Are you wearing "Guilt Goggles"? How your feeling guilty affects your family.

May 17, 2021

GUILT...  If you are a parent, I’m sure this is a feeling that you are quite familiar with!  Just think about how many opportunities there are in a single day to second guess yourself as a parent.  If you’re like me, too many to count!

A couple of weeks ago I first blogged about where guilt comes from, and what keeps it alive.  I made the case that guilt is self-destructive and debilitating, and I shared some tips to help get rid of it.  But guilt is too big for just one blog because it affects more than just you.  So today we’re going to dig a little deeper to see the full impact that your feelings of guilt create for your whole family.  

Because when you are feeling guilty, you actually start viewing your WHOLE life through a lens of guilt.  It’s like you have “guilt goggles” and it starts to seep into every aspect and relationship in your life.  

To really see how this plays out, we’re going to look at an example that brings up guilt to see what it creates across the board for both you and your family.  Then we’re going to talk about a few more things you can do when guilt comes up.

So, let’s start by imagining that you’ve just gotten off of work or home after being out for a while and it’s been one of those days.  You’re thinking “Everybody needs me for one reason or another and I’ve got nothing left”, and all you really want to do is curl up with a mindless show or book and a glass of wine. The thought of getting dinner, overseeing homework, baths, and getting the kids to bed is overwhelming. Then as soon as you walk in the door, the kids see you and they run at you yelling about how something isn’t fair and wanting you to resolve it right away.  You lose it, and you yell at them.

Now, the guilt could have started back when you had the thoughts that getting dinner and taking care of your kids that evening was overwhelming, or it could have started when you yelled.  It actually doesn’t matter when it started, what typically triggers guilt is that you think you should be doing something differently than you are.  You “should” enjoy dinner with your family and time with your children.  You “shouldn’t” yell at them.

To see what guilt creates, let’s look at how you actually ACT when you FEEL guilty.  What do you do?

Here is a typical list of what parents report doing when they feel guilty:

  • Short-tempered and take it out on the family
  • Resentful action
  • You’re not present because you are stuck in thought loops of how you should be acting and feeling and everything you’re doing wrong
  • Looking for all the other reasons and evidence of why you should feel guilty (beyond just the one incident)
  • Your brain starts to justify how much you do, and how if everyone else behaved a certain way you wouldn’t be in this situation, and you wouldn’t feel guilty.  If your kids behaved differently, if you had more help, the list could go on and on…  
  • Your brain is starting to look at everyone in your life through a lens of guilt and why they should be guilty too. 

On the flip side, here is what you’re NOT doing when you’re feeling guilty:

  • Giving yourself any grace or compassion
  • Giving anyone else any grace or compassion
  • Looking for any evidence of what you’re doing right
  • Looking for any evidence of what anyone else is doing right

Now, do you see how guilt becomes a lens through which you see everything?  Not only yourself but everyone else around you too?
You end up resentful and short-tempered, and you’re not able to see anything that you or anyone else is doing right.  Your brain is looking for all the ways that everyone else is guilty. Your brain thinks that if other people are guilty too, that will make you feel better.  But it doesn’t work that way and keeps you stuck in guilt.

As I mentioned in the first guilt blog, I am extremely familiar with guilt.  The example above is one of my own from my very large arsenal because guilt was my best friend for many years starting with the birth of my son.  You see, my Mom is what you call a “baby whisperer”.  She is amazing with babies and little ones and stayed home raising myself and my sisters. I always thought I was going to be just like my Mom.  I thought I would love having babies and would stay home to raise them.  And that was NOT me at all.

I did not love the baby or toddler stage, and I decided to start my first company when my son was 6 months old…  so I felt guilty for YEARS.  I shouldn’t be working, I should enjoy playing on the floor with them, I should enjoy the trips to the playground and toddler birthday parties.  But I didn’t!

And when I felt guilty, I was super hard on myself and had lots of thoughts around what I “should” be doing.  I had unrealistic expectations of myself that I just couldn’t meet.

I also had lots of thoughts on what everyone else “should” be doing too with lots of unrealistic expectations for them too.  No one could win.

My life changed when I started getting coached.  The coach helped me look at my life through a lens of curiosity and compassion instead of guilt.  When I stopped judging myself as much, I also stopped judging everyone else in my life so much too.  It changed me and it totally changed things for my family too.  So much so that my daughter actually mentioned that there was a difference.  I asked her what changed, and she responded “You did Mom”.

So now I want to invite you to consider taking off the guilt goggles and trying on compassion and curiosity.  Compassion involves allowing yourself to be human and dropping some of the self-judgment and unrealistic or “superhuman” expectations for yourself.  Then with curiosity, you start asking better questions. 

You may still have the thought that it’s been a tough day and the last thing you want to do is to make dinner, but you don’t judge that thought and think that you shouldn’t be having it.  Instead, you might think, “Of course it’s completely normal that I don’t want to make dinner”.  Then you ask a better question, “how can I best support myself in this situation?”  

One way to support yourself is to start by taking your own version of a time-out.  If at all possible, take a couple of minutes, breathe deeply and center yourself.  Hide in the bathroom if you need to!

Then, you can decide if you want to drop the judgment for what you’re thinking and feeling.  For example, what if it was okay that you don’t want to make dinner tonight? What if you decided you could either do something to make it a little better while you cook (maybe put music on), or you could decide that sandwiches or breakfast for dinner is okay tonight too.

Now - if you didn’t catch yourself before you yelled, can you look at yourself through the eyes of compassion?  That looks like seeing that past version of you that yelled, and telling yourself that she was doing the best that she could at the time, and imagine giving her a hug.  If you feel compelled, you can also give your kids a hug and apologize for yelling and let them know that you struggle with your emotions at times too and that you’ll work to be better in the future.  

The key is to look through the lens of compassion and curiosity, and stop telling yourself that you “should” have acted differently than you did.  That is arguing with the past, and the past always wins.  You can’t change the past, you can just work to change the future.  So…  how can you better support yourself so you start rewriting your future?

If you find that you are still struggling on how to really drop the guilt, I can help!  With my Conscious Parent Process, I help you identify ALL of the areas of your life that guilt has infiltrated, what the real source is, and I show you what it’s really creating for you and your family.  Then we break it down and work together to consciously decide and rewrite your new and more realistic expectations for yourself and come up with better questions generating curiosity instead of judgment.  As you transform and implement these new expectations, you become a whole new kind of parent and it’s a gift for your whole family.  Book a free call with me here.

In the meantime, I have a FREE workshop coming up on May 25th where you can learn how to help your child (and yourself!) navigate negative feelings.  You will walk away with specific and actionable tools that you can start using immediately.  Learn more about it and register here to get signed up!

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