When others “make you” feel guilty


For the next two Thursdays, I’ll be responding to questions related to self-care that people have asked. If you’d like to submit your own anonymous question, you can use this form (also can be found in the “What’s on your mind?” section below).

How do I take time for myself without a family member making me feel guilty when I do? 

We know from the Model that our feelings are created by our thoughts, not the circumstances. When a family member says something to us, that goes in the Circumstance line. What we think about that creates our feeling. So if we’re feeling guilty, we’re thinking something that creates guilt for us. 

We’re responsible for how we feel, because of what we’re thinking, even though we’ve been conditioned to think other people are responsible for how we feel. When someone says something to us or about us, there’s a space between what they say and how we feel. That space is where we think thoughts that interpret and create meaning about what we heard. 

We can agree with what someone says about us, or we can disagree. We may be able to find the truth in what they say, or they can be wrong about us. For example, if someone says, “You’re selfish for taking time for yourself.” If we feel guilty, we might be thinking, “Yeah, it is selfish of me,” or “Yeah, I shouldn’t be taking time for myself when there’s so much to do.”

There are other options as well. “Maybe I am selfish, but it’s important for me to take this time for myself. I know I’m still a helpful person,” or “She’s wrong that I’m selfish. I’m doing this so I can refresh and be able to give more later,” or “I know I give enough to others. This is for me.” These thoughts will create a different feeling than guilt.

Find the thought(s) that might be creating guilt. Decide if you want to keep thinking those thoughts or if you want to choose new ones that create a different feeling.

How can I set boundaries and be confident / comfortable with my own needs with the possibility of upsetting others?

Is it possible that others may be upset when we set boundaries and take care of our own needs? Yes. If others aren’t used to us setting boundaries with them, they may feel upset when we do. We set boundaries to keep our relationships healthy. We set boundaries to take care of ourselves. We can stay connected with others while setting boundaries. 

We can even let others know that we value our relationships with them and are setting boundaries in order to maintain our relationships. Some language can look like this: 

  • “I really appreciate our friendship and I also respect my time. If you continue to be more than 15 minutes late for our lunch dates, I will need to leave after 15 minutes and we can reschedule.”
  • “I love you and I do not want to do that. How else can I support you?”
  • “I want to help you and I can’t do it this weekend. Is there some other time that can work for both of us?”
  • “I like spending time with you and would like you to call before coming over. If you continue to come over without calling, I will ask you to leave and come back when it works for both of us.”
  • “I like living with you, but I don’t appreciate it when you use my things without asking. Would you be open to asking me first before using my things? OR If you keep using my things without asking, I will put them in a locked area.”
  • “I like talking to you on the phone and hearing about what’s going on for you. Sometimes when you call, I’m only able to talk for 10 minutes. I’ll let you know right when you call how much time I have to talk. If you have more to say after 10 minutes, I will need to continue our conversation at a different time.” 

These are just a few examples of what’s possible to say in different situations while staying connected to the person and showing we value them. 

The important part of setting boundaries is following through with the consequence, which is what WE will do if a boundary has been crossed—the “…then I will ____” part of the sentence. We need to decide whether it’s something we can follow through with or not. If we don’t, it’s like making an idle threat to someone and it doesn’t help us reinforce the boundary that we set.

Many of these examples prevent resentment from building up for us—when we don’t set boundaries, it can be easy to let things go on, even if we don’t like it. When we don’t like it, the other person doesn’t know unless we communicate with them. They think everything is fine, but we start to feel resentment. When we start feeling resentment, we start thinking about our relationships differently, maybe with dread. This isn’t part of keeping our relationships healthy. Remember, boundaries are something we do to take care of ourselves and to keep our relationships healthy. 

Check out this video I created for more about setting and maintaining healthy boundaries.

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Work with me: Want to see how self-care is transformative and can help create a more meaningful life in which you start committing to yourself and show up the way you want? I can show you how. I offer first-time seekers a complimentary 45-minute exploratory session. Sign up here.

What’s on your mind? It can be powerful to learn from each other and our common struggles when it comes to our practice of self-care–or just being a human being. If you have something you’re struggling with and would like some perspective, share it here. Your issue may be chosen and addressed in the next post–it’ll be totally anonymous.

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