Too many people live in a state of constant guilt. They feel guilty if they spend a cent on themselves, or if they miss something, or if anything goes wrong.
Mostly, guilt is triggered when your behavior is at odds with your values.
Four Ways Out of the Guilt Trap
If you don’t want anyone to know what you’re doing it’s a signal that you’re ashamed of it. Don’t do it!
Check in with your motives. If you were asked to explain your actions would you be willing to be honest? If not, don’t do it!
Stop living separate lives or being different people in different settings. You’ll be constant fear of being found out a fraud. Integrate your life.
Would it be okay for your children or grandchildren to do? If not, don’t do it!
Try one idea for a week. Pay attention to your level of stress and your overall opinion of yourself. If you’re not happy with what you find, try one or two of these ideas and keep watch. Eventually, you’ll find a way out of the guilt trap.
Doing counterproductive things may reveal your true intention.
What are your true intentions?
Have you ever procrastinated? Yes?
Are you so busy with life that you don’t have time to exercise? Yes?
Have you ever partied too much the night before something important? Yes?
You may be self-handicapping.
Self-handicapping is doing counterproductive things that make it less likely that you’ll be able to perform at your best. Not only counterproductive, but is seems counter-intuitive unless you consider the person’s true intention.
What if you weren’t sure you could win, and what if preserving your self-image was more important than winning? In that case, you’d probably create plausible deniability, “Hey, I got a C on my exam! That’s pretty good considering I was hung-over and only studied an hour before the test.”
When the outcome is particularly important or you’ll feel harshly judged by a poor outcome, self-handicapping seems a way to soften the blow. Unfortunately, it’s a big set-up for an even farther fall because not only won’t you have what you want, no one—not even you—really buys the excuse. It’s a set up for depression, anxiety, and low self-esteem.
When you’re operating with two competing intentions, the one that matters most will decide your behavior.
Two things to try
If you’re self handicapping so that you don’t have to follow through with something you really don’t want in the first place, your challenge is to figure out what it is that you really do want and work from there.
If you’re self handicapping to avoid facing disappointment, your challenge is to find several other options for success. The more options you have the less you’ll worry over any one failed attempt because you’ll know that, even if you fail with your best effort here, you’ll have several other ways to go for the overall win.