Guilt: the thief of happiness

Monday, March 31, 2014 Permalink

They say Comparison is the Thief of Joy. Well, as joy’s already been taken off the board… I’d say Guilt is the Thief of Happiness. Or Contentment. Or similar.

I’ve often talked here about guilt. Particularly in the blog formerly known as Diet Schmiet.

But my struggle with guilt is broader than my eating / weightloss.



I’ve spent the last couple of days wallowing. And yesterday it occurred to me that I was almost completely hamstrung by feelings of guilt. Some of the stuff on my mind made no sense at all but the thoughts and feelings prevented me from: focusing on more worthwhile activities; relaxing; or just feeling happy and contented with my lot in life.

My mind went something like this:

1. You should go and have a swim. It’s hot, the weather is perfect for a dip. You never use the pool. It’s a great pool and completely wasted on you because you don’t use it. 

2. You should go for a walk on the beach. It’s a nice day. You haven’t been onto the beach all year. It’s metres away so there’s no excuse. You’d be getting some exercise, refreshing your mind AND getting some colour on your white legs.

3. You should be working on blog posts for the coming week so you don’t have to stress about them later.  Plus it’ll give you more time for ‘real’ writing later in the week.

4. You should get that YA novel out and do some work on it. That way you’d feel like you did some REAL writing and you finished something for a change.

5. You should have gone to the Post Office as the book you ordered may be there. Otherwise you’ll have to wait for later in the week. You’ll have nothing to read and regret your laziness.

6. You should have caught up with <insert friend’s name here>. You haven’t seen them for a couple of weeks and you will have missed that opportunity.

7. You should have cleaned the bath. The Exit Mould has been sitting next to the bath for days. Waiting for you to clean it. It’s disgusting. 

8. You should have done something about more work / business opportunities. It’s your day off work so the time to do something about this. Finish those bloody emails you started. 

9. You should have done something about that television connection by now. You could be watching cable TV movies but it’s wasted on you as you haven’t fixed the connection!

And the list went on….


Fuck! Two things stand out.

1. The nagging me was obviously in a shitty mood.
2. Half of that stuff didn’t even make sense! I mean, who the hell feels guilty for not swimming more?!

Plus, well… I’ve talked before about ‘shoulds’ and ‘musts’ but this was the first time I tried to properly document all of the stuff my mind told me I SHOULD be doing. It was also the first time I let some of the thoughts wash over me, acknowledging them but letting them pass. (Incidentally I started this practice the day before when overwhelmed with the desire to binge-eat… but more on that another time!)

The just-noticing-my-thoughts and feelings-but-not-acting-on-them was new. I wasn’t entirely successful however, as I did spend part of the day wallowing in the stuff I didn’t do (ie. most of 1-10!).

I’m fairly sure EVERYONE struggles with guilt from time to time, but does anyone else sometimes find themselves completely flummoxed because of it? 

I’m late to the party, but linking up with Jess and the IBOTers today.

PS. I’m not very inventive with my blog titles as both of those referenced early in this post are almost identical! #oops

  • Lisa (@lybliss)
    April 1, 2014

    Deb you have been inside my mind… my mum often says to me “I am going to ban the word ‘should’ from your vocabulary!” I am the worst should-er I say it to myself so often, and yes, over stupid stuff. I feel guilty about the jar of Aldi Olives that I bought last year and didn’t like. Still in the fridge because I should use them instead of throwing them away and I should be more careful with my grocery money.. oh, and I should clean the fridge out too!
    And so the nasty olives remain 🙁

    • Debbish
      April 1, 2014

      Ha! As I made my (late) breakfast I opened my fridge and remembered I hadn’t put some stuff in the freezer (which I was SUPPOSED to yesterday!). *sigh*

  • Jody at Six Little Hearts
    April 1, 2014

    The story of my life and thankfully yours too!

    • Debbish
      April 1, 2014

      Yes… I suspect we’re far from alone – though I wonder if it sounds petty and silly coming from someone else, which is sometimes the case. (We’re able to be more objective etc!)

