I just took my 14-year-old dog, Baci, to the vet for her annual checkup. I inevitably feel guilty by the end of the visit because I failed to brush her teeth or try out the pain reliever that the vet recommended last year. I also was told to listen to Baci when she does not want to walk more than a block. Ugh. I feel the full rathe of guilt as I walk my sweet Baci back to the car.
I had a client who was unable to sign into the coaching platform I use. He was frustrated and opted out of coaching because of the poor technology of the platform. Ugh. More guilt. When my children come home, I frequently forget to stock their favorite cereal or snack. Ugh. Guilty of being a bad mom. There are countless sources of guilt in my life and how I address it is important so that I don’t lapse into shame.
Here are the 5 ways I combat guilt:
Make a list. Prepare a list of all the things I do for my dog, my children, my clients, my family, my friends and neighbors. I collect the evidence of what I do for others. In Baci’s case, I have constantly said that “When I come back as a dog, I want to live Baci’s life.” She’s fed every day, gets to go on a walk (when she wants), gets full run of the house inclusive of all the snuggly couches and love seats. I drive her 90 minutes to a boarding place in my old town when I’m on a trip because they are so sweet to her. It’s hard for me to feel guilty when I take stock of all that I do for Baci and others.
Ask for more information. Check in on those that I feel I’m neglecting. Obviously, my dog is unable to answer but I can tell you that she doesn’t cower when I am near her. She is always excited to see me in the morning and to head out for a walk. Baci does not feel neglected. My adult children are pretty clear about their expectations although there was a moment over the holidays when my daughter had expected dinner and I said “I didn’t think you’d be here.” I suddenly realized that she was hurt (she had to extend her visit for several weeks) and then I said “I didn’t expect you to be here for tonight’s dinner, I thought you would be hanging with your friend.” Sometimes guilt can occur because we aren’t explicit with our own expectations.
Self Gratitude. I keep a gratitude journal every day where I write 5 things or people I am grateful for as well as one thing I’m grateful I did for myself, like writing this blog, walking, swimming or safe travels. I do this because we are wired towards a negativity bias. If your ancestors weren’t listening for the rustle in the bushes, they would not have survived the saber tooth tiger. This constant scanning of what is wrong in the environment skews what could be fun to look at to what is wrong; like I shouldn’t have eaten that bagel or I should have walked 5 miles. I try to be grateful every day and look for my accomplishments and successes
Role reversal. I try to think about if the roles were reversed. Obviously, this is difficult with my dog, Baci, but let’s face it, she is living the good life. As for my children, I think about this a lot as I try not to invade their lives too much but rather to be supportive when needed. My son can think that I know more than I do about what’s going on in his life. If he’s under a lot of stress, he can assume that I realize this, even when he’s not in the same room or city. I come from a place of “If he wants to talk, he will.” Sometimes I need to be more proactive and reach out. I think about how I would feel if I was in his shoes and it makes me more compassionate.
Decide on boundaries. I know that with Baci, I’m not likely at this point to invest in extraordinary means to extend her life. Outside of regular vaccines and vet visits, she’s been the center of my life for 14 years. Keeping a decent quality of life is what’s important. With my children, I try to be clear about how much help and support I’m willing to give and be clear in communicating those boundaries. If they’ll be arriving home after 2 AM, I appreciate a text. I stay out of their relationship with their father as it’s none of my business and I don’t need the guilt associated with trying to fix anyone but myself. I’ve made and continue to work on my boundaries.
I don’t get as overwhelmed by guilt anymore. I certainly get pangs of guilt like not flossing enough when I head to the dentist or staying 100% plant based when I get my cholesterol results but for the most part, I’ve done pretty well combating guilt. How about you? How do you combat guilt?