What an interesting distinction. I was immediately intrigued.
Guilt is defined as feeling responsible or regretful for a real or perceived offense.
A real or perceived offense.
If you’re someone like me, you feel almost everything you do and say is some kind of a breach of conduct, especially things like saying no, meeting your own needs, and setting boundaries. This feeling is based on past unhappy/critical/invalidating reactions of others to my actions. If I’ve Failed To Please, I feel guilty. I feel guilty even when I know I’ve done the right thing for myself.
So what if that feeling isn’t guilt at all? What if it’s discomfort?
Changing habits is uncomfortable, no doubt about that. Habits are effortless, especially mental and emotional habits. They feel like our friends. They’ve been with us a long time. We’re attached to them because they’re easy and familiar. Whether or not they’re effective or useful is not the point. How they affect others is of no interest.
They’re easy, and they’re ours.
The thing is, our habits don’t belong to us so much as we belong to them. We can stop them any time, we tell ourselves and everyone else. If we wanted to. But we don’t want to.
Breaking habits takes intention, focus, and determination. Support helps, but sometimes it’s unavailable.
So, do we feel guilty because we’re making different choices than our habits dictate, or do we feel uncomfortable because we’re making different choices? Making different choices affects those around us, and when things start changing, people get uncomfortable, especially if the change wasn’t their idea. Most people are sure to tell us when we “make” them uncomfortable.
Then the guilt starts.
Maybe discomfort, theirs and/or ours, is a good sign, a sign we’re truly doing the work of change. Maybe the guiltier/more uncomfortable we feel, the more successful we are.
Maybe we shelve the guilt and welcome the discomfort.
Sometimes we all do something we know is wrong and guilt helps us learn and make amends for our choices. Sometimes. Not every day, all day.
Being alive, taking up space, growing, learning, and reclaiming our power and health are not worthy of guilt. Uncomfortable work, yes. An offense, a breach of conduct, a crime, no.
When I feel that old familiar guilt come knocking, I’m going to look at it more closely. Maybe it’s not guilt at all. Maybe it’s just discomfort.
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