It’s easy to let guilt take over, especially when you live a high performing or demanding life. You may have a partner to pay attention to, kids to raise, pets to look after, and a career you’re working hard to rise to the top of. None of these things lend well to taking time to rest, so when you do take that time guilt can make you feel like you should be “on” instead of resting on your laurels. When you prop up your feet at the end of a long day and guilt starts to creep its way into your mind, consider the list below before you let it ruin your evening.
Do You Self Indulge? Why?
There’s no harm in taking a day off to hit up a theme park or in going by your favorite bakery for a chocolate cupcake, but it’s important to measure the eventual costs of your behaviors as well as their root causes. If you’ve simply had a bad day and need to take a long soak in the tub that’s one thing, but if your life is so miserable that you constantly need to pamper yourself as a reward for getting through it (especially if you feel guilty for doing it afterwards) you may want to take a moment and consider what’s causing your misery. Instead of treating the symptom with a cupcake, cure the disease that’s making you sick.
Teach Yourself the Difference Between Good and Bad Guilt
You don’t want to get rid of guilt entirely – guilt is what gives us empathy and guides us away from poor choices. But teaching yourself the difference between good and bad guilt can help you cope better when the bad guilt crops up. Instead of caving into your guilt you’ll have the tools to talk yourself down and convince yourself that what you’re actually feeling is shame, a very different feeling that’s often and erroneously used as a synonym. Shame makes you feel bad for who you are as a person and guilt makes you feel bad about something you’ve done or will do. When you’re feeling guilty for not being “on” enough in your day to day life, take a moment and analyze whether you’re feeling genuine guilt or if you simply feel that not doing work constantly is shameful.
Learn to Be Imperfect
Sometimes we make mistakes in our daily lives, and even minor errors can plague us as soon as we take time off. Anything from a fight with your spouse to a forgotten email in your inbox at work can weigh on you as you take time to think about your day. Quite simply, perfection doesn’t exist and you shouldn’t hold yourself to impossible standards. You’re an intelligent, competent, busy person who has a lot to juggle – you shouldn’t expect yourself to complete all your daily tasks flawlessly all the time. High performing individuals hold themselves to high standards and while that can help you achieve many things, it’s important to relax and remind yourself that you’re only human.
So take that nice long bath, sleep in, ask your boss for vacation time, and learn to embrace your imperfections. Letting go of guilt takes a weight off of your shoulders that can improve your stress levels in ways that chocolate cupcake never could, and learning that you don’t deserve to feel ashamed of who you are will make you a better, stronger person.