One of the biggest problems I’ve faced since childhood is how to overcome guilt. I’ve always asked the simple question, “why do I always feel guilty?” When I feel this way I always feel obligated to live up to other people’s expectations of me. Where did this all come from?
Growing up my parents used guilt as a form of control and punishment. I wasn’t aware of this at the time. To me I just accepted it as normal parenting behavior. Little did I know for many years my life was being dictated by the guilt.
It usually wasn’t anything bad that I did. It was usually for something I didn’t do that was the problem. The use of guilt to control another person is one of the most powerful ways of controlling them. If you know how to control another persons emotions and conscience using this method then you will always have the upper hand. Whether it be disputes, or just as simple as getting people to do what you want them to do without resistance.
Guilt is commonly used by parents to keep their kids in line. They are masters at this art. Do you remember when you were a child? What happened when you received an mark of B+ instead of an A+? The conversation probably sounded like this, “I am so disappointed with you. Why can’t you be like this person’s son or daughter they are so smart. Not like you!”
While I’m sure most parents do not deliberately intend to crush their child’s confidence or self-esteem, I don’t think they realize the damage they are doing them during their adolescence years. Some parents believe it’s a good method of motivation. Others see it as a way of toughening them up for the real world.
However we have to understand that children are not born feeling guilt, fear, or negative. This is learned through their childhood experiences. When kids are between the ages of 1 to 6 years old their parents or someone they respect and look up to have a tremendous influence on their psyche.
They have not developed enough to understand whether the criticism directed at them is true or false. They accept all the criticisms about them as the truth. At this point in their lives they are like unmolded pieces of clay which haven’t been formed into a sculpture. The people of influence in their life during this period act as the sculptor shaping their view of themselves and the world.
Harsh criticism and the use of guilt can really cut deeply into them at that age. They carry this feeling with them into adulthood without them even knowing at times. As a result most grow up feeling inadequate, inferior to others, and undeserving of success
They also become self-critical of themselves. Their subconscious mind begins to tell them that every criticism about them is true. This is most likely not the case but it repeats itself in their mind so many times it becomes reality.
I see this many times with my self-defeating clients. They say things like, “I’m terrible at this.” The most common one is when they perform a drill incorrectly while I’m watching they apologize to me by saying sorry. I feel really bad for the client when they apologize for something like this because I know how they feel. I used to be one of those people who had their guilt strings easily pulled.
I Was A Guilt Receiver For Many Years!
In fact I have a story that comes to mind. When I got my first job out of University I shared an office with another manager from another department. From day one she made my life a living hell. Each day I needed her reports in order to meet my deadline for the head office. She would not have the figures in time for me when I needed it. Instead of trying to work with me on a solution she made sure I received it late each day. In turn, she had the audacity to tell me that I had to stop being so spoiled.
I was surprised and taken back by the comment. I really didn’t know how to respond at that time. I knew that I wasn’t spoiled because I had worked 14 hours days for many years since the age of 10 to help support my family. However, despite my efforts I was constantly told by my parents from a young age that I was spoiled. This was a very effective guilt tactic they used to keep me working without asking for a day off.
This feeling of guilt carried over into my adult life. In my situation with the manager her criticism really hit a nerve. It brought back a flood of childhood memories of being shamed. I began to question whether her remark was true or not. I knew I didn’t do anything wrong. After all it was her responsibility to get me her figures on time. Without her data I couldn’t complete my work.
So to make a long story short I just stayed a couple of hours after work unpaid for a few months to complete my reports. I did this to avoid confrontation with her and I didn’t want to disappoint my bosses. Meanwhile I was upset everyday day for putting up with her harassment. I felt trapped and helpless at the time. However, looking back it now it was my fault for not sticking up for myself. This manager was a skilled manipulator and saw me as an easy target to use guilt on.
Are You A Guilt Receiver Or Gilt Thrower?
It is usually easy to spot the people who can be controlled by guilt. Manipulators know they can get them to do want they want by pulling on their “guilt strings.” This can be a co-worker in the workplace who decides they can push their work on to you without you complaining. It can be a spouse who guilt’s you into doing things you are not happy doing.
It can be someone you don’t know. Perhaps it’s a waitress at a local restaurant who gives you the worst service but in the end expects you to tip them. A person who doesn’t have a guilty conscience will say no way they are going to reward bad service. While a person who grew up in an environment where guilt was the main form of control will leave a tip.
Don’t believe me? Next time you head out for dinner with a group of friends and should you have bad service. Make note of the people who are adamant about not leaving a tip and watch the faces of some of the people who feel they should still leave a tip. You’ll notice that uncomfortable guilty feeling on their face. That look of, “oh I don’t feel right not leaving a tip.” As if someone is going to reprimand them for bad behavior.
Stop Saying I’m Sorry and I Can’t!
Most people who easily feel guilt will tend to use the words, “I’m sorry, I’ll try, I have too, or I wish.”
First of all when you use these words you are basically saying you failed. If this is you, I want you to stop doing this today. Why? It’s because you are self-defeating yourself.
How would you feel if went to see a surgeon to correct heart problem and you ask him if he can fix your heart?
He responds by saying he will try. Would you feel confident he will be successful? Probably not. By saying he will try means he already thinks there is a chance he will fail.
I found that people who are easily controlled by guilt are really great people. They are easily made to feel guilty because they like make others around them happy. They always aim to please and want to be liked by everyone.
However, at the same time they feel inadequate and undeserving of great things that come into their life. Many of them will self-sabotage themselves when success is just around the corner. Instead of letting the good things flow into their life they stop it because it makes them uncomfortable.
You have to understand an important point. YOU need to by HAPPY first! If you are not happy or uncomfortable with the request being made by the person trying to guilt you into doing something. Then don’t do it.
It’s okay to say no. Stop caring about what others think. They need to respect your emotions. You have to make yourself happy first. When you are happy then you make others around you happy.
Today I want you to begin using the words “I will, I won’t, I want to” instead of “I can’t, I wish, I have to.”
I hope you found this post helpful and interesting. In my next post I will explain in detail how you can take back control when you are made to feel guilty. Once you implement these techniques you will no longer feel the need to please people who attempt to play the guilt game again.
Are you easily persuaded by guilt? Does your family, friends, boss, or co-workers use this to get you to do things you don’t feel comfortable doing? Leave a comment below I would love to discuss this topic further with you.
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