You’re feeling guilty about something right now, aren’t you?
It’s because you said “no” to that wedding invite from Sally in marketing.
It’s that uncomfortable 7-second hesitation that came up when your friend unexpectedly asked if you liked her new boyfriend (no, you really don’t and can’t really put your finger on why).
It’s not agreeing to do a friend a favour because you’re feeling stretched thin and need to put yourself first right now.
Whatever the source, the guilt’s eating away at you because you’re obviously an ungrateful, insensitive asshole, right?
Real friends show support for their friend’s new relationships no matter what.
And people that other people like say “yes” because it’s the ‘nice’ thing to do.
First off: You don’t owe anyone a damn thing, at least not at the expense of your well-being and integrity.
If you think you do, then we need to sit down and have a chat, my friend.
Also, welcome to my world.
Secondly: As a habitual people-pleaser who’s still in recovery, I can tell you this: It’s not an easy road to The Land Of Less Guilt, but the peace of mind at the end of it is so worth the effort.
I’ve seen (and felt) the light, but I’ve also had patches regression that’ve triggered some serious bouts anxiety.
So if your conscience is feeling a little heavy from shouldering all the guilt you’ve been entertaining lately, you’re in the right place.
To start with, here are 7 things you need to give yourself permission to stop feeling guilty about, right now:
1. Your emotions
As a society, we seem to have a deep-seated aversion to seeing other people’s emotions out in the open.
If it’s a woman showing how she feels, she’s just being ’emotional’. If it’s a man, he’s just being….well, crazy. Either way, we throw insulting judgements their way: “She’s probably having her period” or “He’s so flustered and irrational”.
It’s funny how we find this find this human capability to ‘feel’ unacceptable, off-putting even, when it should be looked at as a means of experiencing life thoroughly and deeply.
Emotions are also a powerful form of communication that allows you to see another person’s point of view with colour, depth and empathy — gifts that striving to go about life with a permanent poker face never will.
You’re a human being, not a robot, so stop feeling guilty about the emotions you’re experiencing, and showing them.
Instead, start getting smarter about making sure your emotions don’t control you, and learn how to use them to sharpen your ability to make better life decisions.
2. Being honest
Without honesty, healthy relationships wouldn’t exist.
Just ask anyone who’s been lied to, kept in the dark or cheated on.
Sure, we choose to tell little white lies now and then, especially when spilling the cold, hard truth wouldn’t be kind, but if you’re shying away from admitting to difficult (and often painful) truths, you’re doing yourself and the people in your life a huge disservice.
Sometimes, avoiding the truth means you’ll leave a trail of trauma and chaos in your wake.
And let’s be honest (pun fully intended), if you’re having trouble aligning your body and mind with reality, you’ll also be closing yourself off from experiences, relationships and opportunities that could change your life for the better.
3. Having boundaries
Not everyone you meet should earn the right to your time, energy, money or even respect.
But among those who do, how do you decide how far you’ll go for someone who wants or needs more and more from you?
Obviously, there’s no cookie-cutter answer that’ll work for everyone, so I’ll share what my gut tells me when I feel pressured to devote a significant amount of my resources to something or someone: If it’s outside of a loving, respectful, trust- and honesty-driven relationship, and I’m not crazy about the prospect of saying “yes”, I tend to say “no”.
I still struggle with guilt when I do this, but at the end of the day, I’d rather do what’s right for me than harbour anger and resentment over something that’s not.
The relationship you’ve been in for the past 5 years is making you miserable.
You’re losing sleep, feeling anxious and drinking more than ever because of your toxic work environment.
Your friend of 15 years has been tearing you down instead of building you up, and you’ve finally had enough.
Stop feeling guilty about leaving people, places and situations that chip away at your self-worth, destroy your happiness and stunt your growth.
You owe it to yourself to keep walking towards the good, and never resigning yourself to staying stuck in the bad.
When was the last time you failed at something?
If you can think of a failure that you’ve experienced recently, good. It means you’ve been trying, and hopefully, learning from your mistakes.
It means that you’ve been venturing out of your comfort zone, hoping, doing, falling and getting back on your feet, over and over again.
That’s pretty much life.
And if someone’s making you feel bad about falling down, it’s a sign that they’re failing at life.
6. Not being a workaholic
If you’ve spent any amount of time in a typical corporate environment, you probably would’ve had a taste of the ‘overwork’ culture.
It’s largely an unspoken expectation, and one that goes a little like this: If you’re not the first one in and the last one out every single day, working yourself into the ground, you’re just plain lazy or uncommitted to your job.
