When I was younger, I stole a 99 cent chapstick from my local convenience shop. I walked out of the small store with a smile on my face. A life of crime. I was such a badass. As I walked home with my besties, giggling at the shoplifting shenanigans, I remember feeling an empty pit forming in my stomach—guilt. I ran into my house and explained the story to my mom with tears rolling down my face. A day later, I returned the chapstick to its rightful home. The waves in my stomach settled. The weight on my shoulders lifted.
With age, guilt evolves, matures and misleads.
An unsteady stomach develops into an unsteady mind, shaky hands and a whimsical head and heart. Guilt is a toxic, blood-sucking monster hungry for weak prey. A powerful creature craving corruption. A cumulonimbus cloud penetrating a clear sky.
To the girl who feels guilty for doing the right thing, I get you. I understand you. I know you. I am you.
And let me tell you, you are brave, you are strong and you are caring. In fact, you care too much. You love too deep. These characteristics are both a blessing and a curse. For your heart is composed of gold, but the blinding reflection often misleads you and certainly consumes you.
It is a great mystery why you feel guilty for doing the right thing. One of the seven wonders of the world is why you feel guilty for doing what is best for you.
However, I have devised a few theories:
1. You feel responsible for the emotions of others.
Say this out loud: I am responsible for my own feelings. Say it again. There is only one outcome if you tend to the emotions of others: misery. Sorry, that was kind of blunt. But, it’s true. No one else is responsible for your feelings. Feed and water the garden growing inside of you. Watch it grow into a radiant and healthy masterpiece.
2. You feel obligated to care and tend to the needs of others.
Take a deep breath. Understand that to care is a beautiful trait. However, if you continuously care for another human, you will lose sight of who you are. And it’s just not fair to you or the other person. You’re taking away his or her independence and ability to grow. Stop investing your precious time and energy into someone else.
3. You feel as if you are abandoning someone you care about if you choose to walk away.
Never feel guilty for doing what is best for you. Did you hear me? Never, ever feel guilty for doing what is best for you. You can’t force yourself to stay if you are not happy. It’s self-sabotage. Self-destruction. You know in your gut what is best; stop running from that feeling.
4. You feel selfish if you put yourself first.
To put yourself first is not selfish, it is selfless. Your happiness is important. Putting yourself first isn’t the same as disregarding or neglecting everyone else. If you learn how to love yourself first, you will know how to properly care for others.
This article is a message. A message to the girl who feels guilty for doing the right thing, the girl who feels guilty for being happy or putting herself first.
I know that these words will not magically destroy the monster of guilt lurking in your head and heart. However, I do hope that these words inspire you to focus more on yourself. Once you reach a certain point of self-loss, it is a painstakingly long and treacherous journey to rediscover who you are. It is a vicious world of confusion and self-discipline.
You deserve happiness. You deserve your own happiness.