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1 year ago · · 0 comments

How To Stop Feeling Guilty In Your Relationships

Stop Feeling Guilty – The 5 Steps Everyone Should Know

stop feeling guiltyGuilt is a funny emotion. It should only be used as a barometer to gauge when you have done something to hurt another and the behaviour needs to be rectified or apologised for. A good example of this, is when you break a promise to a loved one and you have deliberately hurt that person’s feelings. The ‘guilt’ emotion was designed to provide you with empathy. This way you can evaluate your behaviours and maintain healthy relationships. However, guilt is often misused as a self-punishment mechanism or to manipulate others into doing things. Guilt becomes very debilitating – hence why there is a STRONG desire to stop feeling guilty wherever possible.

Thus, guilt is often misused in modern life. People feel guilty for EVERYTHING. Just today I was in a meeting and a colleague was saying she felt so guilty for being sick and forgetting to water her plants. Does this really warrant strong feelings of guilt? It’s a nice quality to want to ensure the livelihood of a plant. Though punishing herself and feeling like a bad person as a result of being too unwell to think to ask someone to water a plant for her, seems excessive to me. The guilt is NOT serving any purpose here, other than to make her feel bad about herself.

When you deliberately or unintentionally hurt someone, guilt should serve to provide you with remorse and to find ways to question why you engaged in this hurtful behaviour. It also serves as a way of evaluating what you can do to appease the situation and move forward. It should not be used as a way to manipulate or self punish.

Guilt is also often misused in relationships

Within a relationship, you may find yourself wracked with guilt over the most minor things. Often in private practice we see people desperately trying to find ways to stop feeling guilty, because it’s ruining their relationships.

Guilt is worthwhile if it serves to enhance, soothe or improve your relationships. However, guilt often eats at your self esteem and consequently results in unhelpful or destructive behaviours. This is particularly the case when others are placing unreasonable demands on you – playing on your propensity to feel guilty. Imagine, a partner who makes a wife feel guilty every time she puts her needs first, or when she wants to say “no” to yet ANOTHER request. The wife learns to give in just to keep the peace and stop feeling guilty, for fear she may upset her partner. In this example, usually, guilt is used as a manipulation tool in order to get what the partner wants.

So, how do you stop feeling guilty in your relationships?

Step 1: How to stop feeling guilty – Evaluate if the request in unreasonable

stop feeling guiltyFirst of all, you need to evaluate if the request is unreasonable. We see from an early age children saying to each other “if you don’t do what I ask of you, I won’t be your friend any more”.

Already guilt is being laid on very thick from an early age! Children learn incorrectly, that saying “no”, or making someone unhappy leads to being un-liked or unloved. This very poor lesson stays with most people throughout life.

 

So, it’s much healthier to unlearn this childhood lesson by first asking yourself:

a) am I saying “no” because I really don’t want to do this?

b) am I saying “no” because this request clashes with another commitment?

c) am I saying “no” because I am not in the mood right now?

e) is the request fair?

Answering these questions will give you a glimpse into why you are saying “yes” in the first place.

Step 2: How to stop feeling guilty – Assess your intentions

In order to stop feeling guilty it’s important to look at your intentions. Using the example above, my colleague’s intention was not to starve her plant. Her intention at the time was to improve her health. So guilt was not appropriate. It would have been more appropriate to feel disappointment and to accept that in her ‘sick’ state she could not possibly have expected herself to remember everything.

Her intention in that moment was NOT to hurt the plant. Her intention was to get better. Therefore, she can rationalise that she did not starve her plant deliberately and next time she will remind herself to simply ask others for help.

stop feeling guilty

Step 3: How to stop feeling guilty – Question the outcome

Ask yourself whether or not you have done something to hurt someone else. This is very different from asking yourself whether someone will be MAD at you for not adhering to their requests. It is important to be supportive in relationships. So there will be times when you don’t really feel like doing something, but you do it anyway, because you know it will help someone you love. Being there to support someone in need produces feel-good hormones and this further enhances your relationship. However, there needs to be reciprocal support within a relationship.

