I don’t think I’ve ever had anxiety or depression. My pity-parties seem much more just “flesh”-y than actual medical conditions. My inner insecurities don’t seem debilitating enough to be able to claim that I have anything wrong with my brain that is causing it to happen. I don’t say that to take lightly the mental disorders that I know people around me struggle with, but rather to confess that I KNOW I don’t have a right to claim these disorders as my own.
BUT…. I have become more aware of the amount of guilt that is deeply imbedded into my thoughts, emotions and motives. Every day. All the time. It’s not as serious as when I hear people describe their anxiety attacks or their bouts of irrational, depressive thoughts that slam them in the face; but it’s definitely something that is real and that I feel immersed in. And since writing is a good, therapeutic way to process my life, I’m going to talk about it! Here are several times I know that guilt likes to take over and make my life a little more complicated.
When People Give Me Compliments Or Attention
Last month I got a lot of attention for lots of random little things; starring in a Christmas program, giving a nice gift to a friend at church, a silly story I wrote at work, etc. And whenever I either get a lot of compliments or a lot of positive attention, suddenly my Ego and Guilt-Complex decide to have it out big time.
My Ego wants to take credit for everything and can get pretty self-righteous. I was such a great person, I’m so talented, etc. So I start to work against that mindset, knowing that I don’t ever want to turn genuine, encouraging compliments into a way of glorifying myself. There is a way to take the kind words of others in a healthy, constructive way and be encouraged in who I am.
But then, to combat my self-righteousness, Darling Guilt-Complex takes over and starts making me feel bad for doing anything in the spotlight that puts me in a position to get attention. It starts accusing me of showing off, saying that the words people say are just them being nice, that I have no right to feel proud of what I did, that I responded the wrong way when they complimented me, that I’m not humble enough.
I admit that I struggle with self-righteousness, but I know that there’s a balance between feeling too proud and not being able to ENJOY the encouragement I’m given because I’m too busy feeling bad that I received it. Now if I could just find that balance…
When I Plan or Anticipate Events
Last year, I helped plan 2 different surprise parties, and I scheduled and organized several different traveling outings to towns in my area. My family and I also took road trips out to New England and American Idol together, and I traveled to 2 different weddings.
When it comes to anything that involves anticipation, guilt is sure to sneak up on me and take a part in the final evaluation of how said event went. See, I’ve started noticing that every time I’m really looking forward to a trip, an event, a party… that as soon as it’s over, I say to myself “that was fun!”, but it’s intermingled with all the anxious over-analyzation of everything I said, did, didn’t do, should’ve done.
Darling Guilt-Complex likes to tell me that I shouldn’t have gotten stressed that one time because I ruined it for those around me. I should’ve made sure everyone had more fun. I should’ve talked to that person more. I should not have hyped it up as much as I did because people probably expected more out of it. Remember that one social interaction where I was really awkward? It probably ruined everybody’s day. they probably all hated coming and wished they’d stayed home instead. I could’ve done everything better.
Actually, being aware of the fact that my guilt is so present in my mind during these situations has helped me to prepare for events because I know it’s coming. I had fun planning Elizabeth’s surprise party in December, and I think it was a success… but I had to remind myself, beforehand, that I was not going to feel perfect after it was done and to just ignore the negative emotions. Sure, some things could’ve been smoother, but people had fun and got to hang out… so stupid accusations, you don’t matter!
During Every Social Time… Ever
Ok, maybe this is an introvert thing, or maybe this is an insecurity thing. I don’t really know. All I know is, I just went through an entire year where it honestly felt like EVERY human interaction I had was horrible. Awkward. Incompetent. Lame.
Seriously, do you ever go through those phases where you just feel completely off your social game? It didn’t matter how short or how long the conversation was… if I spoke to someone, I’d done it wrong. At least that’s how it felt.
For minutes, hours, or even days after each interaction, Darling GC would come with the attack: I didn’t respond fast enough to that person’s question. I stuttered a lot, which made me look stupid. It was very rude of me to interrupt like that. I should’ve smiled more because my face probably looked bored. That comment was probably offensive. I shouldn’t have made that joke. My sarcasm was too mean. I should’ve done more to carry my part of the conversation.
I’m pretty sure everybody has struggled with obsessing over past interactions and second-guessing themselves. But sometimes one can be a little bit too aware of what they say and do. At least the intensity of this onslaught has slowed to a gentle trickling of guilt rather than a bursting dam every time I open my mouth.
When I’m Working
I know I’m a good worker and that I’m fairly competent. I try to be responsible, respectful and reliable at work. I try to be aware of my mistakes that I’m likely to make, such as procrastinating on questions I need to ask my supervisors, or going so fast that I lose accuracy.
But sometimes I get really paranoid that everything I’m doing is wrong. I used to work with the mail, and after I was hired, anytime I overheard anybody mention “mail” or “scanning” or “sorting” or anything that had to do with my previous job, I had an instant moment of fear and panic, because I was sure they were talking about how I had messed it up somehow. Now I’m being trained on new tasks, which gives me a chance to learn… and new chances to mess up, says my Guilt.
I didn’t train the girls right. I did things without double-checking and now it’s twice as much work for everybody. I’m not fast enough. I’m going so fast I can’t possibly be getting everything right. I’m not being careful enough. I’m over-thinking. Everyone is fixing my mistakes behind my back.
Sometimes I even know that I’m doing a pretty good job and working straight through without getting distracted, and I still feel like everyone’s going to look at me and think that I’m being lazy. So I just do the best that I can, and if I can’t think of something constructive to tell myself that I should have done better, I do what I can to ignore my Guilt and tell it that it’s just being biased.
When I Do Nice Things For People
“One question haunts and hurts; too much, too much to mention. Was I really seeking good or just seeking attention? Is that all good deeds are when looked at with an ice cold eye?”
Now just to clear it up, “No Good Deed” does not depict my actual philosophy about life and good works. But the question Elphaba asks herself, about her inner motivations and trying to understand the trouble she’s been facing, is a similar one I’ve asked.
I really like doing nice things for people, and seeing them happy, and knowing that I can make a difference. I have a fairly generous heart, and if a creative idea pops into my head of encouraging someone or acknowledging someone or giving a physical gift to someone, I really, really like when it works out and it actually blesses the person.
But I’m constantly second-guessing my motives when it comes to things like that. Darling Guilt-Complex, who likes to make everything all about It, does its best to warp my thoughts about myself even when I feel like I’m at my best. I’m just seeking attention. I’m over-compensating for something I feel guilty about. I don’t care about that person, I’m just trying to look good. I’m trying to win brownie points with God and we all know that that doesn’t work. I just want people to like me. It’s all fake and selfish underneath.
Ultimately, I’ve come to the conclusion that everything we do will have a mix of selfish motivation in it, simply because of the fact that we live in the flesh. But that doesn’t make it any less encouraging to others or pleasing to God. My flesh being gratified doesn’t discount the value of doing something that was good or kind.
So now that you’ve had a little glimpse into my mind, I will assure everyone that I do know that most of what my guilt tells me is false. Sometimes my guilt points to something important or true about myself and I need to take a harder look, but most of the time it simply builds up anxiety and negative thoughts and skewered perceptions. And I am aware of that. Yes, I struggle a lot with self-identity and insecurity, but I also have a head knowledge of truths that contradict what Darling Guilt-Complex tells me. Sometimes it takes a while to believe the truth and not the lies, since the lies REALLY like to yell the same thing over and over again. But hey……….. uh, life is good, and God’s still on the throne! *cheesy grin* (Praise Him!)
(That was the only blog ending I could think of.)