• Breaking the Pattern of “Selfish” Guilt

    Two of my clients this week experienced the same struggle. That dreadful feeling when you feel depleted or longing to do something for yourself and someone you care about calls or texts with, “Do you have time to talk?”

    What you really want to say is, “No. I just don’t.” But what you say instead is, “Of course, what do you need?” And there you go, you did it again. You put someone else’s needs ahead of your own.

    At first, we feel resentful and victimized. We want to whine to the Universe, “Nooooooooo!” But then, the guilt sets in along with all the “shoulds”. A good person helps someone they love. A good person puts family first. A good person doesn’t let others suffer. And so on…

    And sure, when that person thanks us at the end of the conversation with, “Thank you so much for being there,” we feel validated of our worth and the guilt goes away. We feel proud we didn’t let our “selfishness” get in the way of a good deed.

    Changing the Pattern

    But as we continue this “good-doer” pattern, we begin to notice our own energy spiraling down. We notice we smile less and complain more. We notice we’re more apt to bite out answers to co-workers, friends, or family. And worst of all, we lose our aliveness, happiness, and joy.  We feel cut off from life and become someone we don’t like.

    So when we say, “It feels better not to deal with the guilt,” does it really? At what cost will you go to keep the peace? And would it be so awful if someone were to be disappointed that you weren’t there for them?

    As I tell my clients (and myself), what’s most empowering for people is to realize they have resources and can take care of themselves. Always being there for someone may create appreciation, but if we’re depending on that to sustain our relationship with them, then neither of us is really engaging in love. We’re bargaining. I’ll love you if…

    Worse, we tell ourselves the same thing. “I can only love me if I’m there for others. I know how horrible aloneness feels and I don’t want anyone to go through that.” But the truth is, aloneness puts us face to face with our own feelings. It can also force us to turn inward to for answers. Desperation creates some pretty illuminating experiences.

    As adults, no one escapes feelings of aloneness, sadness, or shame. Yes, it can be extremely helpful to talk to others, but adults also realize that people have their own lives and cannot always be there for them. Adults realize just because someone isn’t there, it doesn’t mean they’re all alone or unworthy of love.  Adults will love their friends anyway when that friend has shown care AND taken care of themselves. Adults take responsibility for themselves.

    For instance, there is nothing wrong with saying, “I wish I could be there for you, but right now my family needs my time and attention. Is there a time tomorrow we could talk?” This gives the other person information about you and makes them aware they are not the only one in the room.  If they take it personally, that’s their growing point. We do no one any favors by treating them as children and not adults.

    Once you begin to act on your own behalf, you may find old feelings of guilt returning. You may fear the other person will be upset with you or have to go through pain. You may face yours sense of over-responsibility. That’s your growing point.

    Here is where you can remind yourself of these truths:

    1. You are not this person’s Higher Power and no matter what kind of influence you may have, it is only God/Love/Higher Consciousness that heals.
    2. When you are coming from a place of guilt, you are not coming from Love, you are coming from fear – fear they will not be okay without you. Fear they will not love you. You may say the right thing, and the person may feel better temporarily, but there will not be a healing when fear is its foundation. This is an old way of being and responding.
    3. In order to give with healing Love, and create miracles, you need to be full of love yourself. If you’re feeling depleted, you’ve giving nothing but your own energy. And energy of the personality self will never create the shift the elevated Self can and will. Managing your own energy first is of upmost importance when wanting to truly help someone else.
    4. You can be loving, caring, kind, AND still set a boundary. Simply let the other person know what’s going on with you, that you care about them, and is there another time you could talk. If they get upset with you, well, welcome to growing up. Furthermore, you help others develop other resources – within and without. Perhaps that was the healing they needed in the first place.
    5. Watch what happens to your ability to love others as you begin to love yourself. Your strength increases, your words carry conviction, and your presence is truly felt. More importantly, you’re not hating life anymore. You feel more positive, you laugh more, you find more things in your life to appreciate. And most importantly, now you are connected to the Source of Love inside of you. Which means, you start to feel alive again.
    1. NOW, you can really be used to create miracles.

    Release the old way of being, so that the new, more powerful you may be birthed.


    Here’s how we access that Self that already exists:

    More helpful articles:

    Are You Sacrificing Your Life for Others?

    Responsibility Versus OVER-Responsibility in Relationships

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