Slay The Guilt Monster In 5 Simple Steps
Picture this: The phone rings, you see the caller ID and immediately avert your eyes, pretending you didn’t see the call come in. Why? Because you know if you answered you’d inevitably be roped into doing something you didn’t want to…
A particular friend of mine used to do that to me all the time! She’d ask a vague question about my plans and as soon as I’d say I was free, she’d immediately pounce on the opportunity to ask me to do something I probably didn’t want to do for her; and I felt trapped because I’d just told her I was free so I couldn’t say no to her request.
Since I could never figure out how to say no and not feel like an asshole, after a few times getting trapped, I got smarter and started screening her calls and texts. If she did manage to catch me directly, I’d give her a vague response about having plans or make something up so she couldn’t pin me down.
The crappy part was that sometimes she’d actually be calling to ask me to do something fun and if I gave her the impression I was busy, I’d end up missing out.
Talk about a rock and a hard place!
It felt like such a crazy balancing act between not getting trapped and being honest. I didn’t know how to say “No” without feeling like a jerk. I used to get secretly mad at her and resent her for asking me to do things… You know, instead of just dealing with the fact it was me who just didn’t know how to say “No”.
This ongoing cycle left me feeling frustrated, guilty, resentful, and even a little anxious – what if she found out I was avoiding her or lying? Ugh… Overall I was totally disempowered and at a loss for what to do.
This kind of thing happens all the time in all types of relationships and it’s often a topic brought to the table by my clients – “How do I say no?”
It’s a challenge for most people because you know you’ll feel guilty if you say no, however you also know you’ll feel resentful if you say yes.
Why is that?
Since we’re creatures that generally prefer to avoid conflict, it seems like saying yes is just easier; by saying yes we avoid the guilty feelings associated with saying no. Somehow holding onto the resentment that comes with saying yes when we don’t want to, is far easier than saying “No” and risking the potential conflict that may ensue as a result.
With yay-saying having such an impact on our lives, why is it still the norm to say yes instead of saying what we mean? Why do we continue to say “Yes” when all it does is build resentment and even contempt for the person we’re doing the favor for?
Well, somewhere inside all of us, we have a moral dogma, a benchmark for behaviour determining what a good, moral, and right person would do in any given situation.
Unfortunately every time your own personal wants or needs are in conflict with that benchmark, the immediate reaction is to feel guilt.
Ugh… Guilt… That’s a 4-letter word if I’ve ever heard one…
So where does this benchmark for behaviour come from? It starts with the inherited beliefs all of us human beings seem to have… ‘Inherited Beliefs’??
I’m talking about the beliefs that you didn’t really choose for yourself; they were handed down to you (inherited) from the people, places, and things that taught you your life lessons. This could include: parents, other family members, teachers, and friends; even TV and movies can influence this marker for good or ideal behaviour.
As an example, consider the notion of being polite. In our society there are certain behaviours we’ve all agreed demonstrate politeness, and we’ve also agreed that being polite is important when we interact with others.
This societal agreement usually includes things like: saying please and thank-you, covering your mouth when you cough, chewing with your mouth closed, etc.
Unfortunately, somehow over time, being polite mutates from it’s actual definition (“Showing good manners toward others, as in behavior, speech, etc.”*) to a twisted version of “for the sake of being polite what my wants and needs are don’t matter as much as keeping the peace and accommodating others so I should do what’s expected of me and just keep quiet.”
Sadly this is only one example of how our skewed inherited beliefs blur the line between personal boundaries (what we want and need for ourselves) versus moral boundaries (that which we have not chosen for ourselves but have accepted as the truth and right thing to do.)
As a result, in our ongoing effort to chase this moral benchmark for ideal behavior and always do the right thing, we often end up disconnected from our own personal wants and needs.
So what’s the solution?
First you have to figure out what YOU want and need in these situations. Depending on how severely tangled and collapsed your Moral and Personal Boundaries are, it may be a little confusing as well as confronting at the outset.
I know… this is the part where you want to click away from the page and tell yourself you’ve done the work because you read the article – AND – that won’t make a difference. If you want to affect change in your life and finally have the ability to say “No” with power, there’s work to do here. Trust me.
You deserve to have an empowered experience of life!
It’s time for you to get to work so you can finally have that feeling of an empowered life! One where you can say yes to what you want, and the courage and confidence to say no to what you don’t want.
Here are some steps to get you started:
- Identify for yourself the physical feelings that show up when guilt and resentment are present. I.E. tense shoulders, fluttery stomach, clenched jaw, tight throat, increased heart rate, etc.
- Start to become conscious of what’s happening around you when these physical feelings start. Did someone ask you to do something? Are you feeling obligated to do something? Is there an expectation being placed on you that you don’t like?
- Ask yourself: “In an ideal world, what would I want to happen right now?”Pay attention to the answers your internal voice gives you, this will give you an idea of what YOU want and need rather than what your moral benchmark dictates should happen.
- Next ask yourself: “What’s stopping me from saying or doing that?”
- Notice any trends or common themes that show up. I always recommend journaling about this kind of thing. It makes it easier to track trends and common themes over time. It also seems to get you better access to that internal dialogue when you’re writing things down, in turn you may get some deeper, more enlightening answers and information this way.
This stuff is never easy. Taking the time and putting in the effort to make your life better is a challenge. You deserve to have the results of taking on that challenge. You deserve to feel powerful and free in your life.
Aren’t you ready for some freedom?
Learning to say ‘no’ powerfully is one of the hardest things for people to effectively take on in their lives. It’s no small feat to change a lifetime of people-pleasing tendencies into empowered and confident action – and you deserve that kind of life. Take the first step! Let me know what you struggle with the most when it comes to saying ‘no’ to people.
Until next time ,
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