Guilt Doesn’t Look Good On You

On Tuesday I did something completely out-of-the-ordinary for me. I made a plan for the sitter to take the boys to school and told my daughter I was driving her to school. She was thrilled as her nana usually drives her (also nice, but mommy. . .) . Then I put on my biking clothes, put my bike on the rack, and immediately after dropping her at school, headed out on the trail.

I love mountain biking. Being outside in the desert is beautiful, the trails require concentration, and the quiet gives me time to think. But somewhere along the trail I thought “I’m only going to see Atticus for a few hours tonight, should I have taken him to school?” That thought was followed by “I’m going to be an hour late for work, that doesn’t show much commitment. . . what will my team think?”

Guilt used to be a huge weight on my shoulders. I always felt like I should be doing more for my kids, more at work, and then felt guilt that I didn’t practice self-care. It was overwhelming, and I realized that feeling guilty was keeping me from enjoying anything. I decided to become a life coach in 2012, mostly so that I could get some tools to help myself with this issue!

Guilt usually rears its head when we are confronted by situations that honor competing values.

For me, out on the trail, my value of self-care was competing with spending quality time with my kids. And both of these were competing with my commitment to work. So there I was, on the trail, wondering if I should have taken the boys to school and feeling guilty about being an hour late for work.

We all experience guilt. But if you live your life feeling guilty about what you aren’t doing, it takes you away from experiencing the joy of what you ARE doing. And it doesn’t look good. Your emotions show on your face—your smile is not as bright, your eyes are distracted, and, over time, worry can make your wrinkles even deeper!

So what to do about the guilt? When you are feeling guilty, first figure out what your competing values are. Are you stressed and feeling guilty about being late to school because you value independence and so want to let your kid get themselves dressed, and also value punctuality and respect? Take a moment and name the values.

Once you have identified the different values, you decide which to prioritize. My process went like this: “I value self-care and joy, and I experience those when riding. Taking care of myself and riding makes me happy, which in turn will make me more present at work and allow me to focus more on the kids when I am home. So I choose to prioritize self-care and joy in this moment.”

This process makes space for your other values, while allowing you to decide and move forward. Then the next time you are choosing what to do, you can decide to prioritize a different value.

The good news is that when you make values-based decisions, you will feel better and more aligned. And your inner beauty will shine!

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