If there is one emotion that can truly start to become a burden, it’s guilt. It’s cumbersome, settles on your shoulders like a heavy shawl and bounces around inside your skull incessantly. Even dogs suffer from it (If you’ve never seen Denver the guilty dog, YouTube that gold now). And while there are certain situations in which we should feel guilty (cheating, plans of sabotage, stealing candy from a baby), a lot of people suffer from an overly guilty conscience and beat themselves up over everything from accidentally giving someone the wrong directions to making a batch of regular chocolate chip cookies when your sister really wanted pumpkin chocolate chip cookies (oops).
Allowing oneself to constantly feel bad over things they have no reason to feel bad about is a horribly unhealthy habit. The time has come to nip unnecessary guilt in the bud! To any fellow overly guilty minded people out there, here are five things we need to stop feeling guilty over.
Being picky about who you spend your time with
As you go through life, you’re going to collect a wide array of acquaintances, coworkers, friends, good friends, great friends, significant others, and the list goes on and on. Life doesn’t slow down as time goes by and we will inevitably grow apart from some of those connections as our schedules become more hectic. However, sometimes there are connections that are very persistent in remaining in your web. And while they might be a perfectly nice and interesting person, you just have no desire to hang out with them. As the time we have allotted for time with family and friends shrinks, it becomes extremely difficult to make time for the clingers.
Your time is precious. Do not feel obligated to devote your time to someone who you’re only seeing because they want to see you. I know it sounds mean, but if you can rapidly think of 5 people you’d rather see, then that’s who you should be giving your attention to. Constantly having to either come up with an excuse or wanting to make plans with one of your best friends over that person you talked to once at that party is nothing to beat yourself up about. Sometimes you have to make YOURSELF happy.
Not “eating clean” 24/7
I hate this expression. Yeah, I understand your health is important (okay, REALLY important) and we should be treating our bodies like the sacred temples they are, but nothing pains me more than watching a friend wipe the drool from their jowls while eyeing my piece of cake that they refuse to take a bite out of because it’s not organic or green and leafy or void of any sugar. For God’s sake people, there is nothing wrong with things in moderation. If you’re craving a dessert, have one – or at the least a few bites. If you haven’t had fries in a long time, I promise a few won’t kill you.
Life is far too short to deny your taste buds a nibble of what it is they crave. Food is one of the best parts of the human existence. As Julia Childs said, “People who love to eat are always the best people.” So if you’re lucky enough to be able to eat what you want (I don’t mean metabolism-wise, I mean legit health conditions such as celiac disease), then do not feel guilty about taking advantage of your situation every once in a while. In this day and age, we could very well see some sort of catastrophic event that leaves food supplies limited. Don’t be the person crying over how a diet prevented you from enjoying the last great days of food. Go ahead, eat that sundae and shoo away any guilty thoughts.
Binging on Netflix
We’ve all done it. You think, “I’ll just watch this first pilot episode and that’s IT,” and the next thing you know you’re a huddled, several days unshowered, weeping mass on your living room floor cursing the writers of Lost. When free time arises, getting sucked into the virtual candy store that is Netflix or Hulu is oh-so-easy. You’ll ignore calls and texts, opt out of potential plans for some solid hours on the couch and later feel like you’ve done something wrong.
Before you go scolding yourself over what could be seen as wasted time, relax. We all need to veg out sometimes. Everyone occasionally needs a story to get lost in. Don’t look at it as “turning your brain to mush” but instead as a way of feeding your curiosity, learning new things and participating in the ever important popular culture of today. Time travel through the decades and watch old movies and TV shows or find a documentary. Or just watch every episode of The Hills until you’ve got your Lauren Conrad impression perfected. Everything these days has a battery life – why are we an exception? Ok, yes, we sleep and that’s supposed to recharge us, but sometimes you need a seriously deep reboot and that’s exactly why we take those days on the couch and feed our Netflix craving. Give your brain a break and enjoy. Also see number 2 and grab a pint of Ben & Jerry’s if you so desire.
Occasionally splurging on an item you don’t need
Shopping. For some, it’s the bane of their existence. For others it’s more addictive than sugar. Regardless of which side you lean towards, there have probably been several moments in your life where you decide to splurge on something that is not a vital necessity. Maybe it was a dress you didn’t even have an occasion for, or a new fancy controller for your gaming system. Perhaps it was an autographed photo of Ryan Gosling you spent hours bidding for on eBay. And maybe after making such a purchase there was little voice in your head reminding you it would have been better to save the money or put it towards something useful.
Every now and then, it’s perfectly okay to tell that little voice to shove it. If there is something you truly desire and you’re not in dire straits money wise, why shouldn’t you treat yourself every once in a while? (Donna and Tom, I’m looking at you!) If something is going to make you happy – and let’s face it, sometimes money can help towards your happiness – then dive in guilt free. I’m not saying go hog wild every time you’re in a store; that’d be irresponsible. Trust me. I know. But if you’ve worked for your cash, it’s only fair that you should be able to spend some of it however you see fit.
A rare case of hooky
Okay, suppress those gasps. Maybe this is terrible advice. And if it is, I give you full permission to use me as a scapegoat with your boss if you get called out. But we all know there are definitely days where going into work or class is just not in the cards. “Sick days” happen, our teachers and employers know that. Chances are they’ve had them too.
While skipping work or school more than a few times a year just for the sake of skipping is irresponsible and could cause you to get fired or fail, a biannual, maybe even triannual if you’re the type of person who likes to live life on the edge, day of hooky is nothing to feel guilty about. As long as you play it right, you can enjoy it guilt free. By ‘playing it right’ I refer to the golden rule of not broadcasting your sick day activities all over social media. I don’t care how cute your selfie by the pool is, wait to post it on the weekend to avoid any eyebrow raising from potential tattle-tale coworkers, dammit. Also make sure to avoid skipping any important meetings, presentations or events. With something as precious as a guilt-free skip day, you’ll want to use them responsibly.
If you allow the list of things you feel guilty about to shrink in size, the load on your shoulders will grow lighter. Remember that life is about enjoying the experience, not feeling bad over every little thing. Shrug off that guilt and embrace that carefree lifestyle a bit more often! I’ll be on the couch watching every episode of How I Met Your Mother with my microfiber throw and a fat slice of chocolate cream pie.