Guilt

Guilt, in my opinion, is one of the strongest emotions we can feel. It’s such an internal struggle, it’s not as obvious as other emotions. Not to others, of course, but also sometimes ourselves. It’s hard to recognize that we may be doing certain things, or even NOT doing certain things, because of guilt we have not dealt with. Or, have never known how to deal with.

Guilt is something that nobody can shoulder for us — we feel the full impact, and we choose how to deal with it. Suppress it, ignore it, pretend it doesn’t exist. Change the circumstances that are creating the guilt. But what if the circumstances aren’t that easy to just change? What if the guilt is just part of who we are, and we can’t ever truly be rid of it?

I’ve heard the term “fat shaming” a lot recently, and it’s like somebody finally put a name to what I’ve been dealing with my whole life. You don’t think about the impact your comments make on a person’s life. I have been told my whole life to “grow a thick skin” or “just ignore it” — and it’s not that simple for me. We all feel things differently, and while studying psychology, sociology and the like will give you some insight to social patterns, you can’t ever truly say you understand a person that is not yourself. We are uniquely “us” — and the things people say to and about me become part of the reality of “me”.

If I feel guilty for being fat, how do I deal with that? And how do I deal with other people purposely making me feel guilty about it? For some, it’s a motivation to change. At the same time, another person will rise against that and vow NOT to change, to stand up for who they are and their freedom to be who they are. What about the guy in the middle? The conflict is about us, but it should not define us. So why do I let these things define me?

The cycle of guilt flows into all parts of life, and the more you think about it, the deeper it goes. I feel guilty for having too much sugar, or for enjoying *anything* I buy for myself when our income is nil and void. I feel guilty for making plans, and breaking them. I feel guilty for not visiting my mother more, or connecting with other family. I feel guilty for downloading movies and missed TV shows. I feel guilty for cheating on my diet.

What makes me feel all of this guilt, and how do I deal with it? Well, that’s part of what writing accomplishes for me. I get my thoughts out on paper (or screen?), and whether I hit “publish” or not, the things I’ve written have spoken to me. I guess you could say that I like talking to myself. But seriously, if I realize most of that guilt is due to what I fear others will think of me, I begin to realize that the guilt weighing me down is not my fault. It’s not your fault, or any person in particular — it’s a culmination of social cues, life events, bullies and just generally inconsiderate people.

Guilt can also be good, because it keeps us in check. Since I do feel guilt when I eat poorly, that guilt reminds me the next time I reach for something I shouldn’t have. The guilt is there telling me not to make the same mistake again. The guilt can drive you to make better choices. But how do you keep a balance between the good guilt and the bad guilt? How do I learn that bettering myself doesn’t have to be the result of guilt, but just an effort to feel and look better for ME?

Since guilt is a common human experience, a lot of studies have been done that show guilt is something many of us physically embody — the guilt becomes a part of us. While we think of the”weight of guilt” as just a metaphor, it often manifests itself as actual, physical weight. As a child, I was ridiculed for my weight. Guilt started at an early age — from there, it snowballed. Because I didn’t even understand the concept of guilt, it was internalized. All of the things people said about me, became part of my psyche, and part of who I am today. The guilt of not being “good enough” has followed me. The guilt of not being pretty, or skinny, or funny. I mostly dealt with this as a child by being smarter. If I could learn more, and ace more tests, and be better at something than my peers, it relieved some of the guilt I was carrying. It lifted my spirits to be praised for being a good student, but then again, when you’re “teacher’s pet” that opens an entirely new pandora’s box of guilt and self-loathing.

I am in a place in my life where “being better than everybody at any one thing” is not as possible as it seemed when I was a kid. As a kid, all you really have to do to achieve a goal is want it — you don’t think too much, you don’t question it, you just do what you need to do. As an adult, I feel all the questions, social conditioning, media, what I want, what my family wants, what my peers want… and what if all those wants and needs and demands on us are just too overwhelming?

It helps to understand that we can never please everybody all of the time. As my Dad used to say, if somebody was selling dollars for dimes, somebody would complain. It’s just impossible to be perfect, because even if you had every quality that every person considered “perfect”, those perfections may be defects from a different person’s perspective. Another problem with perfection? Guilt. If there was a perfect person, they would be envied. They would be made to feel “too perfect” and scrutinized until they changed themselves in some way. It is impossible to be perfect, because everybody’s idea of perfect differs.

I guess I am what some people refer to as a “people pleaser” — I try to make people happy, because I want them to like me. My weight has taught me that I have to compensate for my lack of physical appeal by being kind, and by doing things to make other people happy. Some people have another term for this — door mat. I have definitely had my share of muddy feet brushed clean against my bristles.

My journey is not just about weight loss, and not just about physical health. This whole process is an analysis of who I am, who I have been, and who I wish to become. With the way I’ve been eating lately, I am stuck in a loop of guilt that is pulling me off course from my visions and goals. When you make one mistake, the next one is a lot easier to make. Pretty soon, you’re making nothing BUT mistakes, and the pattern continues.

I wish to break this pattern of guilt. I wish to free myself, to make it OK if I mess up, as long as I re-focus, and don’t lose sight of my goals. If I can’t be perfect, at least I can be smart. So it’s time to use my brain — this is my best defense in a world where a person’s body is judged by its size, shape, gender or color. I refuse to let that kind of thinking, imagery, fat shaming, guilt, bull$#!, hatred, or disgust get in my way. I am smart, I am resourceful, and I am not weak.

You know what the most sexy part about any woman is? Two parts — her heart, and her mind. I’ve been fighting the war with the wrong weapons. I have all the arsenal I need right here.

 

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