  • Ruth Hillman-Booth
    April 1, 2014

    Where is the “should” coming from babe? Generally when the word comes into out heads it’s the sound of someone else. It’s not coming from our own value system. Figuring out what the opposite is & working backwards to get there is something I’d happily help you with. It’s something I’m working through with my own stuff, but have done the biggies. It’s a surprisingly simple strategy to use, but takes more active participation than this comment will allow. But to simplify, it needs to come from your value system.


    PS. I really want to set some time to do some values blogpost soon 🙂

    • Debbish
      April 1, 2014

      Yes, the MUSTs, SHOULDs and OUGHT TOs are biggies for me. (As well as the associated guilt!)

  • Pinky Poinker
    April 1, 2014

    Instead of doing all my ‘shoulds’ I’ve been reading this very wise post and don’t feel guilty at all!

    • Debbish
      April 2, 2014

      Hee hee! I think writing some of these down made me see how ridiculous my mind and guilt trips can be!

  • Emily @ Have A Laugh On Me
    April 1, 2014

    Yes I have totally felt guilty about not using our pool more!!! So you’re not alone there. I call my hubby the gunner, because he says he’s gunner do this and gunner to that, but maybe if we don’t have such high and unreasonably expectations of ourselves, and others, life would be less stressful! Em – also visiting as part of #teamIBOT

    • Debbish
      April 2, 2014

      I’m actually paranoid about being a gunner type person. I try not to promise or commit to anything (when others are involved), just in case….

  • Jess
    April 1, 2014

    I always feel guilty if I dont go for a swim on hot days! Ha! I love swimming but you’re right totally ridiculous! Dont even know why I feel that way. Sounds a bit random but I havebeen trying a new technique with my girls tantrums that has been really helping amd reminds me of your technique for getting over wallowing in guilt. Basically you set the limit, they tantrum, you acknowledge and empathize with their feelings but dont give in and keep the limit in tact. Maybe acknowledging and identifying the feelings of guilt will make you feel better about not acting on them and over time that will be enough and you won’t sink into the wallow as much. Empathy (even with ourselves, if it is possible to self empathise ha) goes a long way.

    • Debbish
      April 2, 2014

      You may be right there. I know that if I’m feeling victim-like I do feel better if someone says ‘Oh yes you poor thing.’ In fact, then I usually try to make them feel less bad for me and I turn it around completely! xx

  • Satu
    April 2, 2014

    I don’t have swimming and pool related oughts and shoulds for a good reason but you should hear about how my mind goes about not cleaning often enough etc or generally wasting time when I should be doing something useful. 🙂 And I understand #3 very well.

    Also, I bought a sponge for cleaning my bathroom tiles over a month ago but haven’t done anything with it… Furthermore, my March challenge kind of fell flat on it’s face and I wrote morning pages on 10 mornings tops..Oddly I’m not very upset about it. Maybe I’m going zen? 🙂

    I think most people have some kind of idealized notion of what (their) perfect life should be and when the reality doesn’t correspond to it part of our minds is very upset.

    • Debbish
      April 2, 2014

      Glad you can relate to my lack-of-bathroom-cleaning guilt! I actually ended up doing it the following day… Maybe writing about it helped?!

  • Char
    April 2, 2014

    I can relate to that feeling of guilt. I’m always telling myself what I should do and I don’t always speak to myself in a kind was. Where does all that guilt come from?

    • Debbish
      April 2, 2014

      I think mine comes from a sense of ‘failure’ Char, as if I’ve let someone (me?) down or failed in some way. I’ve been thinking a lot about ‘To-Do Lists’ etc lately and the pros and cons of being such a control freak! 😉

  • Lee-Anne
    April 4, 2014

    Guilt is such a destructive emotion…and ‘should’ should be immediately banned from the language!

    BTW from where I’m sitting (and I should be exercising, running or doing sit-ups, not sitting) you look like a pretty high achiever to me. 🙂

    • Debbish
      April 5, 2014

      Oh wow Lee-Anne… if only that was true!

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