Community//

Feelings of guilt – from living a privileged life?

The feeling of knowing and having awareness around the fact you live a privileged life but equally feeling like something is wrong or missing, and therefore shaming yourself for feeling guilty about it.

A word I have heard a few times recently in a context not typically associated to the general meaning – is the word guilt. I read this new context in a book, experienced it myself and then had someone confide in me with the same feeling. I am sensing a trend.

Let’s start with the actual definition;

Guilt

  1. the fact or state of having committed an offence, crime, violation, or wrong, especially against moral or penal law; culpability
  2. a feeling of responsibility or remorse for some offence, crime, wrong, etc., whether real or imagined.
  3. conduct involving the commission of such crimes, wrongs, etc.:to live a life of guilt.

Pretty heavy word which in general is normally associated with doing something wrong. So what is this new context and why is it topical at the moment?

The context is around the feeling of guilt in day to day life. The feeling of knowing and having awareness around the fact you live a privileged life but equally feeling like something is wrong or missing, and therefore shaming yourself for feeling guilty about it.

It’s interesting once you become aware of the feeling of something missing and what your coping mechanisms might be if you don’t want to sit with it. Some common vices for some;

  • filling your life with meaningless ‘things’
  • going shopping for things you really don’t need (Prada?)
  • spend time fixing themselves with extreme dieting or cosmetic procedures
  • last but not least we all have a friend or loved one who you know is in the wrong relationship or friendship group but they are too afraid of having an even bigger void to fill should they walk away

I believe this guilt and subsequent reaction of self-sabotage to some degree comes from a place of not identifying and living by ones values, not doing enough to check in with yourself and what you need to fill your own cup and, and finally not living mindfully which might include consciously practising gratitude.

Rationally, I think we all know deep down how privileged we are. You don’t have to look far to see those in less fortunate positions. Homeless people on the streets, people living in countries with no clean water (side note – sometimes I feel so deeply into this one that I can send myself into a dark place filling my drink bottle up with sparkling water at the work sink! Whilst in the moment it feels uncomfortable, I am ok sitting with it because it just means that it has formed part of my gratitude ritual which I am ok with) or there are those suffering with pain and illness. Everyone has been touched by cancer and it’s absolutely gut wrenching to see that disease unfold.

I recently attended a talk by Hugh from the The Resilience Project (what an amazing organisation) who through their work have really leaned into this current global issue whereby those in 3rd wold countries with no money, food, shelter, education etc are in some cases happier than some privileged people living in the western world. The comparison around the point above – we have money, food, shelter, education, connections etc and our mental health issue statistics are through the roof and trending upward!?

The fact we are able to acknowledge true pain and hardship, how is it that we cannot rationally reach a place of contentment? Contentment meaning living our lives, being grateful for the present moment, what we have today, acknowledging the privileged lives we have been born into, and not seeking endorphins from external factors in the way of consumerism, diets, cosmetic surgery, food, relationships etc

I believe we all have the ability to work towards achieving this. It takes a little bit of work however if this resonates with you at all, the below is where I would recommend spending energy to be able to identify and lean into the feels to be able to see out the other side;

Values based living;

Being able to identify the values which resonate with you. I would pick 5, then set up your strategies in terms of short, mid and long term tactics that enable you to truly live by them

Mindfulness;

The ability to recognise what is happening in the current moment, and consciously not living your life always in the past or future. Also having perspective of a situation as it is occurring (not going to level 1 million for something that is really minimal)

Gratitude ritual;

The ability to be grateful for what you have right now. For me this practise has become easier by journaling and identifying moments of gratitude to reflect on at the end of the day. In doing this for some time now it has transformed to when the moments are happening throughout the day. The feeling is so wonderful.

Let’s drop the guilt (what a waste of energy after all), live by our values and be thankful for what we have right now.

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