Are you riddled with guilt when you take care of yourself?
You know you need time, space, quiet, rest, some fun and to finish that damn book next to your bed, but you don’t think you deserve it.
You also know you have it quite good. There are so many women (people) who envy your life, it looks so easy, so effortless, but what they don’t understand is the inner turmoil and how you wish you had some of what they had.
All that glitters hey ..….
This is what I had to work with at my recent 6 night retreat. Here I was, having afternoon naps, having three meals a day cooked for me and spending hours meditating in blissful surroundings of beauty, tranquility and peace.
At home, my husband was juggling. (yes, he is also a parent and as a woman and mother I have juggled for many years, but it’s all relative) He is the one that has been working 100 hour weeks for as long as I can remember, takes no time for himself and as much as he tries, domestication is not his zone of genius.
My mother is 67, works full-time and still does night shifts, she works with challenging personalities in a mental health community. She never complains, she works hard, she’s tired and all her friends are retired and living their ‘best lives’.
My sister recently separated from her husband, they have two kids under 7 and live in a new country (recently emigrated) with no family support and she juggles like a mofo.
Still, I sit on my meditation pillow and wallow in my guilt.
Forgetting about the ‘sacrifices’ I made to give my husband the time and space to advance his career and to be there for every bed time of my daughter’s young life and raise her wholeheartedly and mostly single handedly. (Don’t get me wrong, he’s an amazing dad but can easily ignore the chaos of daily chores.)
It was my choice, I made that happen, even then I felt the guilt. The guilt for being so present in her life and guilt for not being burnt out by the usual challenges of being a working mother.
I got a cleaner, but then felt guilty because ‘surely I can clean the house’ but then resented my husband for treating the house like a hotel.
I practiced self-care but then felt guilty because I ‘didn’t deserve it’
The guilt of course extends that of immediate family, to all that is broken and troubled in our wider society.
I understand and appreciate my privileges. I pray for this every day. It doesn’t make the guilt go away.
As I said this is one of the many things I ‘worked with’ on retreat.
Mindfulness offers a portal to get curious and form a different relationship with guilt. Through moving closer and exploring the edges of this emotion, it gave me an opportunity to discover what lies beneath it.
I also allowed myself to ‘be with the guilt’ sensing it in my body, feeling the emotion and befriending it. Admitting that I felt guilty, felt raw and vulnerable, admit that I feel guilty for ‘having it all sorted’ but also that ‘having it all sorted’ was leaving me empty, dissatisfied and unfulfilled in other areas of my life.
I felt guilty for taking time out to work on my inner world, my spirituality and mental well-being, when my mind told me that others needed it more than me.
It also sparked bigger questions like, ‘is this it’, is this my life? Just cruising along, happily, almost longing for suffering, because maybe that will give my life more meaning, maybe I need to really feel the pain to deserve this time of self-care?
I was (and am) feeling the pain of my own internal suffering, but is one allowed to suffer when all your needs are met?
Isn’t this what everyone wants? Then the guilt seeps in for not being grateful for what I do have.
Round and round and round we go!
That was the wound that needed to burst open, to be exposed, felt and to be witnessed.
This also got revealed: The guilt I’m talking about stems from a much deeper place, and that is from a place of care.
When we realise that the guilt stems from care, we can hold it differently, ask difficult questions and approach it with more tender self-compassion, but also some fierce self-compassion which mobilises us into action to be brave, live with integrity and step up to what is really important in our lives and the lives of others.
Do I still feel guilty after my 6 night retreat? Yes, of course I do, because I care about the well-being of those closest to me, my work, my community and essentially the flourishing of all beings. The difference is that I am now nourished in mind, body and spirit and can step back into my role as mother, wife, teacher and valued member of society with more awareness, self-compassion and gratitude, trusting that the ripple effect of this is of benefit to all.
I can also de-center from the guilt and witness it rather than being hooked by it, making it mean that I’m bad or wrong. It still feels shaky and it doesn’t mean I like it, but it’s still there.
Essentially, this is what self-care means. Awareness of when it’s time to step into your life with some fierce self-compassion and putting on your oxygen mask first, then you’re of much more use to care for others in a loving, kinder and tender way and to do your important work.
As a woman in my mid 40’s this guilt thing is a work in progress of establishing a different relationship with it, for the greater good of all, now in peri-menopause, prioritising self-care is not a luxury, it’s essential for wellbeing; mind, body and spirit as we transition to the next wonderful phase of life.
When are you taking time out to rest, recharge and discover parts of yourself that you may have been ignoring for far too long?
PS. If you’re feeling guilty for looking after yourself, regardless of your circumstances, I get it, but ask yourself, what are the costs of not prioritising your self-care? Reach out, let’s chat, maybe I can help you! Schedule a call here