Learning how to stop feeling guilty about everything is hard.
I apologize for everything. I attribute my apologetic-ness to the fact that I’m Canadian, and Canadians say sorry for everything – for example, the other day I said sorry when someone bumped into me in the mall even though it was their fault.
Here’s the thing though: I may apologize, but I don’t feel guilty. I learned how to stop feeling guilty. There’s a key difference.
Feeling guilty is defined as being culpable for a specific wrongdoing, and is associated with feelings of guilt.
Guilt is a cognitive experience when someone believes that he/she has compromised his/her standards or a universal standard of morality and is comparable to feeling ashamed or regretful.
Totally normal when it’s spelled out like that, right? I’m sure you’ve felt guilty before.
But do you find yourself feeling bad when you cancel plans? Or when you decide to study for that final rather than go out and party with your friends? Or when you take overtime at work to make extra cash when you know your peers are going to be pissed off that you can’t be the DD? Or when you just want to stay home, watch Netflix and do a peel mask rather than hit the same old bar every Saturday night?
I remember one scenario very clearly: a friend of mine was having a birthday dinner. I had a midterm and thought I did really well on it (I had only studied for a couple hours). My grade came back the day we were planning her party.
I failed. Hard.
I need to a 141% on the next midterm to make up that crappy mark. It was obvious I needed to put in work for the next test, which was in a couple days. I knew a couple hours of studying was not going to cut it.
I then came to the obvious conclusion that I definitely could not go to the birthday dinner. The birthday girl was not entirely close to me – she was a friend of a friend in my #girlsquad at the time. So I didn’t feel guilty that I was going to miss her party. A quick happy birthday text/call and a small gift card would suffice.
The problem was within my group itself. Let me break it down – I was in a very difficult, demanding program at university. I had two jobs at the time. And I had responsibilities at home. So that didn’t leave much in the way for a glamorous social life. At most, I was able to spare an evening every other week if I didn’t have anything pressing to do. On a daily basis, I socialized with my classmates (who, again, were in the same demanding program as me) or during my after school commute home with other friends from my neighborhood.
My close girlfriends were 1) not in a program as intensive as mine, and 2) were working very flexible jobs.
In other words, they had a lot more free time than I did.
Basically, I couldn’t make the dinner, and informed all parties. That led to total shunning from the squad for a few days. In the group chat, my messages remained unanswered. In individual texts, I was hit with the dramatic “K”. I was shut out.
I wish I could say that it was then that I decided to forget about those people and found more positive, understanding friends to associate with.
I wish I could tell you that I cut my losses and realized that if something as small as cancelling plans was a deal-breaker with my so-called best friends, I deserved more.
I wish I could say that I said “EFF THOSE B*TCHES” and never looked back.
But it didn’t happens that way.
Eventually, they reached out to hang, and I compromised and made the time because I thought I had did something wrong. I felt guilty. I had to stop feeling guilty to put myself first.
Guess what – I did the opposite. I put myself second because of my guilt.
As a result, I bombed a couple more tests and assignments, pulled insane all-nighters to keep up, and ultimately made myself sick trying to balance an intensive course load and social life.
What I wish I knew when I was teenager/early twenty – something was this:
IT IS OKAY TO BE SELFISH.
IT IS OKAY TO BE SELFISH.
IT IS OKAY TO BE SELFISH.
I said that three times to emphasize how important your selfishness is. What would you have done in my situation? You would have decided to stay in and study, and if someone had an issue with it, to hell with them, right?
That’s being selfish. That’s standing up for yourself. Knowing when to stop feeling guilty and start putting yourself first is mandatory.
And that, my friends, is the most significant thing you can do for yourself and your growth.
Think of it like this: who else is going to have your best interests at heart? Who else can best ensure that on a daily basis, your needs are being met? Who else is going to protect your space and make sure that anyone encroaching on your space is sent packing with the utmost quickness?
