Guilt is my go-to emotion. It is like that perfect little black dress that goes with anything. I can dress it up, I can dress it down. It works for every occasion! Honestly, I don’t think it is just me struggling with guilt as the go-to emotion. I often hear other female friends or even in media, women talking about their feelings of guilt. Guilt is another way of saying, “I feel like too much.”
- I feel guilt when I buy myself something new, especially if it is unnecessary. I want too much.
- I feel guilt when I say “no” to doing something because my plate is too full. I am not enough for my friends, the PTA, my children, my spouse, my church.
- I feel guilt when I am not always cheerful and optimistic. My feelings/emotions are too much.
- I feel guilt when someone (especially someone I love) frustrates me. My bad moments are too much.
- I feel guilt when I need reassurance I am loved or accepted as I am. I am too much.
I have a friend who talks about how sometimes she feels like a hippo dressed in a tutu. This imagery is exactly how I feel when I am feeling like I am too much. I feel like I am lumbering around, taking up too much space, and, in the process, look ridiculous. We could talk all day about why I or you or womankind struggle so much with guilt, and understanding where this idea comes from on a personal level is important and takes some soul searching.
Here are the tools I use to combat my inner hippo in a tutu.
- Consider the situation.Is the guilt warranted? Sometimes my guilt is for a good reason. If I lose my cool and say something I regret, I should go back and say I am sorry. But I also am learning to recognize, if I make a mistake – that is going to happen. Once I ask forgiveness or rectify a situation, I have to let go of the guilt and move on. We all make mistakes. My mistakes are not too much.
- Stop the mean girl words.I try to stop and listen to the words I am telling myself. My internal words are often not gracious or kind. Maybe the words mimic the words of a parent or a past bullying relationship. Words I would never say to another human being in a million years, I say to myself. Maybe we couldn’t control the words others have said to us, but we have to recognize the inner bully and stop the unkind words. Be patient, because changing the internal tape is hard work, but it is worth the effort.
- Extend grace and forgiveness to others.Whether bedtime is not going as planned, a driver cutting me off, or years of hurt, I find when I extend grace to others, it changes me in the process. Learning to forgive others has helped me learn, I too am deserving of forgiveness. It changes my perspective of a world of me against them, because much of the time, people are not setting out to frustrate or hurt me, we are all just human.This does not mean that forgiveness equals no consequences or trust is granted immediately. Sometimes forgiveness moves a relationship into deeper trust. Sometimes forgiveness means the setting of healthy boundaries and sometimes letting go of a relationship. But forgiveness of others speaks to my own inherent worth and value.
- Seek professional help.Sometimes the feeling of being too much can overwhelm me. I have spent time seeing a professional counselor who helped me navigate where my “too-muchness” was coming from and assisted in finding new ways to respond to my damaging thoughts.
Women, we are beautiful and loveable! We need to encourage each other to be kind to ourselves. After all, a hippo in a tutu can be a beautiful thing.