Hidden From the Light

J3 E5 ~ I feel guilty the most when I want to stand up for myself. Why is that? I believe its because I (we) worry so much about what others think of us, even if at times, I deny that I am dependent on others approval. Really, isn’t that what guilt is? Feeling like you are doing something wrong? According to this Processing Journal on Guilt, this type of “self-punitive guilt” isn’t even real. I agree with this concept. 

Sometimes, I am doing something wrong. And if I am able to take responsibility for my actions, then yes, I do need to make amends (order the Journal. It’s really good). But I am now realizing, that the guilt I most often feel is not even real (The Punisher)!

If I don’t stand up for myself, then I believe that guilt is sitting on top of my self-confidence, hiding it from myself. Like an elephant sitting on a new seedling, my confidence can never bloom into its potential because the guilt never gives it the opportunity to experience the light. I need to see the light.

Oftentimes, I don’t really like it when I am trying to explain to my sister (who is my best friend) what is going on in my life. I am looking for support or excitement from her. Instead of listening to my story, she will judge my behaviors, “Well, maybe you shouldn’t dress so frumpy” and “People would like you more if you weren’t so…”

Whenever she reacts to me in her passive aggressive manner, I physically tighten, and my shoulders shrug all the way up to my ears. I didn’t realize this until I started paying attention to the fact that I hate it when she talks to me like that. And I blame her, and at the same time, I do nothing about it. I don’t stand up for myself. Because why? I don’t want her to not like me and lose our lifelong close relationship. She is my sister, after all. 

My therapist had me watch some videos on Brene Brown’s explanation about how people who are the happiest in their life also have the most personalized boundaries. BB stated that you cannot have compassion without boundaries, and that “Boundaries are frickin’ important!” 

Ya know what I realized? I have no boundaries with my sister (or other members of my family). My therapist explained that boundaries are for me (not my sister) and boundaries are what I am okay with and not okay with. Boundaries must also have (appropriate) consequences, or then they are not boundaries. And when my boundaries get crossed, it is ME who is crossing them. 

Why? Because of my chronic relentless guilt that I am doing something wrong. I feel like I am not being nice or that I am being selfish. And it is so true that this guilt is a shame-based perspective which isn’t even real! 

I know it will be a slow process to gain this new found self-worth, but I am beginning to set boundaries and stand up for myself with anyone who I have to. It is empowering, I like myself better, and as BB says, I am much more loving and compassionate and much less angry and resentful! 

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Published by Cleveland Emotional Health LLC Network of Private Practices

Catherine is a licensed mental health counselor located in Geneseo NY and the author of the mental health series Philosophical Processing Journals 1-5. Check out her author page on Amazon. See links below.

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