ARE YOUR DECISIONS BEING DRIVEN BY GUILT?
“He who trims himself to suit everyone will soon whittle himself away.”
– Raymond Hull
I’ve had a chronic skin problem for the past 8 years. This has come and gone periodically over this time, and I’ve tried just about every allopathic medicine on the market for it. The medicines have strong side effects, but provide the urgent temporary relief I’ve needed.
Naturally, my family has been concerned about this issue.
I’ve had many conversations with them about it, tried to follow their advice of trying different doctors or treatment modalities, and frequently argued with them over the frustrations involved with not getting better.
Going through my skin problems has made me more aware of how we are socialized to talk about anything we are trying to work towards – whether it is a personal goal, a dream project we want to build, or in my case, reaching a state of better health.
Here are 3 things I’ve become conscious of to know if I am being driven by guilt:
1. Listening to authority – Ever since I was young, I’ve been told what is wrong and what is right. It is this external influence that we eventually internalize into our own understanding of the world. What is more, we are told what not to do if we still want to be loved, accepted, or approved. Not following a parent or authoritative figure’s directions leads to guilt from not doing what they tell you, so we avoid this situation, don’t express ourselves, and repress the ideas or feelings we have.
2. Comparisons – In my culture, I grew up hearing about how other relatives or family friends were doing, and usually with the undertone of “look how good they are, and why can’t you be like them”. I’m from India, a country where you can’t help but look around you to know your level of societal success; a place where your wealth and level in the social stratosphere indicates your status. Naturally, it is easy to see why this tendency of comparison is still ingrained in the culture, almost by inertia, despite us not living in India anymore.
3. Need for approval – We all have a need to belong, but the negative by product this can lead to is that we feel like we must always fit in. But these are different concepts, with the former leading to meaningful connections with others, and the latter leading to potentially compromising oneself. The truth is, what I do for myself is for myself, and it shouldn’t be for gaining notice, attention, or acceptance from others. Others may never notice, and I could be left unfulfilled waiting for something that will not happen.
Over the years, I’ve become more conscious of these 3 things that lead to feelings of guilt within, mainly because of their possible repercussions on my health. I’ve noticed that when I repress my inner desires and don’t listen to what my body needs, I suffer. When I let comparisons and a need for approval override my ability to discern and make sound decisions, I don’t make the best choices for my health care.
With this awareness, I can prevent myself from sliding down the slippery slope of doing what is best for my health. I can openly listen to authority, treat what they say as simply an opinion, and return to a place of grounding where I choose and decide from my core.
When my decisions differ from those around me, I am able to follow the pull of my decisions and the intentions behind them, and aptly communicate this to others to create understanding. Understanding my self, my body, and my needs reminds me that I am enough, and makes me aware of why I am seeking validation from others. This in turn helps me honour myself in my journey of healing, reduce the additional burden interpersonal conflict may have on my inner health, and actively seek out and address the root cause of my suffering.
How do you deal with guilt, and avoid being driven by it?