If your loved ones begin to take advantage of your kind personality and expect you to do more and more, you may begin to feel guilty every time you feel like saying “no”. This is a good example of when it is appropriate for you to think about whether or not saying “no” has hurt the other person, is has just caused a tantrum. Look at the request at hand.

Examples requests where you are likely to hurt a loved one if you say “no” or do not try to appease the situation/ find an alternative solution:

a) picking up a loved one from hospital or the airport after a long trip

b) making little attempts to be present for milestone moments (eg graduations, awards, plays, tournaments, parties)

c) not helping a loved one in times of real need

stop feeling guiltyExamples of where you are likely to be bullied into saying “yes”

a) you are about to go out for dinner with close friends and your son calls to ask you to cancel everything because he doesn’t feel like being alone right now

b) your child begins to cry because she wants to eat ice cream for the 3rd time this week

c) your boss asks you to stay back at work again, knowing you have an important event to attend with your family that evening

 

It is really important to be able to look at what is going on behind requests and to really question whether you are going to hurt someone else for saying “no”, or whether you are going to appease a bit of bullying or neediness.

Step 4: How to stop feeling guilty – Stand up for your rights

Ask yourself, do I have a right to say “no” here? This is probably the most important question to ask yourself in order to reduce guilt. As I mentioned above, there will always be compromise in relationships, however, you have a right to say “no” to something when a request:

  • does not feel right
  • clashes with your values
  • causes you or someone else to be hurt
  • is not feasible with your current time constraints
  • is unreasonable

stop feeling guiltyStep 5: How to stop feeling guilty – Appeasing the hurt

You are human. There are going to be times when you snap, or misjudge things. There will be times when you have to make difficult decisions that will hurt another person. In these circumstances it is very important for the health of your relationship, to look at ways to appease the hurt. For instance, let’s say you have been asked to be a bridesmaid by your husband’s best friend’s fiancé. However, your husband has been excluded from the bridal party and is very upset about this.

In this scenario, you have two choices to make. First – say “yes” and hurt your husband further. Second – say “no” and disappoint your fiancé who is also a good friend. This is a very difficult situation. Either way someone gets hurt. Whichever selection you decide on, it’s important to explain your choice and do what you can to appease the hurt. Be gentle and kind and accept that you will not be able to please everyone.

Another example of hurt feelings could be yelling at your child when you’re tired. Instead of feeling guilty and punishing yourself about this. Learn from it, explain to your child the way you displayed your anger was not appropriate and say sorry for yelling. You can still say you had a right to be upset if that is appropriate, but appease the hurt that would come from you overreacting. This way your child learns his actions were not the best BUT he is NOT a bad person. By doing this, you separate the individual from the behaviour too.

So just to recap

The 5 Steps To Stop Feeling Guilty:

  1. Evaluate if the request in unreasonable

  2. Assess your intentions

  3. Question the outcome

  4. Stand up for your rights

  5. Appease the hurt

By taking note of these four steps you will stop feeling guilty very quickly. You will also ensure that you protect your self esteem which is vital for the overall health and success of your relationships long term.

Lizzie O’Halloran, Author of Perfect Mum & Refresh Your Life books

 

2 years ago · · 0 comments

How To Stop Feeling Guilty – Coping With Mother Guilt

How To Stop Feeling Guilty – Working Mother Guilt

As a working mother, one of the most challenging emotions to deal with is guilt. This negative feeling permeates through most of working mother’s lives, leaving mums feeling exhausted, anxious and with loads of self-doubt. However, no-one teaches mothers about how to stop feeling guilty. If guilt is not dealt with early in motherhood, it only gets worse and can significantly impact both personal and professional relationships.

Why is guilt such a big part of motherhood

How To Stop Feeling GuiltyOne of the biggest changes that occurs when you become a mother is this immediate sense of protection and responsibility for your child and his/her development. This instinct is seen in all cultures across the globe. Along with this instinct in human beings, comes judgement as mothers take responsibility for every aspect of their child’s life – from friendships, to academic performance and physical and mental wellbeing.

