Feeling guilty is a life sentence assigned to a woman at an early age. Every attempt to preserve a little sanity and sanctuary seems punishable. There is a to-do list miles long and guess what is never naturally on it? Self-care. Not unless she fights the stigma and societal normative behavior of nurturers and etches it on the list herself.
For years, I carried guilt with me like a tattered and filthy teddy bear. It was mine and I learned to love and cling to it. I didn’t know how to exist without it. When I decided to abandon the idea that obligations and achievements defined me, I suffered from empty nest syndrome. Existing without and beyond the identity given to me by the people who raised me was lonely. I know people who wear guilt like a crown. They’re honored to be the couriers of responsibility and emotional debt left in the symbolic wills of our ancestors. Guilt is a tricky beast. Sometimes we feel guilty for surviving, experiencing bliss, and wanting a love that seems unconventional or even forbidden.
I left guilt at the doorway to my 30’s. Some healers and shaman say that something has to replace feelings of death (guilt, depression, and anger) in order for the freed person to move forward. I chose to replace guilt with vicious self-love. There is a love so freeing that it will cripple insecurities, crack the skulls of the skeletons in your closet, and invite self-acceptance to the table for a conversation long overdue.
When I decided to live for myself, I abandoned the expectations of others. I stopped comparing myself to other women. I started self-reflection and the quietest, introspective meditation. My only enemies were renting loft space in my mind. My insecurities were the result of self-neglect. I found freedom in the loneliest moments of my life. I couldn’t blame anyone and I couldn’t delay my healing to save anyone else. The distractions were gone and all I had to keep me company was the truth. I learned that my mental health is my responsibility. My joy is mine to protect and renew. Guilt is resentment’s cousin. When I felt obligated to take care of everyone else, I also had clearance to blame them for my pain and inability to heal.
When I broke up with guilt, I started dating personal accountability.