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 firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter at @LindseyMstar.
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