In my last post we talked about how fear can show-up as Perfection Paralysis… and today we are going to look at another mighty foe… Guilt.
I see this most commonly when a client is thinking about trying something purely for the joy it will bring them, a bucket filler you might say. This could be learning to knit, taking a walk every night after dinner, scrapbooking, reading a novel… there are so many examples of thing we can choose to do to fill our bucket.
Here is the basic scenario. This client has identified a need, a need to relax, be creative, be physical and they have identified something they want to try to meet that need… you’d think it would be a no-brainer to give it a try.
This is where the Guilt Gremlins show-up.
“I can’t take the time to read that new mystery novel, I should be folding the laundry.”
“I have so much to do around the house, I can’t take the time for a walk in the evening, the dishes aren’t going to wash themselves.”
“Learning to knit will take so long, and it will just drive me crazy sitting there looking at my messy house, knowing I’m wasting time.”
The Guilt Gremlins love to contrast ‘bucket fillers’ with the things we ‘SHOULD’ do and make them seem like a selfish indulgence. Our world is peppered with the ‘Shoulds’ and many of us live our lives by what we ‘should’ do rather than what we ‘want’ to do.
When working with a client battling the Guilt Gremlins, I usually approach it on multiple fronts.
- We look at the need they have identified and why that need is important. What benefit will there be if they explore their creativity, be more physical, etc.
- We look at their idea to meet that need. How much time will it take, what does it require, etc.
- Then we look at the ‘Should’. I honestly believe every time someone says, ‘I should…’ the next statement should always be ‘Why?’
- ‘Why, should I do this thing?’ If you can’t identify a reason that has a positive benefit to you it might be time to question the need for ‘the Should’.
- ‘What negative thing would happen if you skipped the ‘the Should’?
- If ‘the Should’ slides, what does it say about you as a person? Are you lazy, self-indulgent, messy?
- Does ‘the Should’ preclude with possibility of the bucket filler? Is it possible to do ‘the Should’ and the ‘bucket filler’?
- Why does ‘the Should’ take higher priority than the ‘bucket filler’?
This is usually the kicker. People have deep-seated feeling about meeting their own needs before meeting the needs of others’, even if the ‘others’ are the laundry. The Guilt Gremlins will poke the guilt button, trying to convince us that we are selfish, self-indulgent, dodging our responsibilities when we think about meeting our needs.
I’m going to call bullshit! It is not selfish, self-indulgent or irresponsible to meet our needs, especially those things that fill our bucket.
By working your way through the questions listed above you can expose the Guilt Gremlins for what they are; they are thoughts, not indisputable pronouncements from the universe. Recognizing the validity and benefits of meeting our needs can help calm the gremlins. Understanding the ‘stories’ we tell ourselves about what might happen, or what it says about ourselves can help calm the gremlins. Realizing that what we want to do, and what we ‘should’ do are rarely mutually exclusive; there is room for both. Lastly recognizing our habit of prioritizing everyone and everything above our needs is a habit that does not serve us.
The Guilt Gremlins are hard to defeat, it takes a very conscious effort, but it is possible. Like they always say on the airplane, put your air mask on before helping others. Our bucket fillers are the air mask, they must be a priority!
In my next blog post we are looking at the third most common way that Perfection Paralysis shows-up… The Daisy Chain Effect.