Is Guilt The Price of Living Well?
Guilt. It is the ultimate assault weapon in relationships around the world especially when it comes to parenting and marriage and particularly in the eastern cultures from Japan to Iran and many others in between.
It is the destructive verbal and emotional tool that kills the spirit of the person who has had the ‘audacity’ to have a good time or do well in life but hasn’t brought absolutely everyone else to the party.
Has someone you know or care about made you feel guilty about something good that happened to you?
Guilty for success. Guilty for advancing in your life. Guilty for living well.
Why do we have to carry this horrible feeling alongside our success and constantly apologize for it?
I want to bury this guilt. I want to make our hearts immune to this guilt. I want to eradicate its use by parents and spouses and children and friends once and for all.
Are you with me on this? Because if you don’t kick the guilt, it will drag you and bury you in itself!
What Kind of Guilt Are We Talking About?
A point of clarity: This is not the type of guilt that say Lance Armstrong, my previous hero, the current king of all scum backs in the world, should feel for lying, cheating, and blatantly denying it all for years. No, those actions do call for guilt, those horribly wrong, unethical, illegal, and disgusting actions, and ironically, he who should feel so much guilt feels none. Hence the title the king of all scum backs.
I mean the guilt that your mother makes you feel for not calling her every other day. Or the guilt that a spouse makes you feel for having a good time on a business trip he could not come along on. Or the guilt your friends make you feel for not being able to buy the same shoes or bags or house as you.
Or the guilt you put on someone else for their success and their good fortune. (Don’t!)
Or the guilt that you impose on yourself every time you do something good for yourself.
It’s so subtle you may not even realize it’s guilt you are feeling. Here, let’s do an example:
Say you have gone to Paris and London on a paid business trip, then tagged your spouse along for a post mini vacation. Got it? Paris and London. The two of you. Two very expensive European cities with the love of your life on company dime. And you have a fantastic time.
You come back to the office on Monday and your co-workers can’t stop using the words “Lucky you!” or variations with “effect” that we will leave to the imagination. Instead, they could say something like “Well-deserved trip for you guys!”, “What was your most favorite part?”, “Do you recommend we make the same trip around this time of year?”, or whatever other question that shows they are genuinely happy for you. If indeed they are.
Guilt. For you getting what they didn’t. Even if that’s not really what they want, that’s irrelevant. You had a good time. They were at the office. Guilt for you. It’s how it works!
Nobody Has the Right to Make You Feel Bad About Living a Good Life
Starting today, that’s the type of guilt you should not tolerate anymore.
Because we all have choices in this life. They chose to stay. You chose to travel or get assigned for the occasion or be the more qualified candidate that got the job, whatever it may be.
And even if you got lucky to get picked, so what? This is not a zero-sum game and they don’t “lose” because you “won”. There is no reason whatsoever for you to feel bad for going on this trip.
Or living a great, fantastic, phenomenal life on your terms!
Some of us choose to take chances all the time and some choose to live without taking a single one. Some of us press on while others quit. Some of us want what we want as badly as we need air while others just think they want what they say they want or else why no sense of urgency?
We get what we go after in life.
I cannot count the number of times people have said to me, “You can do all this travel because you don’t have kids!” It is such a preposterous comment and so inaccurate on so many levels that I don’t even know where to begin to respond. (1) I know singles who stay home all their life! (2) I know families with 5 kids who travel all the time. (3) I chose not to have children not that it has anything to do with my travel plans. And on and on.
Unfortunately, the best answer I’ve come with after years of trying to articulate on the subject in depth is a flat under the breath: “Whatever!”
Dealing with Guilt from Loved Ones
You cannot and will not change the way people think of you and see you – if you do, please call me and tell me how you did it! But you need to harness the guilt and eradicate it fast. Keep your spirits high and feel absolutely wonderful about the fact that you are living well and on your terms. Got it?
Of course some of it is hard to brush off … like the one that comes from the people that are closest to you. What do you do when your best friend or your Mom isn’t thrilled about the way you are living your life even though you are happier and more fulfilled than ever before?
What do you say? How do you respond?
You can try to explain. You can try to say that they can choose to do the same thing with their life, because they have a choice.
Or you can wallow in guilt and shame and apologize for living such a good life that you have worked so hard for.
Yeah, I’ve done that. A lot. It kinda sucks so I stopped doing it.
I hope you do too.
But why do others make us feel guilty?
Maybe they don’t believe they have a choice. They believe they are victim of circumstance of their life. Because if they did, it would mean they can enjoy the same good things in their life and that they have wasted time living it according to someone else’s agenda and beliefs.
And that’s painful so they do what humans do best: Denial. The opposite of honesty.
And then they can easily attribute your good fortune to “luck” and well, the least they can do to even things out is to make you feel a wee bit guilty about it.
Anyway, that’s my theory. If you have a better one, I am dying to hear it so please feel free to share it in the comments.
On Eradicating Guilt and Choosing Well
But back to you and guilt, darling! Stop Feeling Guilty for living well. Stop feeling guilty for having a better life than your parents and for being ahead of your friends or peers or colleauges in any area of life.
And choose to hang out with people who passionately care about you. They are out there and in abundance. The friends who are genuinely happy for your success. The partners who adore you even if you have all the fun. The parents who are truly proud of your success. The bosses and peers who are glad you got promoted and the business partners who are happy you made those big sales.
Maybe together, we can remove this nasty horrible feeling that is used so often against us and instead, replace it by showing others in our lives how they can have the same thing or better things if they so choose.
What do you think? Has anyone ever made you feel guilty about living well, having much and doing lots?
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