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Guilt

A few of my friends here in the English department have made a pact to quit apologizing. At least not for little things that don’t merit apology, like taking “too many” turns in a class discussion or having to re-schedule a coffee date. Every time one of them apologizes, she gets a (gentle) punch in the arm.

Their pact reminds me of several of my own friends and family who chastised me at various points in my life for “apologizing too much.”

Partly I think it’s a gendered thing–we as women have a bad habit of excusing our own existence. But I don’t think it’s just that. I know many people, men and women, who struggle with feelings of inadequacy and guilt.

940944_10206949044379471_8263128135251988163_nOf all emotions, I experience guilt perhaps more than any other. I’m constantly kicking myself for “screwing up” and silently vowing to “do better next time.” If, heaven forbid, I make the same “mistake” (actual or imagined) again, the guilt is all the worse.

I’ve been meditating on guilt today, odd as it might sound, because of my IBS symptoms. See, when I’m having a bad tummy day, every time I eat, even if only a very reasonable or even pretty small amount, I feel like I way overate. Like I’ve had Thanksgiving dinner and went back for seconds on everything. It feels awful. And at one point in my life, I was convinced that I was overeating and vowed to never, ever let myself eat past the point of fullness or even, eventually, to the point of fullness. I punished myself for feeling this way by exercising whenever I could find the time, and when I couldn’t find the time, I felt oh-so guilty about that. Every decision I made about how to “take care of” my body was motivated by guilt.

I don’t know if it’s the fructose I re-introduced at the end of last week, but my tummy’s been giving me Hell today. I also wasn’t able to go to the gym as I had been planning because I found out our rec wasn’t offering spin at the same time as they used to. So inevitably, it’s back: sitting in class after grabbing a quick snack, that horrible two-Thanksgiving-dinner sensation starts to kick in, followed by ruthless guilt.

What do I feel guilty about? My anorexic days are eighteen months gone. I know what a healthy, normal amount of food is. I know my weight is stable, and I never step on the scale, anyway.

But it’s not really about that, of course. It never was. It’s about feeling that I’ve messed up, made a “mistake,” can’t do anything right–not even eat.

If I hadn’t been in this mindset two years ago, I might have recognized that something was up with my body that wasn’t normal, and most certainly wasn’t my fault. And I might have taken better care of myself.

IMG_0366 (2)I’ve noticed it as a student, too. I love what I’m studying, and I love the kids I teach, but all too often, I find myself feeling guilty for all the things I haven’t done

“I haven’t graded those papers”

“I haven’t spent enough of my weekend studying”

“I still haven’t sent that letter to my grandpa”

rather than celebrating the fact that I am, in my ways, living my dream.

“I wrote a really good paper about important stuff that matters in the world.”

“I got a fellowship to go to graduate school in an awesome town, in a beautiful state, with awesome people.”

“I taught a really good lesson, and my students really enjoyed it.”

“I had a great night out with friends and got a good break from studying.”

We need to let our joys guide our lives. When we don’t, we lose sight of what matters.

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Thanks to Amanda for the Thinking Out Loud linkup.

Thinking-Out-LoudWhat emotion guides your life?

Do you ever struggle with guilt?

 

 

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9 comments

  1. Shelby says:

    That is a good pact. I also feel guilty about my tummy troubles and probably apologize about it too much. I also tend to get mad at myself for feeling sick, which is a bit odd. It is good to know I’m not the only one! Now, I need to find some people to help me keep the guilt in check 🙂

    1. Joyce says:

      It’s great to hear from you, Shelby! I definitely understand about feeling guilty for feeling sick–why do we do that to ourselves?

  2. Emily says:

    Guilt is such a powerful emotion. I’m so grateful that even though my heart now condemns me, God is greater than my heart, and that His grace is greater than all my sin. <3

    1. Joyce says:

      Thanks, Emily. I had a dear friend who used to say, “You need to give yourself grace the way God gives you grace.”

  3. Cora says:

    “Its not really about that…it never was” — > That’s the key there. I resonant 100% with all of this. Guilt is my biggest demon. It is the emotion I fall to first, and the one I feel the deepest. Of course, feeling guilty about food/exercise is far far easier than feeling guilty about anything deeper to do with yourself. Or what is harder to feel, shame.
    When I begin to feel guilty about that full feeling in my stomach (or – I think sometimes I physiologically trick myself to think I feel full so I can divert my guilt to it) I have to ask myself, “what do I feel guilty about?” It takes some emotional sleuthing, but there is almost always something much more pressing behind it.
    I apologize – I got on a bit of a rant there. Point it – I’m so sorry you are having to deal with the physiological effects of a full stomach with your IBS and I know how hard both mentally and physically this must be. But to bring up all the things you have accomplished and have done is fierrrrceee girl. Look at these things. You are a rock star.
    I really hate apologizing for things that are trivial. In Canada its a bit of a stereotype – we apologize for everything.

    1. Joyce says:

      No worries about the rant. This s*** matters. Thanks so much for your encouraging words! Guilt is something we with histories of eating disorder so often encounter, and you’re so right–we have to ask ourselves, what is this really about?

  4. I struggle with guilt all the time too. I always feel guilty that I’m either not paying enough attention to work, family, my fiancee, myself, etc. It can be a very tough balance.

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