Have you ever felt so much guilt that you should put the needs of others before your own?
Perhaps you do this because you care. After all, you want to support others and help to make them feel happy. However, sometimes, on occasion when you drop everything to help the other person, do you feel a little sense of yourself has not been listened to? Or maybe you’ve had to miss out on an event that you had planned for yourself.
How do you decide whom to help? The other person or your activity?
If this is you, you may need a better understanding of how to feel good about yourself whilst helping and supporting the needs of others, and letting others know when their request is not convenient for you.
Why do people ignore their own feelings?
A recent client told me that she felt she often gave too much of herself to her family, going over and above what is considered normal. On occasions, she sometimes could feel that she had been manipulated and started feeling resentment. Whilst she still wanted to and loved to help and support the family, she did start to feel that she lost her sense of self.
“Actually, yes, I ignore my feelings. I feel not as important or as good as the other person or their feelings” came the response.
My client may have subconsciously accepted that she was not as important as others and then tried hard to make up for how she felt inside. I asked my client, to avoid feeling hurt, did you worry about how you could stop feeling inferior to other people?
“Yes” was the answer.
She was not born worrying about how to put other people first. This habit was learned because of how she felt about herself long ago. This is no one’s fault, it’s just something that she wrongly thought about herself when she was learning about her self-image, her self-belief and self-esteem as she began to believe that she was not as good as others.
Guilt and unworthiness can sabotage our happiness and ruin our lives if we don’t understand how to get rid of these feelings.
My client told me:
“I’m 69 years old, and I still believe what I once thought about myself as an innocent young, two- or three-year-old. I still believe in an aspect of myself, a belief that I was not good enough.”
And that feeling became a belief that she had carried into her adult life. She buried that fear and that shame because she didn’t know what to do with it.
“So I would do whatever I could to be accepted by mum and dad and the others, I gave my time and effort, but if this was not appreciated, I would feel not enough or not as good as the other people”
It is incorrect to continue to believe this negative pain because it was a belief and it’s not true. It was never true of a lovely little child. It was just an incorrect thought, which no longer served her or helped her now or ever.
According to how deeply you believe something to be true, it will become true for you. This is why we must change our beliefs when we realise those beliefs were not right for us.
Why do we believe that we must satisfy the needs of others and put their beliefs before our own?
Is it because we are afraid of what they may think of us, or how they may react? Or do we just want to be nice and be good people and what is wrong with that?
All the guilty feelings that we have as adults were taught to us by our parents, siblings, or others as we were growing up. Guilt is effective, it works, parents usually use guilt on their children because guilt was used on them by their parents. And often by their grandparents and generations.
- Why use Guilt as a method of interaction? Well, it is very powerful for manipulation and control. If we can make people feel guilty about something, their emotions can easily be controlled. If their emotions can be controlled, they can be manipulated into doing or not doing something.
- For this reason. Guilt is a deceitful emotion used to negatively influence people on the inside and lower the resistance to the control of others on the outside.
- Young people can become susceptible to feelings of guilt because of destructive criticism, and lack of love. When as young children we are told that we are no good or stupid, or a disappointment, or not competent, the child soon begins to develop feelings of unworthiness.
- When children are continually criticised as they grow up, they soon begin to criticise themselves.
- This lack of self-love, the self-criticism manifests as negative comparisons with others, all around them. They see people who are doing better than they are, in whatever field, academics, or social activities.
- Because the child has feelings of inferiority, they conclude naturally that if someone else is doing better than they are in some area that person must be better a better person than them. This can lead to the child negatively comparing themselves with others.
- A guilt-ridden child must think, if someone is doing better than I am, that person must be worth more than I am. If that person is worth more than I am, then I must be worth less.
- Many can clearly remember their fathers or mothers telling them repeatedly that they were no good how and do they feel now?
- The child grows up feeling worth less. A worthless person is going to be diminished, anxious, insecure, have no voice, little or no confidence or worse.
Feelings of guilt lead very quickly to people seeing themselves as victims of life circumstances, fate, society, and other factors. This feeling is expressed in the words I’m not good enough. These individuals continually compare themselves to others and say:
“I’m not smart enough.” “I’m not talented enough.” “I’m not competent enough.” “I’m no good.” “I can’t, don’t ask me, I can’t.”
It’s important to have consideration for the other person’s point of view, however, we must do what is right for us as well. It’s what we must do for ourselves. It’s good to help others if you want to, but if you don’t want to it won’t feel right.
The client adds;
“It is true that sometimes occasionally I end up feeling resentful, I’ve given my best and have done as requested, but it’s still not good enough for them”
On the positive side acknowledging these feelings tells my client that something must change. It’s time for her to take a step back and look into why she has given so much of herself to help the other person. She may have felt less resentful if she helped herself first.
Because feelings of guilt have been learned, the good news is that they can be unlearned as well. When we investigate and question our thinking, we can then understand why we react the way we do and then change that belief.
“I realise now I needed to release that old thought, that belief, the wish – almost a ‘need’ to always prioritize others; I don’t need it now. I understand it now, I had been trying to tell myself something, it’s ok to help others but sometimes it’s OK to help myself first. I didn’t pay attention to myself, but now I am doing just that”
So now for my client, when she tells herself, I’m a strong, lovely person. It’s true. She now knows that she is a kind and loving person, she understands that she has suffered a lot and learned a lot. She can help others, but it’s also just as important to help herself. Now she is going to be even stronger.
Previously my client was asked to babysit to help her family, however on multiple occasions this request was not convenient, and it would clash with an activity she had arranged and paid for, for herself. My client felt guilty when she didn’t help the family and guilty if she put her own needs first. No win, situation!
Now, she makes clear to the family exactly when she will and will not be available, she now sets clear boundaries in advance. Now the family works around her dates and schedule, enabling my client to decide if she would be available to help or if she would prefer to attend her activity. This way the family and client can both respect each other; guilt is no longer a factor in the decision.
From this moment on never criticise yourself for anything.
Never say anything about yourself that you do not sincerely want to be true.
The Most Powerful words in your vocabulary are the words you say to yourself and believe.
The very best words that you say to yourself over and over again;” I like myself”, “I like myself”, “I am responsible for my own feelings”
Refuse to criticise, anyone for anything.
Eliminate destructive criticism from your vocabulary.
Be the kind of person who has never heard a discouraging word.
Make it a habit to continue to seek out positive things in other people and comment on them.
Refuse to use guilt on other people for any reason.
Abolish the use of guilt from your vocabulary from your family and your
Never try to make people feel guilty for something they have done or have not done.
The greatest gift you can give to others is unconditional love and acceptance.
Refuse to be manipulated by guilt coming from someone else from this day forward.
Reject any attempt to make you feel guilty for any reason.
If anyone asks you or tries to make you feel guilty, simply say
“You’re not trying to make me guilty are you?”
Remain silent. If the other person said “Of course not”
and they then try again, say
“Are you trying to make me feel guilty?”
If they say yes, then say
“Well, That’s not going to work”.
Please feel free to contact me if you have identified with the comments and suggestions above, why not create real change regarding your feelings of guilt, and learn to give yourself some space and happiness?
Just press the button below to arrange a free chat and to discuss if a session would be helpful with your situation.
Look after yourself, Joanna x