Growing up, I don’t recall ever having a security blanket like many other children have. Although I didn’t actually have a blanket, I did have a different type of security item that was always with me.
I had this little, old, ratty looking Pooh Bear stuffed animal that I had for years and years. That thing was sewn back together countless times and pretty much looked it had been through a war zone. But he was always with me and made me feel safe.
As adults, in particular survivors of abuse, we carry another faithful companion with us. A feeling that is as familiar and comfortable as that stuffed animal from so long ago.
The feeling of guilt comforts us in a different way though; not in a good or safe way but rather in an invalidating way. Even though it’s familiar and always there tugging at us, there’s very little that it can do for us in a positive manner.
Guilt is an anchor that weighs us down, keeps us stuck, and wants nothing more than for us to not feel like we are worth feeling good. It loves the fact that we beat ourselves up because of what happened in the past.
Guilt is in its glory when we blame ourselves for how differently our lives turned out from the grandiose dreams that we had as a child.
Guilt knows no bounds; even if you are not an abuse survivor, it’s more than happy to work overtime to keep you feeling like you aren’t worth being loved. That you aren’t worthy of forgiveness, or success, or anything positive that you want to fill in.
We spend so much time second guessing ourselves and feeling unworthy because of the past we endured. Because of what we did or didn’t do in a relationship. Because we should have been a better this or a better that.
It’s total invalidation of who we are and what we are capable of and deserving of.
Guilt is boundless and relentless. Because it’s always there nagging at us to come back to its reality; it can be all too easy to embrace. As soon as something starts to go well for us, guilt will be like “yeah but, don’t forget how you screwed up before”.
Talk about shaming yourself!
It’s very difficult to have any type of self-confidence if all we are doing is thinking about how unworthy we are for anything good in life.
I’m not talking about material things like houses, cars, the ability to travel, etc., but rather us being worthy of feeling peace and contentment about who we are and where our life is.
We only have 24 hours in a day, and with that only so much emotional energy that we can spend in those 24 hours.
If you factor in time that you sleep and work, that leaves even less time for us to use our emotional energy for something positive rather than embracing and hanging onto to guilt.
It’s mentally draining and debilitating to continually shoot ourselves in the foot by running back to guilt every time it comes calling.
It takes a conscious effort:
- To work through our past, and realize it wasn’t our fault.
- To not feel like just because our marriage(s) ended in divorce that we are doomed to never find love.
- Just because we lost our job that we’ll never be successful in our professional lives again.
- If a child rebels and lives their life in a way that is harmful to them or others; that we find a way to release that and know that we can’t be held accountable for someone else’s decisions.
I encourage you to insert your own examples in that above list and start taking the time to remember that your past does not define you. You are not doomed to repeat mistakes that you made before, or that your family has made.
Use your emotional energy to focus on forgiveness for yourself, to letting go of the baggage you are carrying, to love yourself.
Let’s face it, maybe you’ve spent a good portion of your life so far feeling guilty for anything and everything that’s gone wrong…where has that gotten you? Are you truly happy or content with who you are and where you are going?
If the answer is No, then it’s up to you to change it. Nobody can change it for you. Nobody can make you feel better about yourself, or make you feel like you deserve peace and contentment in life.
That can only come from you. And a big step towards that empowered feeling is making sure that guilt takes a back seat in your life for a change, instead of the driver’s seat.
Photo: Getty Images