How to STOP feeling Guilty when you're doing something for You

We moved to an area where there was hundreds of yoga classes, I was desperate to attend just one of them. After years of not having a regular practice due to the endless excuses where I would blame where we lived, not having enough time and now we’ve got a kid. It was time, it was time I did a little something for me. 

It took months of research to find the right class, which led to a year and then me giving birth to our second baby. Yeah, I was honestly searching hard.  Roy listened to me go on and on for months and he would casually say “just find a class and give it a try” each time I complained about wanting to go to yoga again. 

I had absolutely nothing stopping me. 

Just me and my big old overthinking brain. 

Finally, I committed to a gentle Yin yoga class on a Friday. I even spoke to the woman who ran the class to make sure it was even on. I dusted off my yoga mat that had been sitting in the last two houses unused, waiting to be reunited. 

Jumping on my bike for the casual five minute ride to the studio, I walked through the two yellow doors to be greeted by a super smiley yoga teacher and two students already laying on the floor. They looked so peaceful, I wanted that, as I fumbled around noisily, nervous and worried about my kids. 

Just a side note - It’s not to say that Roy is not capable of looking after them, he really is, he is the best dad. However I had tunnel vision. All I knew was that it was my responsibility to be there for my kids and I took that role very seriously. 

Yes, I was riddled with guilt that I took the time for my mental health. 

I rolled out my mat and layed down like the other people. We laid there for what seemed a lifetime. I spent it fighting with my mind to not think about what might be happening at home, my to do list, my kids, the groceries I needed to pick up, my work. Thankfully we finally got moving and I started to tune into the music. The class was literally six poses of deep stretching rest and each pose was to challenge us to surrender in the pose instead of extending it. 

My mind became focused on how to allow my limbs to soften even in a standing pose that we held for a good five or so minutes. Head dangling toward the ground, my bum in the air hoping that my yoga pants are not too thin you can see what undies I am wearing underneath, but leaning forward into the pose, not collapsing took every ounce of concentration I had. That was more important than that fleeting moment of what undies I was wearing. 

Big belly breaths, in to fill my lungs and out to gently soften. 

Ahhh, I was beginning to relax.  

I had spent most of the class fighting my brain. Fighting the thoughts of what i “should” be doing instead of what I am doing. 

In the final fifteen minutes we had a deep meditation (savasana). The yoga teacher came around to us individually and massaged the back of our necks while she cupped our scull with her warm hands. Gently she placed my head back to the ground and then place both of her hands ran over to my shoulders, pressing gently down as if she was pushing me back into the ground. The sensation was all too much, tears began streaming down my face. 

I had fully surrendered and left my mind to be in the present moment. The stress and burden I was carrying, released. It was an intense moment and I felt at peace. I had literally forgot about that I had to return to my family only minutes later. 

That class changed me as a mother and a wife. 

I went back every week religiously after that first class. I saw the power of prioritising myself and fought to fight the guilt each week to benefit myself. 

It made me a better wife, mother and friend. 


Why do we feel guilty when doing something for ourselves?


It’s happened to all of us, that icky feeling that perhaps we made the wrong choice. Well, guess what, guilt is a creation from our past and our internal values. 

The reason guilt comes up is that we feel like we are breaking the rules. 

What we all need to know is that these rules aren’t always necessarily ours. 

When guilt comes to town it’s a red flag saying, hey, you have crossed the line and you are doing something you shouldn’t be doing. What I deem as my role as a mother, wife or friend might be completely different to yours. And in certain situations, I take these roles (aka rules) and apply them to my own detriment. 

For this post, I am going to stick with talking about the guilt we feel when we are doing something good for ourselves. Because guilt is also healthy - it shows empathy and compassion in certain situations otherwise we would all be doing shit that wouldn’t benefit us or others. {yes, think psycho killers here}

Focusing back on us, imagine trying to enjoy a nice glass of red wine with friends on Friday. Your partner and kids are at home. Why the F, does guilt want to come up and be like, you should be getting home, oh dear what would such and such think, your kids might need you? Bla bla bla.

