I realize that in order to be able to move forward, I have to constantly stare guilt in the face. In the most difficult moments of my life, I conquered fear but cowered to guilt. Which meant that while I was no longer bound by the things I was afraid of but I wasn’t able to move forward. I felt the damage I had done was too great and the work too hard and the grudge people would hold against me was too strong.
I do this for all things, great and small. For example, if I skipped more than a week or so writing in my journal, I felt I could never journal again because why bother if I couldn’t do it right. This is something that no would see but I imagined someone finding them years later and being disappointed that I wrote poorly, wrote nonsense, or wasted their time. Yet, I’m currently almost done with my 4th journal but this is how deeply I would allow guilt to penetrate my thoughts. I can do this with anything.
One day, I just wrote a couple of bullet points and felt tremendously satisfied. I wrote what I wanted to remember and while it wasn’t some emotionally drawn out entry, it was there. I could look back and remember and I remember feeling so thankful. I did it the way that worked best for me.
What does this have to do with body positivity? It’s everything. We take this same feeling of shame and apply it to every part of us. Inside and out. That guilt piece is why we end up stuck repeating the same cycles over and over and over again. The guilt of having to do things “perfectly” or according to someone’s standards, keeps us obsessed on the past and the future because and doesn’t allow us to live in the present.
Almost 4 years ago, I applied the same exact emotions to starting this blog and just decided that I was going to just live my life. My past was in my past and my future was in my future. Emphasis on MY.
Things took off any many folks have joined the community and yet, I found myself slaying the guilt dragon…again. How? If I’m just this super-confident –IDGAF person who puts themselves out there for the world on the day?
It seems like it’s just a piece of who I am and how I was raised and what is reinforced in me so strongly that I can’t escape it BUT I can give up on it. I can choose to change the direction that my habits continuously shove me towards. I can acknowledge, without hesitation, that at this moment I have anxiety about publishing this post because it’s been months since I last posted and yet have a dozen drafts started. I feel like an absolute fraud and want to delete the entire blog and forget this whole thing even started. This is how strongly it tries to grip me. However, I keep pushing forward and keep doing exactly what feels right for me. Today, I have the time, energy, and inspiration to write and so I am and the wave of serenity is crashing over.
This, of course, is helpful. I sit and think of these emotions and feelings and share so that my perspective might help others to see their situation differently. I can see more clearly what it is that I believe vs what I have been conditioned to believe. Guilt is a powerful emotion. Just like fear. Both are used relentlessly to sell, sell, sell. It’s so common we don’t even see it and certainly don’t recognize it in the microscopic behaviors we reinforce every single day.
In order for us to overcome them, we have to name them. Naming them is terrifying because it’s openly and honestly acknowledging our own judgemental selves. So, I’ll start with some things I FULLY acknowledge that I do that I feel guilty about but refuse to let it stop me from moving in the direction of my own path and helping others along the way.
I feel hellaguilty for:
- Judging everyone’s appearance. EVERYONE. I recognize almost every single “flaw” and feel incredibly guilty about how much those thoughts pop into my head INSTANTLY. I feel like a terrible person/mother/wife/friend because no one is exempt but I keep my thoughts to myself and sit in them and rework them into a healthier mindset. I let myself think about how the hell I could sit there and be so judgemental and still call myself a good person. I’ve been conditioned to. There is no “flaw” that can escape my observation but there’s a whole lot of love at work to make sure it stays contained and sent away.
- Believing I have to use every second of every day to be productive and “work” on myself in some way. Any time not doing that is time WASTED. I feel wasteful and feel the same about those around me. The guilt I feel stems a lot from constantly being reminded of those around me doing more or having less. I then believe people will think I’m not hard working, trustworthy, capable, and so much more that they won’t want to hire me, be my friend, or just believe I am a good person.
- Competing with everyone. EVERYONE. Again, no one is exempt. It’s absolutely exhausting. I remember when I first started running, that I would refuse to stop running until the car that was behind me drove past and I was out of their site. I could be exhausted but COULD NOT deal with the idea that someone in that car would think I was a loser. I was raised to believe everyone was competing with me so I saw people as potential threats instead of potential allies.
I can go on and on and I think most of us can, too. This ish runs deeeeep. That’s totally ok. Understanding that we have the ability to dig deep and uncover and discover more should give us all a little hope. I hope you can find the courage to start scratching the surface and the understanding that what you discover isn’t the end. It’s the beginning of a lifelong journey through your own adventure and you’re worth all the effort to discover what that is. We will all continue to move forward no matter what because time waits for no one but letting go of that emotional baggage allows us to move at a much more comfortable and exciting pace.