Could I Get a Side of Guilt with That?

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"You're going to feel guilty....
You will experience guilt as you craft the life of your dreams.  It's part of your conscience, it's the tension in 'creative tension.'"

                                            - Danielle LaPorte

I like this reframe of guilt.  The idea that we continue to rise and move forward, that guilt does not win the battle, it is a side effect to growth.  

It got me thinking about the hold that guilt does have on us.  As we continue to rise, reach for our goals and spread our wings, we will feel guilt, and gone unchecked, it can be crippling.  Like it will crush us.  It comes in different forms and may capture men and women differently.  Mine has often been the tension between career and family.

I was wrecked with guilt the first time I traveled for work after giving birth.  The trip was short but I agonized over it.  I was so buried in the emotional turmoil, I could barely acknowledge that I wanted to go on the trip, anxious to feel like an untethered and mentally functioning adult.  I did make it through the trip, despite my breast-pump breaking midway and almost busting out of my bra on the plane home.  It was a success.  Not following the guilt was the first step in realizing no one needed to suffer as a part of me pursuing my career, except maybe my breasts.

Me 1    Guilt 0


But hold on, does that mean the guilt went away permanently?  Oh no.  And while it is applicable to everyone, guilt harbors a special place for moms and professional women.  For me, it just transferred to the next challenge and the next challenge.  Each time I up-leveled my career, the sense of burden would plague me.

Sometimes guilt won.  I went through phases where I built in no time for myself, not even an hour, instead parceling it all out to career and family.  Consequently, I was tired, burnt out, and grouchy.

Guilt 1    Me 1


It made me a worse mom, wife, and employee.  Frankly, it just made me a worse version of myself.

Later, when I decided to leave the firm to pursue my life passion, it was a funny turn of events.  I was home more often, had time with my kids and dropped the corporate attire.  At one point, I proudly asked them,  “Isn’t it great that I’m home more?”  as I smugly made an after-school snack.  The kids looked at me funny, then they both said “we didn’t really notice.”  

WTF?

Yep, turns out, all that guilt I had been carrying about my ability to be a good mom while in a corporate career was just in my head.  I was doing perfectly well for my kids, it was my nagging self-reproach that had stopped me from recognizing it.
 
Guilt 2    Me 1

Then came the kicker.  My son looked at me and said, “you know, Mom, don’t take this personally, but you’ve kind of let yourself go.  You used to dress so professionally….. and now, well….”

I glanced down at my running shorts, mismatched top and hastily brushed hair and started laughing at the truth of it.

My son had been watching me at work and was proud of me, the high powered job I did.  My change affected how he saw me as a role model.  

Do you see?  It was the perfect opportunity for guilt to jump in again about the decision I made to leave corporate life.  Guilt drives the no-win situation.  But luckily, I was on the look-out.  I’ve gotten pretty good at spotting guilt these days, and while I don’t always win, I can usually stop it from getting the best of me.

I responded to my son, "What I’m showing you now is just as important.  The pursuit of a passion can come in many forms, it may wear a suit, or running shorts, but when the call comes, you answer it.  You answer it clearly and let guilt fall in your fading footsteps.  It is ok to shift gears mid-career.  It is ok to pursue a corporate ladder and it is ok to walk away from it.”

So see the guilt.  Acknowledge it as a side effect to your growth. And then continue to rise.