Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Thoughts on the No-Guilt Resolution for 2016

Here's what I feel like happened with my resolution to not take actions based on guilt last year:

(Note: I'm using a hypothetical example related to work, but this issue is not just about work, it exists in every area of my life).

Let's say that every single time something went wrong in my life, I took time off from work. I ended up taking lots and lots of days off, more than anyone considered "acceptable." This annoyed a lot of people. Now, I believed that I was entitled to take all of that time off. It was not something that I wanted to feel guilty about, but I ended up feeling guilty because I knew that other people disapproved of it. So as a result of that guilt, I ended up compensating for the time I took off by working extra hours on the days that I did go in. I was extra nice and accommodating to everyone, I offered to take on every project that came my way. Basically, every day that I did go to work, I went above and beyond in trying to make a good impression to offset all those days that I took off.

Imagine that this went on for several years, and when it got to be 2016, I said enough is enough. I want to feel entitled to take off all the time I need to take off, and I am making myself miserable by trying to compensate for it. I don't want to work extra hours and be extra nice and go above and beyond on the days that I do show up to work. This year, I'm going to take all the time off that I want without compensating for it out of guilt.

But 2016 turned out to be a very good year for me - I didn't have as many bad things come up, so I didn't need to take as much time off. And since I didn't take as much time off, I didn't feel the need to do those compensating behaviors that I had wanted to quit. So 8 months go by, and I'm feeling great. Life has been so much better since I've stopped working those extra hours and being extra nice and going above and beyond at work.

Then something bad happens. The first bad thing in a long time. And I need a lot of time off from work - more time than I've needed in the entire year. And as soon as I take that time off, I revert back to feeling guilty and compensating for that guilt at work.

That's why I don't feel like I can write off going to the wedding when I didn't want to as a one-time slip-up. It was more than that. It's that most of the behaviors that I've done based on guilt were compensations - things that I did to make up for non-socially approved things that I wanted to feel entitled to do, but I didn't. And I went a long time without doing those bad behaviors because nothing was wrong, but the second that something was wrong, the second that I would start behaving badly again, I started the compensating behaviors again. And that's why it doesn't feel so much like yay I lasted 267 days without acting out of guilt, it's more like I went 267 days without doing any bad behaviors that caused me to feel the need to act of guilt.

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