You read so many self-help posts and books. There is something new or renewed around every corner. Today I will add to that plethora of words because there is a question weighing heavy on my mind. Do you feel guilty taking care of yourself? If so, how can you overcome the guilt?
Not everyone feels this way, I am sure. But for those who have been abused or told they are not good enough most of their lives, they feel guilty, and it is real. But why? In this article, I will go over why you may feel guilty and some tips to overcome the guilt.
Why Do You Feel Guilty?
Let’s first lay some groundwork with definitons of guilty and self-care.
The definition of guilt according to the Dictionary:
culpable of or responsible for a specified wrongdoing and
justly chargeable with a particular fault or error.
The definition of self-care according to the Dictionary:
the practice of taking action to preserve or improve one’s own health and
the practice of taking an active role in protecting one’s own well-being and happiness, in particular during periods of stress.
There are reasons you feel guilty when you take care of yourself. As the dictionary states, you are only supposed to feel guilty when you have done something wrong, or there is an error or you are at fault. Yet, you feel guilty when you are taking care of yourself. There is nothing wrong or at fault about caring for yourself.
Taking care of yourself is to look out for your own well-being and health. Why should you feel guilty about this? Here are a few reasons your guilt is misplaced.
- Past emotional abuse
- Low self-esteem
- Eager to please
- Don’t want to make others feel bad
Past emotional abuse
Past emotional abuse can be the route for all five of these reasons. Were your parents emotionally abusive? Did they put you down all the time? Or did they have high expectations of you that you could not meet? Leaving you feeling inadequate in every situation. You never were good enough for your parents.
Or were you bullied at school because you didn’t fit in? Did the other kids put you down and make fun of you? Did you always feel like you weren’t good enough for your friends or wanted to be a part of a group that didn’t want you?
Were you in a toxic relationship with emotional abuse? Did you have to please someone else all the time and apologize for your behavior?
Because of these situations, you developed low self-esteem, an eagerness to please everyone, became non-confrontational and were afraid to make others feel bad.
Low self-esteem could be the biggest reason you are not taking care of yourself and why you feel guilty. Self-esteem is having confidence in yourself and your abilities. It is respecting yourself. So low self-esteem is just the opposite. You don’t have any self-worth. You don’t feel you are worth taking care of yourself.
Do you feel more important and comfortable putting everyone else first? It may be that is how you were taught. Do you feel guilty when you say “no” to someone? Were you made to believe as a child that you were not good enough?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, then the guilt has been a part of your life since childhood or your toxic relationship. You can overcome the guilt, but it does take time.
Eager to please
Do you want to make everyone happy at your own expense? When you feel you hurt someone, you can’t get past it. You dwell on it and end up making yourself ill. You would go to any length to please another person and only feel needed and valuable when you do.
Whenever you approach a difficult subject, do you get sick to your stomach? You can’t deal with the stress of talking through a problem because you were taught to keep quiet. So you are unable to tell someone that you can’t do what they want. If you do, then you feel guilty, and taking care of yourself flies out the window.
Don’t want to make others feel bad
You can’t deal with anyone else feeling bad. So you do everything you can to make them happy. If you say “no,” they may become angry, and anger frightens you.
How Can You Overcome The Guilt
The big question is: how do you overcome the guilt of taking care of yourself instead of giving everyone else what they want?
It is a learning process. It takes time and practice. It takes thought and planning to overcome the guilt. I do have some suggestions we will talk about.
- Seek professional help
- Talk yourself through the process of self-care
- Practice positive affirmation
Seek professional help
You may or may not need professional help. When you have been emotionally abused it does help to have a fresh perspective on your situation. A professional can help you sort through your feelings and begin the healing process.
Talk yourself through the process of self-care
When you begin to feel guilty because you are taking care of yourself and saying “no” to someone, try talking the situation through in your head. Or you can write it down. When you look at it logically, you will see that you have done nothing wrong to feel guilty about.
Feeling guilty is a defense mechanism because you feel helpless and out of control. Remind yourself that you didn’t harm another; they are responsible for themselves. You can not take care of everyone, and if they get angry, it is their responsibility.
Practice positive affirmation
After you write it all down or talk it through, then repeat positive words. Positive affirmations will rewire your brain and build your self-esteem.
- “I am worth it”
- “I have the right to say no”
- “I love myself”
- “I can only care for another if I care for me first”
- “I am worthy”
Repeat positive affirmations to yourself at all times. When the guilt creeps in, and it will, you can overcome the guilt with a positive mindset. Remember, you were conditioned to feel guilty. So you can train your mind differently.
Accept that you are not in control of anyone but yourself. Accept that you are not responsible for another adult or how they feel. Their feelings are a part of them. No matter what you said or felt you did, you can not make someone else feel. They chose to get upset or pout or try to manipulate you. You did not make them do it.
When you realize that you are only responsible for yourself, it will free you to grow and learn how to take care of yourself without guilt. Over time the guilt will become less and less when you follow these steps.
We have discovered that taking care of yourself is functional and feeling guilty is a learned defense mechanism to protect you. And that you are only responsible for yourself.
You now know that healing is a process, and you have the tools to deal with the guilt. You are worthy and have the right to care for yourself like anyone else in this world.
The guilt will not fly away in a day or maybe not even completely in months. But you are on your way to taking care of yourself without feeling guilty. Keep up the process and give yourself a pat on the back for a job well done.