Has a loved one ever made you feel guilty? I guarantee you, they have. It’s disheartening, and at times, it can be hard to believe. Why would someone who loves us try to make us feel bad for following our own hearts? But behind closed doors, all across the world you’ll find someone who is placing guilt on another person and coercing them into doing something they don’t want to do.
And most often it is those who are closest to us who cause us to feel guilt the most. They make us feel wrong for adhering to our own values and only offer praise when we follow their wishes. But what about our own values and beliefs, isn’t this our one life to live?
Family guilt is a toxic pattern.
And if we’re not careful it leads us towards a downward spiral of shame and ultimately, loss of our own personal identity. So how do we stand up for ourselves without being rude to those we love?
Expectations have been ingrained in our minds since childhood. We must graduate high school and then move onto college. After college we should get a job, get married, buy a house and have children of our own. But this is the perfect life, right? This is the EXACT problem with expectations they hold us to impossible standards of perfection and just like us life is not perfect.
With time our expectations change and we begin to develop inner manuals for others. These inner manuals act us guidelines or rulebooks and they dictate how others should act, feel, look and even treat us. But we keep these rulebooks hidden and we never share them. We presume that others will understand them without ever communicating the details of what’s inside. This is how most guilt trips begin. We expect that others should adhere to our inner manuals without ever acknowledging that deep down inside they probably have one of their own.
Closer Look at Guilt Trips
Guilt trips can often be small and unnoticeable. From asking us to come over earlier for dinner, to making a special road trip for someone we barely know or even having our mother nag at us to eat something particular as they spent the whole day cooking it. These guilt trips are harmless. Annoying, yes but nonetheless not emotionally damaging.
But these small guilt trips often lead to bigger ones. Some may sound like this: you should go to the same college that your father graduated from as it’s family tradition or being asked to name your first child after your grandmother Erma. Come on now, it’s your grandmother you know what to do.
Why they Don’t Work
But guilt trips don’t work. Well they do for a few a minutes but that initial decision to do as one’s asked is followed by damaging repercussions. Think about how you feel after someone makes you feel guilty. For most of us, we leave these conversations feeling as if there might be something wrong with us.
We feel shamed for being who we are or for being asked to do something that doesn’t align with our own personal values. And that personal feeling of shame leads to resentment against the person who made us feel guilty for no reason.
Guilt Trips= Shame= Resentment= Distance
So how do we steer clear of guilt trips that can be placed on us during the holiday season? Well we….
Remove the expectation that the holiday must be perfect.
Spend more time in the moment rather than being focused on what may or may not come next.
Practice gratitude for everything. (the sun, the air we breathe, the welcome kisses, warm hugs and hot meals)
Honor your family and friends for who they are not for being who you want them to be.
Clearly state to anyone who places guilt on you the subconscious consequences that come with guilt trips. (Kudos to you as this is a difficult conversation to have)
And if all else fails be kind and walk away. Habits are hard to break and change takes time. In order to stop the behavior from continuously occurring we need to release our desire to control, live in our truth and have faith in the changes that will come. Just remember guilt is a useless emotion that weighs us down and keeps us from where we are happiest.
Wouldn’t you rather be happy?
I know I would.