Guilt was a huge part of my life, growing up. Besides fear, guilt was probably the most effective way of controlling us. I stopped playing April Fool’s pranks because my mom made me feel guilty (intentionally or unintentionally, I’m not sure) over a really good prank. I felt guilty every time I ate something “bad” for me. But the biggest guilt trip of all was one of the biggest reasons I didn’t leave. Not because I knew I would get cut off…not because I was afraid of what would happen to me…but because I felt guilty for “destroying” my father and the life of his dreams. Which, of course, as a child/teen/young adult was not my responsibility to fulfill.
Occasionally I see memes on my newsfeed that I find “guilt-trippy”. In other words, they downplay and make light of one person’s suffering or problems, because someone else has it so much worse. These really bother me. If it were only applying to people who needed to be realistic about their “suffering” (“OMG I have a $500/week allowance and NOTHING to wear!” is NOT being realistic, nor is it suffering!), that would be fine with me…but the purpose is to make you feel guilty and stop complaining about your broken leg, because someone else has no leg…or like parents telling their kids to eat everything on their plate (because that will never cause eating disorders!) since children (usually “in Africa”, how vague) don’t have enough food to eat. I usually ignore those memes because saying something is pretty much pointless, and I don’t usually feel like getting into an argument over a stupid meme. Other people take other meanings from it, and bully for them. I still don’t like guilt-tripping memes. I’ve had enough guilt trips in my life, thank you very much.
People tell me the memes are aimed at certain types of people, but if that’s not explicit, my first reaction is still to feel guilty. Then angry. It’s not aimed at me, but I’m still so used to taking responsibility for everyone and everything that happens around me that I feel that it’s telling me I shouldn’t complain or be unhappy, ever. That’s the same kind of thing that I was pressured into at my folks’…not complaining or being unhappy because among other things, I wasn’t supposed to think about my own happiness (other than to act happy all the time) or well-being. If I did, guess what? I felt guilty.
Guilt kept me in my parents’ house, where when I left I was on the brink of suicide. Guilt kept me there in May of 2010, when my mom discovered Scottie’s and my relationship, because I felt guilty for thinking about leaving, guilty about possibly ruining my brother’s wedding if I did leave, and guilty because maybe they were right and it was my destiny to stay shackled to a man and a dozen kids for the rest of my life. Meanwhile a little part of me that was steadily growing stronger was yelling what about ME?!
When I left, there were still the chains of guilt and fear hanging around. I stayed up until 6am transferring family photos from my computer (I was the only one with a camera) to mom’s, because I felt guilty about taking them all. I left some of my stuff for my sister because I felt guilty for leaving her, especially since she was the next oldest girl and would now have all the responsibilities of that position. I didn’t want any of them to see I left with ill will.
Guilt (and fear) kept me enslaved. It didn’t help that my mom would find some way to blame practically everything that went on in the house on me: either I wasn’t watching good enough, or I wasn’t in the room, or I didn’t do this or that when I didn’t even know I was supposed to, which made me feel…you guessed it, guilty. Sometimes I joked deprecatingly that if some leader of another country was assassinated, somehow my mom would find a way to blame me. It felt that bad.
Becoming a mother invited a whole other boatload of guilt. Was I going to screw her up? Was I going to doom her to obesity by giving her rice cereal? Was I going to emotionally scar her by putting her in a stroller instead of babywearing? Was I going to be a good enough mom?
So many “helpful” articles merely served to make me feel even more guilty because I didn’t do things “right”, or at least the way they thought things should be done right. Finally…I had enough. It was making me miserable because I never felt I could measure up, and even though I thought I was doing things “right”, she still cried. I decided enough. I started unfollowing any page that made me feel guilty for any reason. I removed so many parenting blogs from my feed reader. I stopped feeling guilty for “ruining” my dad’s life, because I didn’t…he did. It was a huge step towards a better peace of mind.
Guilt and fear are huge motivators, and both will keep you from a full, happy life. Maybe I’m too sensitive, but I’m just done with the guilt trips. I’m ready for my happy, healthy life with not an ounce of guilt.