14. Recognize that you can only do your best. Nothing more. So maybe you weren’t the kind of mother who got down on the floor to play with her kids, but you were the kind of mother who took her kids on outings to museums and parks. Maybe you aren’t the kind of person to surprise your spouse with romantic gestures and gifts, but you do provide a perpetually open ear, helping hand, and unconditional support.
15. Write a check to an aid agency. That’s doing something concrete with your guilt. If you’re feeling guilty about eating that chocolate cake last night, go for a long walk today. If you feel guilty about the long hours you’ve been spending at work, call in sick tomorrow and spend the day with your kids and/or partner doing what they want.
16. Make a sign that proclaims “I deserve this” and hang it above your desk. The next time you feel guilty about your success, or begin to feel like you’re a fake and don’t deserve the success you’ve achieved, look at the sign and repeat the mantra 15 times.
17. Focus on the world around you. There’s no use feeling guilty for all the horrors of the world. You are just one person with a limited reach. Ask a clergy member or any anthropologist or social scientist and they’ll all say our job as humans is to do our best, and nothing more.
18. Determine your priorities, write them down, and then post the list on your refrigerator and in your office. Next time you start feeling guilty about something you didn’t do, check the list. If it’s not in the top three priorities, you’re off the hook.
19. Accept some selfishness. It really is okay to look out for yourself.
20. Don’t leave guilt unresolved, particularly if it relates to an older relative such as a parent. Address the issues that matter to you so you’re not left with regrets you can’t address.
21. Ask yourself, “Would I want someone else to feel guilty about what’s eating away at me?” “Would I forgive someone else for doing/not doing what I did/didn’t do?” If the answer to either of these is yes, then (to paraphrase the golden rule) do unto yourself as you would have yourself do unto others!
22. Politely decline other people’s guilt. Mothers have an amazing capacity for making children feel guilty — even when their child is 60 years old. Some spouses, bosses, children, and religious leaders are also masters at making others feel bad about what they have (or haven’t) done or said. Know what? They have no right to do that, and you have no obligation to listen. Only you are accountable for your actions. Assuming you haven’t broken a law or a solemn promise, only you have the right to judge whether you did something wrong. A loved one can certainly tell you if you’ve done something to hurt him. But he doesn’t have the right to tell you what your reaction ought to be.
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