Archive for the ‘Guilt’ Category

Have You Been Less Than Perfect Today?

Tuesday, June 5th, 2007

Rock GardenHave You Been Less Than Perfect Today?

A lot of readers found a chord touched by the book excerpt on Self-Fulfilling Prophecies (SFP). But I wrote that book from the perspective of a manager working with other people. Being a business manual, it was focused on the Other rather than the Self. It’s important to look at what we expect of ourselves, and how we fulfill that prophecy. In this article, we’ll explore the effect of high expectations; next time, we’ll explore the effect of ones that are too low.

But what about the expectations we have of ourselves, the SFP’s that affect every day of our own lives? Let’s talk today about tending your own garden. (With apologies to Voltaire.) I don’t mean literally, of course, but figuratively. Nor am I referring to those people who should be told to ‘Mind your own onions,’ as the French would say. (Of course, they say it en francais, naturalement.) No, I’m talking about setting limits to what you can expect from yourself.

Sometimes people forget the value of their own gardens. Instead of focusing on the joys and achievements of just getting through an ordinary day, they feel guilty because they haven’t been awarded the Nobel Prize or made the front cover of Time Magazine. They measure their self-worth by a mythical ideal of fame and fortune. (No, 10 seconds on YouTube doesn’t count!) The unreality of this boggles the mind. (I can say it this harshly because I often fall into this trap, and I’m the pot calling the kettle black.)

You can’t judge yourself by how many people are cheering for you. Hitler got millions to cheer for him, which doesn’t say much for the value of public opinion.

You can’t judge yourself by how much you’ve accumulated. Do I even have to mention Howard Hughes or Ferdinand Marcos?

You can’t judge yourself by age comparisons either. As the musical satirist Tom Lehrer once exclaimed in mock dismay, ‘When Mozart was my age, he’d been dead for ten years!’

Do you have to be perfect to matter in this world? If so, then no one matters, because famous people are not more perfect than the rest of us! (As recent news stories confirm!)

Making a positive impact on your small corner of the world may do more for world peace and happiness than a thousand famous efforts. Why make yourself a martyr to unrealistic expectations? If you compare your achievements to impossibly high standards, you are setting yourself up for low self-esteem and chronic disappointment.

I have found that reading honest accounts of famous people’s lives to be a good corrective for this kind of self-abuse. Measure for yourself decades of struggle against a few moments in the limelight. Can you really say that isolating a specific chemical is more valuable than raising a couple of happy, healthy children? What about heroes who neglected their families while they pursued a single goal? And then there are heroes who pursued lofty goals because they had lost someone special.

It can be an easy way out to ignore mundane responsibilities while pursuing lofty goals. If you do both, then you’re a rare person. As a veteran of the sixties, I have to admit that I feel I’ve accomplished more in raising three sons and helping my clients understand themselves than I ever did at marching and protesting. In the long run, my actions in my sphere of influence, my garden, have had more impact on the world than all my protesting over other people’s actions

Protest what’s wrong with public actions if you don’t approve of them. But don’t neglect your own impact while you do. Be fair to yourself. Give yourself credit for tending your own garden. You don’t need blue ribbons to prove it’s a beautiful place to be.

Weeding Out Guilt

Friday, March 2nd, 2007

In my otherwise bright day, there is one flaw. I look out my office window to a battlefield and the weeds are winning again! I got the garden ready for planting early enough. I just didn’t get around to putting the seeds in. One too many emergencies; one too many deadlines.

I’m trying to decide whether it’s something I should feel guilty about. Oh yes, being guilty is a choice we make. Deciding to make a judgment that we are wrong is a choice, and feeling rotten enough to punish ourselves takes energy. Before I start feeling like a failure, I think I’ll follow my own guidelines.

Am I angry or resentful? Who’s telling me I have to grow dinner’s vegetables anyway? Is anybody else pressuring me to take over this job, or insisting that it be done? No, I guess not. It’s me that telling myself I ’should’ have done it.

