A field of flowers

“You more than anybody in the entire universe, 

deserves your love and affection.” 

~The Buddha

Over the years, the most common reason I have heard from people about why they find it difficult to nurture themselves is guilt. For almost a decade I have been teaching a workshop called “How to Nurture Yourself Without Feeling Guilty and Selfish” and people continue to attend. So why is this experience of feeling guilty about taking care of ourselves so common for women? And why when we are reminded more and more about how important it is for us to take care for ourselves do we continue to feel guilty about doing so?

I did some digging about guilt recently when preparing for the Self Care In Stressful Times webinar series I cohost for Leap to Success. We were exploring letting go of self care guilt for an episode and I wanted to define guilt. The definition I found said that we feel guilt as a result of doing or saying something that we know we should not have. Guilt can be helpful response if we need to make something right and it can help us see where we went wrong.

So if we feel guilty about nurturing ourselves then we must hold a belief that other people are more important than we are and/or that we do not deserve the same love and care that others do from us. 

If you struggle feeling guilty about prioritizing time for yourself you may be saying, “Ouch!” right now. Recognizing that our beliefs may be setting us up to care for everyone in our lives except ourselves can be difficult to hear and yet these beliefs are what motivates our over giving. We may respond to our guilt by placing more unrealistic expectations on ourselves. When we cannot meet these superwoman standards we believe it is evidence that we are not good enough. If we just gave more and spent all our time caring for others then we might not feel so inadequate. When we embrace this thinking it is easy to see how we end up valuing everyone’s needs over our own.

But what if we chose a different path? What if we recognized how unsustainable that way of giving is and instead transformed our guilt into empowerment? Then we would be able to embrace the Buddha’s message “you more than anybody in the entire universe deserve your love and affection,” and we could then begin including ourselves in our decision making process. We could choose to nurture others and nurture ourselves. We could choose to consistently fill our cup so that we give from the overflow rather than the last drops.

And the beautiful thing about self-nurturing is that the more you nurture yourself, the more you value and love yourself. The more you value and love yourself, the easier it is to prioritize nurturing yourself creating a wonderfully self-sustaining process.  

So how can you transform the guilt and feel more empowered?

  1. Become aware of when you are feeling guilty about nurturing yourself.
  2. Look at the belief about yourself highlighted by the guilt.
  3. Ask yourself is that belief about yourself true?
  4. If not, replace it with the affirmation “I am worthy.”
  5. Ask yourself what is one way I could nurture myself in this moment?
  6. Give yourself permission to nurture yourself.
  7. Acknowledge your act of love and compassion.

There is no more important time for us to transform guilt about nurturing ourselves into new empowered choices than during a pandemic. In these unprecedented times of stress and anxiety let go of old beliefs that have never served you and decide to believe that you deserve your own love and affection. Only you can give yourself permission to love and nurture yourself.

As Roy T. Bennett reminds us, “Accept yourself, love yourself, and keep moving forward. If you want to fly, you have to give up what weighs you down.”

May you transform your guilt about nurturing yourself into empowered choices as you nurture peace in the world from the inside out!

Kelley Grimes

Sending you so much peace, love and gratitude,

Kelley Grimes, M.S.W.
Counselor, Author & Speaker

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Join the discussion 8 Comments

  • Andrea says:

    I really like this post, Kelley. Part of what unlocked that paralysis by guilt for me was a question: would I hold anyone else I know to this standard of behavior? The answer was usually a resounding “of course not.” When you have time, let’s talk about doing a post (or something bigger) for the self-care for advocates group I’m involved with.

    • Thank you so much Andrea! I love your question to yourself – so wise and insightful. I would love to support any work you are doing for the advocates group you are involved in. I will reach out to you today! Thank you so much for your comment!

  • If anything this time going withing has uncovered more limiting beliefs than I thought I had. I really had convinced myself that I was a pretty “with it” person and not tied to any old ideas, but knowing that it’s okay to just “be,” and that I am deserving of all the good that comes into my life, was like standing in the sunshine with your arms open wide and saying to the Universe, “Thank You!”

    • Thank you for modeling that this unlearning process continues and that we can get to a place where we can stand in the sunshine with our arms open and say thank you! Beautiful and empowering image Barb!

  • Laura says:

    I love this post Kelley. I know when working with trauma with my clients, I find the guilt is rooted in a colonizer mindset system that has engrained women with a belief system of less than. It’s a profound thing to unpack. I love your empowerment questions too. Thank you for sharing your wisdom

    • I really appreciate that you highlighted how this guilt is rooted in believing we are less than, amplified if we have been traumatized. Thank you so much Laura for the work you do in the world and for your kind words!

  • Kate Varness says:

    Hi! Great post. Guilt is such an energy drain, and for what? It doesn’t move us to a better place in life. Wise words.

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