The problem with this working culture standard is that more time spent working doesn’t necessarily lead to better results and it’s been proven that embracing this way of working can cost you your well-being, relationships and even your life.
Just ask the Japanese, who’ve come up with a name for those who die from overworking: Karoshi.
And as a reformed workaholic who used to rack up 16-hour days regularly and had a nervous breakdown because of it, here’s my advice: Slow down. Make it your mission to work smarter with purpose rather than working longer. Work for a living, but don’t forget to live.
7. Needing a break
The kids. The job. The rules. The relentless rat race. The dieting. The ‘go-big-or-go-home’ mentality. The impossible expectations. The bad traffic. The betrayals. Keeping up with the Joneses. Looking the part. Putting up the brave, happy face day after day. Trying to make everyone happy. Not getting the sleep you need. Trying to be perfect.
Now, just the thought of waking up and facing the world makes your body, mind and spirit feel heavy like lead.
All you want to do is run in the opposite direction. You want to remember what it feels like to be spontaneous, carefree, unencumbered.
So do it.
You can call this ‘break’ anything you want: A sabbatical, holiday or even a mini retirement, as Tim Ferriss would (J.D. Roth, one of my favourite personal finance bloggers, did a great interview with Tim on this subject).
Your life will still be there when you get back, but this lifetime is the only one you’ve got.
RESOURCES YOU MIGHT FIND HELPFUL
(*Note: Some of these suggestions contain affiliate links, which means that I’ll earn a small commission if you decide to buy. Buying via these links won’t cost you anything extra, but it’ll allow this blog to earn money―thank you if use them!)
Simplify Your Life: 100 Ways To Slow Down And Enjoy The Things That Really Matter by Elaine St. James I got my hands on this treasure over 15 years ago, way before simple living and minimalism became popular, and it was the first resource that introduced me to practical, everyday steps I could take to ‘un-complicate’ my life. I didn’t have enough life experience then to ‘get’ everything that St. James presents in this book, but when I revisit the pages of Simplify Your Life now, they make perfect sense. If you’re just starting out in your simple living journey and are exploring your possibilities, I highly recommend giving this a read first.
The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying: A Simple, Effective Way To Banish Clutter Forever by Marie Kondo Being able to pay attention to the little things in your life starts with decluttering — not the easiest thing to do if your living (or even work) space is disorganised and drowning in stuff. This is my bible as far as tidying up my space and keeping it that way goes.
Think And Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill This classic is so much more than what its title implies — it’s also a guide to taking control of the biggest driver behind everything you do and the reality you create for yourself: Your mind.
The Simple Living Guide When life feels overwhelming, this guide-and-workbook-in-one will help you gain clarity with your values, well-being, career, relationships and money.
The Good Morning Guide If your mornings are typically rushed, chaotic and stressful, I made this guide to help you start your day calm, sane and strong.
Lose 4 Pounds in 4 Weeks Without Going On A Diet Struggling with constant overeating and uncontrolled weight gain? In this email course, I show you how to get started with the exact steps I took to stop feeling like a slave to the food around me, lose over 22 pounds of fat and keep them off for almost a decade now.
Tribe Of Mentors: Short Life Advice From The Best In The World by Timothy Ferriss Nothing beats having a mentor in your life who can personally guide you from day one. But not everyone does, and if (like me), you don’t, it doesn’t mean that you can’t learn from the best virtually or through books. Take what you need from the likes of Ray Dalio, Ben Stiller, Bear Grylls and more in this varied but comprehensive compilation of bite-sized advice on life, work and purpose from some of the best minds in the world.
The Filofax Personal Organiser I’ve been using my trusty, old Filofax to plan and organise my life for the past 18 years and don’t see myself being tempted to replace it with a digital one any time soon — there’s something really comforting about putting my to-dos and ideas down on paper. When I’m not at home, my hardcover Moleskin pocket journal goes everywhere I do (well, almost).
TAKE THE 7-DAY CALM MIND CHALLENGE.
Trying to win at life from day to day is hard. It gets even harder when you’re struggling with thoughts that leave you feeling reactive to the world and heavy with painful emotions that hold you back from living your best life. Start re-framing your thoughts to calm your mind, feel good about life and create the mental space that’s a must to reach your highest potential with my FREE, 7-Day Calm Mind Challenge. You’ll also receive my best calm-living tips & trainings delivered to your inbox every week. Sign up for your dose of calm now.