we feel like we are failing to live up to the expectations of others.

5.)Manipulation—we are susceptible to having our buttons pushed by other people. You are exhausted and desperately need a break, yet when your boss calls you to come in two hours early to work on a project you do it. 

Next time you feel guilty over caring for yourself, take a breath and think about that voice in your head. What do you really think of what it is saying? What would you say to someone else in your situation? This will help you to live by your own standards, rather than someone else’s.

You must take care of yourself before you can fully take care of you. If you find it difficult to care for yourself without feelings of guilt, then it may be time to seek out a licensed professional counselor to help. After all we are here in this world to live it, to enjoy it, and to enjoy those around us. If we are constantly consumed by feelings of guilt or shame for doing things that make us happy, then we can’t fully live.