You need to draw boundaries around the things that are yours and only yours – your time, your money, your energy, and your life. Here are seven things that you should never feel guilty for, and how to stop feeling guilty:
- Asking Questions
Why is it that we’re so afraid to ask questions? We’re afraid to get the answers we need because we’re afraid people will think we’re incompetent.
To that I say: EFF THAT, ASK ANYWAY. You have every right to get all the information you need to continue your learning, whether at work or at school. Don’t stop yourself from letting yourself get the answers you need to be informed. Stop feeling guilty for asking questions!
- “Me” Time and Setting Boundaries
This is extremely important. Everyone needs time to unplug, recharge and care for yourself.
Do you find that writing helps you unwind and de-clutter your mind? Start writing.
Do you like giving yourself exquisite bubble baths while listening to an awesome podcast? That’s what you should do!
Give yourself some time to do the things that make you feel happy.
Once you find that space for yourself, protect it at all costs. Do not let anything disturb it. Your friends want to hang out? Tell them you’re busy. Plan ahead and schedule your “me time” in advance. Clear your plate of all responsibilities.
For me, Sundays are my days for myself and my mental. I grocery shop on Saturday mornings and do my chores on Saturday evening to ensure I can spend the day loving on myself.
On Sundays, I wash and deep condition my hair, use my favorite scented candles, open up my blinds and write with the sun.
I make every effort not to have any major plans on Sunday (unless I want to run to the store to buy junk food) and I keep my phone on silent. I speak to those who make me happy and let myself truly unwind.
- Saying No
SAYING NO IS A BLESSING, Y’ALL. I love the word no. I truly believe that the word no is one of the most powerful words in the English language.
You will be in situations where something or someone will try to disturb your “me time”. A friend may want to go hit the club just while you are getting your bath ready. If you want to say no, SAY NO. The world will not stop when you do.
But by saying yes, you are sacrificing your recharge time to please someone else, when the only person you should be trying to please is yourself. Saying no sets importance on the things you want to protect and sets a defined precedent of how much your value your space going forward. The key to how to stop feeling guilty: say no when you want to.
- Saying How You Feel
Sometimes our feelings are hard to categorize. We know the feelings are there, but what do they mean? That is where “me time” is most useful – you will have time to yourself to decode and organize your thoughts and feelings.
Once you figure it out though, you must be able to voice it. Which, again, is not always easy, but is imperative to your own mental wellbeing. Bottled up emotions is not good for your health in the long term. You are ALWAYS allowed to express how you feel, and those who truly love you will a) listen to how you feel with open ears, and b) actually encourage you to speak your mind. Those who do not care for you only want you to say what they want to hear.
- Standing Up For Yourself
You are your biggest advocate. You cannot give yourself the space to grow if you do not fight for it. There will be many instances in life where someone will try to bully you, or encroach on your space, make you feel uncomfortable or even flat out disrespect you. People like that will only have power in your life if you let them.
Love yourself enough to demand respect for yourself because you deserve it. Never feel guilty for standing up for yourself when someone is trying to walk all over you. This will prevent anyone else from trying it again. That is is the only way to learn how to stop feeling guilty about putting yourself first.
- Cutting Off Toxic People
Toxic people are everywhere. Most of us have at least one toxic person in our lives and we may not even be aware of their presence.
People who are poison for us come in many forms: the jealous friend who always tries to compete with you, the family member who constantly puts you down, the co-worker or classmate who only wants to gossip about other people.
The only way to truly tell if someone is toxic for you is how you feel when you are around them. Do you feel drained or tired after spending time with them? Or do you find yourself ignoring their call? Are you dreading the next time you see them?
Recognize the people in your space who only seem to bring you down and give yourself the right to shake ‘em off.
- Being You
Nothing is more important than being true to yourself. People will find something to say about you, even if you are doing nothing wrong and everything right. There will always be people you will come across in your life that will try to hurt you and diminish your light. The only thing you can do is protect yourself and your heart. Your strongest power stems from the fact that nobody is you.
Did you learn how to stop feeling guilty?