Well, at some point you decided that your family was more important than you (this is just an example (to go with the situation above FYI). Perhaps this rule that you as a mum can’t have fun was demonstrated to you by other people or was drilled into you as a child. 

Our complex set of rules are our personal guidelines. Applying them to when we are doing something good for us is just an excuse to not focus on ourselves. And this is CRITICAL - when we allow guilt to stop us from being happy it’s because we don’t feel like we deserve it.  Yes, please read that again. 

Feeling guilty because we are doing a yoga class, spending time with friends, date nights all to feel sane - is not a crime. It is just there to test you to see if you have what it takes to prioritise your happiness. To test that you are strong in your being.  Guilt wants you to compare and validate those thoughts. 

So let's challenge them.


How to stop feeling guilty about Prioritising yourself


1. Take a deep breath & acknowledge how you feel

Before you start to spiral out of control and let guilt swallow you up. Pause for a moment, take a big deep breath in and let out a big sigh. Ahhhh. Just honour this moment for a second. Yes, you are feeling all the guilt right now, so let's work through this together. Now that you have slowed down enough you can see that this is actually happening instead of just fighting it off and pretending like it’s not really there. 


2. Catch the B.S in your head

Right now, what are you saying to yourself? You shouldn’t be out tonight because …. It’s your responsibility for/to …. My family would love this … You are selfish? Ah, the negative self-talk is awful. Let’s sort this out, what we say to ourselves causes our body to respond with feelings and right now what is going on in your head is causing you to feel guilty. So lets get on top of it. 


3. Challenge negative beliefs

That belief that is triggering the guilt that you “should” … needs to be challenged. So let me ask you this. Where does that come from - is it something you think or believe to be true or have you learned it from someone else, could it be from your parents? Where did it come from and is it really yours to keep? Do you believe that statement to be true?


4. Shake it off & forgive yourself

Yes, another breath is required here. You may have just discovered that your guilt is the result of what you think you should be doing. And that perhaps it came from an unexpected place? Let out another sigh, ahhhh. Release it all. That thought is not needed, it's not got your best interest at heart. So cut yourself a little slack, and forgive yourself for holding on to it. Take another breath, release and forgive yourself. 


5. Be self-compassionate

Be gentle with yourself in this moment. It’s tough, the guilt wants to flare up, and those negative thoughts want to creep back in. Go easy. Now is the time to rewrite those thoughts and reinforce why you are doing this thing in the first place. It’s because you chose your happiness first. And that is totally okay. You deserve to fill your cup so you can show up for yourself and those you love. Your happiness is just as important as everyone else's. 


6. It’s a Practice 

By repeating these steps over and over you have the basic framework to work through those feelings of guilt. It takes a few moments, but the goal is to check in with yourself. It’s to stop those thoughts whirling around in your head, the ones that make you feel guilty. And no, unfortunately, I can’t stop your brain from thinking. What I can do is suggest that you catch out those negative thoughts as soon as you have them and refocus on why it’s important for you to have some time doing something you love.


However, there are a few other tactics that can help you to conquer your guilt. 


Simply put the art of distraction is the only other way to trick your mind into thinking about something else. So if you can’t convince it that your choice of prioritising yourself is worth it. Think of a few ways you can move your body - because the fastest way to get out of your head is to get back into your body. This could look like taking those big breaths and letting out a sigh while hiding in the toilet, it could be cutting loose on the dancefloor, it could be swaying your hips while you listen to other people talk. Obviously, this is not an excuse to get up and walk out, its about finding a way to refocus your attention.

Overcoming guilt when you are giving to yourself takes time. As much as it’s a cliche it does get easier. The more you do something. In my case it was to get my fix of nourishing yin yoga, now I don’t even question going to a class because of how it makes me feel after!

When you say YES to yourself make sure it’s filling your cup. 

There is no need to be guilty when you nourish your soul. 


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