The problem with this sense of responsibility is that there is no perfect outcome, or a manual to guide mothers towards the perfect way to parent in order the assist her child to achieve the best outcomes.

There is no ONE-SIZE-FITS-ALL. So mothers are left to judge themselves based on the opinions of others in their lives, social expectations, media portrayals of the perfect parent and on the ever changing landscape of research. The latter is often contradictory and very confusing and thus leaves many mothers stressed about whether or not their chosen parenting method is the ‘right’ one for their child. These feelings lead to constant guilt over whether or not they are doing the ‘right’ thing for their child. Further, mums are often too embarrassed to even begin to ask how to learn to stop feeling guilty in motherhood, for fear of admitting they are not perfect.

Is it possible to learn how to stop feeling guilty when there are so many conflicting guides on parenting?

Research into parenting is often at polar opposites. For instance, one researcher will find that babies should not be left alone for one moment. They should be carried all the time and co-sleep safely with parents. Another, equally respected researcher will find that babies are best placed in a routine, should be sleeping safely in a cot and this cot should be in a separate room. These researchers and popular opinion lead parents to have particular views on best parenting.

These views often result in criticism of other parents for not adhering to perceived best parenting styles. For instance, stay at home mothers may assume working mothers are not providing the best care for their child, whereas working mothers may believe they are providing the best example for their child. So you can see why it’s so easy for mothers to feel stressed, depressed and full of guilt and self doubt. However, the reason for these feelings is that parents are focussed on the wrong aspect of parenting – the method, rather than the outcome.

Low self-esteem: the culprit and the savour

Research shows that women in general have low self-esteem (low levels of confidence, self worth and self belief). In motherhood, this level of self-esteem is tested even further. Mothers often find it very difficult to trust they are doing the right thing for their child. There is often self-doubt and worry over their chosen parenting styles. There is also a huge amount of self-criticism when things do not go according to plan or expectation (e.g. a child acting out in public, or achieving poor grades).

However, those mothers that have invested in themselves to boost self-esteem and self-confidence find parenting much easier. They research the best parenting methods to suit their lives and their child’s best interests. Mothers with high confidence can block-out the opinions of ‘well-wishers’ and criticisers trying to tell them their way is the best parenting method. These mothers know that one of the biggest mistakes the population in general makes is assuming there is a ONE-SIZE-FITS-ALL approach to parenting.

Mothers with a higher self esteem know that children differ significantly due to their temperament, personality type, family customs and cultural and religious norms. Most importantly they know that the best way to measure a parenting style success is in their child’s level of health, happiness, safety and security. These are the key elements of parenting success.

The key to good parenting and thus learning how to stop feeling guilty

The key to good parenting is not whether or not you are using a particular method – it’s in regularly evaluating your method to assess the outcomes. For instance, regardless of whether you are co-sleeping or using controlled crying with your baby, if he/she is safe, secure, healthy and happy that’s all that matters.

If any of these four elements are compromised, then yes it’s time to re-evaluate and modify your parenting style accordingly. Similarly, if you are working full-time and feeling highly stressed on a regular basis and you can see this is having a negative impact on your children, then it’s time to change something. If you’re working full time, but managing your stress well and have a positive and healthy relationship with your children and they are healthy, happy, safe and secure – you do not need to feel guilty and you do not need to change anything! The core element here is NOT working full-time, it’s the outcome for your child and for your personal health too.

Good parenting comes from creating a lifestyle that best suits your needs and those of your family. That’s what really matters. What hold most mums back from trusting they can ‘have it all’ is lack of self-belief and an expectation that they need to live up to other people’s expectations of good parenting. In order to trust that in yourself, it’s imperative that you invest in yourself to build your self-confidence and self esteem.

Begin building your self-esteem in motherhood now

Download these two free books

  1. How to understand your child’s temperament from birth
  2. 5 everyday ways to add serious self-confidence to your life

 

lizzie o'halloran - How To Stop Feeling Guilty

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lizzie O’Halloran, Founder of Help For Mums