Ditching the Emotional Baggage: Guilt

I don't know a single caregiver who isn’t drowning in guilt. They forgot to do something. They remembered, but couldn't get to it. They got frustrated and said the wrong thing. They kept a lid on their emotions and didn’t say anything. They’re doing a great job with the caregiving, but have totally neglected their work, their family, their friends (err…and themselves?). They are letting some of the caregiving fall to others—PAID people!! Caring for Mom!—when they should be doing it all themselves.

Really, the sources for guilt are almost endless.

I am here to suggest strongly that you quit beating yourself up. Guilt is, at best, an entirely wasted emotion. It doesn’t help the person or people you are feeling guilty about. And it might, literally, be killing you.

Three Steps To Triage Guilt

1.     Every time you start feeling guilty, ask yourself if, realistically, you could be doing better. If the answer is “no” you are off the hook; nothing to feel guilty about. If the answer is “yes,” proceed to step 2.

2.     Why aren’t you doing more/better/differently? If it is because you have done some internal prioritization and the cost of perfection—in time, in money, in other sacrifice—is too high, you are off the hook; nothing to feel guilty about. If the answer is that you are a self-centered lazy slob, proceed to step 3. Please note that very few people are actually in this second category.

3.     Change whatever you are feeling guilty about.

In the end, you need to realize that in fact, you cannot be all things to all people. And that’s OK. You can let some things go; they’ll be there waiting. You can lower your standards to something achievable. You can ask for—and accept—help

You can simply realize that doing your best is enough.

This is part two in our series: Ditching the Emotional Baggage. Please also visit: Anger, Loneliness, Fear, Resentment, Defensiveness, and Grief.