I'll never forget being in a hotel room, in one of the most beautiful places on earth, Portofino, Italy, and I was crying my eyes out. On hold with Delta airlines, I was trying to explain to my husband why I had to find a flight home a day early from our 12 day vacation to Europe. While our kids were with grandma, Dave and I had been gone 11 days, and I was flipping out! In reflection, I can now see that I was working myself into a frenzy while my amazing husband sat there trying to support me even though I'm sure he thought I was losing it.
If you're a woman reading this, who happens to have kids, odds are you get it. It didn't matter where I was, how incredible the place or what type of a "once in a lifetime moment this was," my mind had turned on me and guilt, that five letter bully, was having a heyday with my head. I wasn't getting home early -- it was over $5,000 to change my flight! So I dried my tears, took a deep breath, looked at Dave and said, "We're in Portofino Italy!" What was I thinking? I pulled myself together and we walked hand in hand to a little cafe by the water. Dave and I spent close to 10 hours in conversation, totally forgetting what had just happened in the hotel room and it was a moment I will never forget.
If I had gotten on an early flight, I would have missed this incredible time with Dave and as parents, we needed it. Before I had kids I never would have imagined it possible to have such intense emotions. Yet in speaking to hundreds of thousands of women over the past two decades (as a professional speaker), I've learned that I'm not alone.
Something happens when you have kids, it's like this guilt trigger, which didn't exist before. It gets turned on and quickly goes into overdrive. The worst part is that the guilt is completely unfounded -- it's kind of like F.E.A.R. -- false evidence appearing real! Yet we feel it and at times that guilt can be paralyzing. Perhaps you can relate.
• I feel guilty because I work and I'm missing time with my kids.
• I feel guilty because I'm staying home with my kids and not bringing much needed income into our household.
• I feel guilty because I can't provide the home my kids would love to have.
• I feel guilty because my kids have so much homework (and you didn't even give it to them).
• I feel guilty because I don't cook enough.
• I feel guilty because the house is a mess.
Okay, okay, okay! See how maddening it is? You may have felt one of these guilt emotions yourself or two or three or more. I know I have at one time or another. In truth, even when you're doing everything perfectly as a mom, the best you know to do, the emotions of guilt can easily slink into your mind and steal your joy.
So one day I made a decision -- I was tired of guilt, it was exhausting me.
My kids were six and eight and during an intense fight with guilt I realized how silly the whole thing was. As these thoughts slipped in, "You're leaving the kids to go speak again today?" I actually stood up and said, "Yes I am AND they get to bond with Grammy, how cool is that?"
Just one sentence, but I felt incredibly empowered and instantly better. A few hours later guilt showed up again in the form of a phone call, "Hi mommy! We miss you!" Oh my gosh -- it was killing me! Even though I was going to be gone for just 24 hours, tears flooded my eyes until I said to myself, "You're a great mom, its okay Traci -- you'll be home tomorrow." I instantly relaxed and felt better.
I was starting to fight back.
From that point forward, every time guilt showed up, I fought back and what I learned is that it's like any other bully -- when you stop letting it push you around, it will back off -- and soon after disappear. I don't know the exact day or time that it happened but one day I realized I was no longer plagued by guilt... the silent stalker that had invaded my life the day my kids were born. It had gone away!
So I reflected on my journey and here's exactly what I did. If you're tired of feeling bad about yourself, when you know you're doing an amazing job -- whether as a mom, wife, employee, employer or friend -- whatever it is, try these six tips to stop the "guilt bully" in its tracks:
1. Be observant.Pay attention to when feelings of guilt arise. Just reading this blog is going to make it top of mind but notice "guilt" and the triggers that create it.
2. Think it through. Seriously consider those few triggers that bring the most guilt. Walk through your emotions and put it in perspective. In short -- cut yourself some slack.
3. Stop guilt in its track. The moment you begin to feel guilt, fight back with something you are doing right. As guilt says, "You should be home, not working today," remind yourself, "We have an amazing life, with rich experiences, food to eat, a roof over our head and my kids are happy." Focus on what you are doing right.
4. Let it go. There is such a tendency for women to hold onto guilt. Guess what? Not anymore! Make a conscious decision to let guilt go from your life. Then be observant to when it's showing up, think your triggers through, stop guilt in its tracks and repeat, repeat, repeat!
5. Give it time. Guilt is a powerful emotion that has probably been in your life for a long time. While you may want it gone today, odds are it will take some time, so be prepared to fend off guilt for a good thirty days or more until it relents and ultimately goes away.
6. Enjoy your newfound freedom! Once guilt is gone from your life, you will feel as if an incredible weight has been lifted. You can defeat guilt and the emotional freedom you will feel, well let's just say -- it's incredible!
Odds are, before your head hits the pillow tonight, you are going to confront guilt in some fashion. Whether it's an unfinished work project, something to do with the kids, your parents or a friend, it's going to show up. Remember, it's not how guilt presents itself that matters. Going forward, it's how you respond to it!
Written by Traci Bild: Author, Speaker & Entrepreneur. Get a FREE Get Your Girl Back "Dream Journal" and spend some time off-line filling the pages with the hopes and dreams you hold close to your heart.
Go to www.GYGB.com and click on "Free Downloads."
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