Can I develop a sense of perspective about it? Why do I think I should have done it? I’ve been working hard every week. It would take several hours to plant the garden, then several more to weed and tend it daily. Do I really have the time? Is it really worth it?

Why do I feel responsible?

I guess I’m feeling like I’m supposed to do everything. I remember when I was younger and that tape would play ‘A good wife never lets her family down.’ A real woman could work a 60 hour week, clean the house, pamper her husband, spend time with the kids, entertain her friends, milk the goats and still be able to tend the garden. Hey! Wait a minute! Nobody could do all that!

Let’s be reasonable. Even Superman takes a break just to read a book sometimes. I admit that these days, there’s a few less chores and less people to take care of. Still, I do hate admitting that I’m human. Maybe I’m really telling myself that somebody else could do all these things. But that’s just not being realistic.

What would happen if I didn’t feel guilty?

I don’t think my family or friends would stop loving me. After all, they’ve put up with me this long. Besides, they’re not perfect either. And I love them anyway. I wonder if anybody even notice. My friends will take fresh lettuce that’s store-bought, and nobody else likes weeding the garden either. I bet they’d rather I had the time to bake fresh bread and share that and my time with them instead of weeding the silly garden.

One more thing before I let myself feel bad about myself. I can count my good qualities! Let’s see. I do earn enough to buy fresh vegetables. I do enjoy most of the work I do, and I smile a lot. Maybe the garden isn’t neat, but the house is livable and we all had a great time camping last weekend. I guess I’m not such a bad person after all.

Hey! It works! I don’t have to choose to feel guilty at all! I think I’ll go take a break and bake some homemade bread. I can even read a book while it bakes!

[Addition by Webmaster, NOT Dr. Daniels]:

Here are some related articles:

Dr. Daniels’ Break The Procrastination Pattern

This one from Web Worker Daily discusses taking a break without feeling guilty about it: Be Productively Unproductive Online. Without Guilt.

This article from discusses the source of guilt in Is Guilt Innate?.

An article from (a site targeted to women, but with useful information for all) has Get Rid of the Guilt, which discusses steps to overcoming procrastination and guilt.

Playing the Blame Game

Friday, February 23rd, 2007

I can’t think of a more useless pursuit than looking for someone to blame. The minute we say ‘It’s all your fault!’ to someone, we alienate them. And to what purpose? Laying the blame at someone’s door doesn’t change what has already happened, nor does it look for ways to prevent problems in the future.

This applies as well to blaming ourselves. Self-blame makes you feel terrible, without building any resources to help you avoid errors next time. It actually keeps you from taking responsibility for your life.

Blame makes you feel incompetent. Taking responsibility for your actions is easier when you feel competent and capable. In my experience, people often act most awful when they feel helpless and without power. Being a responsible adult requires a positive attitude towards yourself; blame creates a negative attitude.

Why then do people indulge in the ‘Blame Game?’ One reason is that it’s an easy way out. Pinning the blame on somebody else absolves the blamer of having to make any changes. It avoids the issue of what both parties can do to change the situation. It makes other people feel guilty, which may be used as part of a larger pattern of manipulation. The result of the ‘Blame Game’ is that nothing gets changes, and the hostilities between people increase.

Self-blame can be useful in manipulating people too. By wallowing in guilt and shame, the chronic blamer is asking to be forgiven for his or her actions.

Mind you, the blamer isn’t about to change any of those actions, just to make other people accept them. Self-blame thus becomes a substitute for self-growth. If the self-blamer is manipulative enough, someone else may step in and take over, thus leaving the blamer free to disclaim responsibility for any future events.

Let’s face it: it’s easier to blame than to work at taking control of your own life. Being responsible means thinking and planning.

It means asking ‘Why?’ and ‘How?’, and working hard at reaching an understanding of the situation. It means accepting mistakes, instead of hiding from them. It means looking at what you can do to change the situation, instead of leaving it all up to someone else.

Blame is the lazy way out. It’s ineffective, boring, and frustrating. It doesn’t change the situation, except by driving other people away. When you’re faced with a problem ask not what other people can do for you, but what you can do for yourself.