Reader QUIT: Feeling Guilty (by Lindsey Morningstar)

Blame it on my Catholic upbringing, but I feel guilty most of the time. You know, the sinking feeling you get in your stomach when thinking, I shouldn’t be doing this. I should be doing productive adult things instead, like taxes, reading War and Peace, and watching CNN.

You name it, I feel guilty about it. Guilt for not calling someone back right away, guilt for eating a brownie, guilt for skipping the gym one day, guilt for writing a blog post and not some academic journal article, guilt for not being a good enough friend, guilt for not doing something “productive” every single day of my god damned life because someone else told me that was what I should be doing.

Ugh. I’m exhausted just reading that list.

I knew this needed to be added to Cordelia’s “quit list” when I caught myself apologizing for something I didn’t even do. The other day I walked into the copy room to make some printouts when I noticed the machine was jammed. I started to fiddle with the levers it to see if I could fix it when a coworker walked in.

  • Him: “Hey I’m still using that. I need to make a bunch of copies for my class which I’m already late for.”
  • Me: “Oh I just came in, but I think your stuff is jammed.”
  • Him: “Well it was working fine before. So what the heck happened? Did you take the paper out or something?”
  • Me (face getting redder by the second): “Um no, no I didn’t touch it. I just walked in and it had already stopped. So it must have jammed up before? I mean I dunno…I guess maybe I did touch it? I’m never very good with printers and copiers anyways. Sorry, I didn’t mean to hold you up or anything. Ummm let me see if I open this door it might start working again…”

Ok we’ll stop right there because honestly, what the hell?? I took the blame for some stupid broken copier when I didn’t even touch the thing! Things need to change because if I’m apologizing for copiers then God knows what’s next.

 

Guilty Pleasures? Ummm, not really.

Ever since I was little I’ve wanted to make people happy. I realized at an early age that it was easier for me to take the blame for things than let someone else feel the pain. Problems got smoothed over quicker when I apologized. I gladly became the scapegoat if it meant happy family and friends, which in turn meant happy me.

Trouble is that this sort of thinking doesn’t work for the long run. I can’t fix everyone’s problems because that’s not how life works. If we all had one of those bright red Staples buttons on hand for every difficult moment, therapists would be out of work.     Side note: I actually did become a therapist, which means I’ve made a profession out of trying to make other people happy. And yes, I’ve overanalyzed my distorted way of thinking more times than you would care to know.


 

Verdict? Not guilty.

I’m done with this guilt that weighs heavy on my shoulders. I’m done with listening to the long list of “shoulds” in my head. They take away from my enjoyment of everything going on in the world around me. For instance, worrying about the calories in a cookie takes away the actual joy when eating a warm chocolate sugary dessert. Forcing myself to do work I loathe just because someone told me this is what you need to do in order to get to the top is eating me alive.

Instead, why don’t I do the stuff I love? Like work on projects that feed my inner creative child, go on long beach walks because they make my heart sing, have the bullshit-free conversations I’m yearning to engage in. Basically, get back to those things that are good in this world because there’s no sin in that.

 

——
Lindsey Morningstar is the author of Morningstar Project, which chronicles her journey towards a healthy mind, body, and soul. By day, she’s a psychologist, educational researcher, writer and photographer. She’s also a wife, Betty Crocker wannabe, cardio junkie, and the friend who will laugh at all your bad jokes. Basically she’s a woman who believes you can have your cake and eat it too, and not feel guilty about it. E-mail her at themorningstarproject@gmail.com or follow her on Twitter at @LindseyMstar.

 

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  • Great post, especially considering I’m feeling guilty about not getting my own “Quit” post written yet. Sigh…

    I think guilt is something inherent with people who are compassionate and sensitive to the needs of others, much more so than those who are a bit self-absorbed and oblivious to things that don’t directly involve them. Due to some unfortunate circumstances, I was forced to grow up quickly and took on the roll of “making everything better” for everyone else. Anything done for myself was quickly blanketed in guilt–from food to taking time to just “be.”

    But the thing is, our own needs and loves can get quickly put on the backburner in an effort to “make things better.” We deserve to enjoy anything and everything that makes our heart happy, as when our hearts are happy, we naturally share that positive energy with those around us–no guilt involved 🙂

    Now I’m rambling, but alas, I will not feel guilty! Great post 🙂

  • Can I ever relate to this one.  My personal brand of guilt is of the “I should be doing something more productive” variety.  I have to schedule myself “me time” or else I’ll spend all day trying to be “productive”–and even in my me time, I find myself wondering if I could be using it better!  Maybe I should be writing instead of reading other people’s blogs.  Maybe I should be working on my Novel instead of “just” a blog post.  Maybe I should be relaxing more, or relaxing less, or……

    You are totally right about all the “shoulds” that we carry around with us.  No one can do everything, and everyone deserves to just enjoy life and experience some things that make them happy.  Kudos to you for realizing that, and thanks for the awesome first Reader Quit!

    random p.s.  I found it very hard to write “quit” and “guilt” in the same sentence without getting tripped up.  I wrote “quit quilt” many times while working on the description and SEO tags for this post, and I don’t think that’s quite the sort of quit you were going for.  😛

  • I can definitely relate to Cordelia’s comment; I often feel like I’m not doing enough or that I need efforts that are quantifiable. I spend a lot of my time sitting around and I feel guilty about my lack of “hustle”. I feel like if I really wanted something I should be busting my ass to get it but I’m not an overachiever, and working at 100 miles an hour is very unlike me. 

    I also feel a great deal of guilt for not being like other popular bloggers (a majority of them seem to be Extroverts which I’m definitely not). I feel guilty because if I were like other popular bloggers personality wise, I’d be at that level as well. I feel guilty for being me all the time. Like I need to be someone else to get things done or accomplished. 

    And at times I’ve often felt guilty for things that didn’t involve me, because I felt responsible for everything. 

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  • I feel guilty about EVERYTHING so I can relate to this more than you know.

    The copy machine thing? It’s totally something I would do. I even feel guilty about returning something I never wore, as though the store clerk is going to accuse me of wearing it and returning it, even though that never happened!

    I am nuts. I fully understand that.

    • Your clothing return story reminds me of the phantom guilt I feel whenever I see a police car when I’m driving. He could be parked, behind me, wherever, but the instant I catch sight of him, I immediately get self-conscious, like he’s onto me for some reason, which no doubt makes me *look* guilty and distracted. Or going through inspections at the airport. I automatically feel like I must be hiding something. I definitely get where you’re coming from.

  • I know exactly what you mean! I hate blaming it on Catholicism but I’m pretty sure my upbringing had something to do with how I would feel guilty about everything-even when I was the one who’d been wronged.

    Great post! You’ve inspired me to quit feeling guilty! 🙂

  • Babybluewater

    Wow, this could have been written by me. I totally feel guilty all the time. I hate it. I hope I can change. I think life would be so much freer and fun if I could! 

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