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Guilt be Gone!

I'd wager that on a given day, you're probably going to guilt trip yourself one way or another. For example:

"I probably shouldn't be eating this, but I'm going to anyway"

"I really should be exercising more"

"I need to lay off the sweets"

"I'm such a fatty, I can eat a whole box of those"

"I can't believe I just ate that"

"I could be skinny, but I like food too much"

Sound familiar?

That's because these are all very common phrases we have come to not only accept but expect from people. Think about that for a second. We live in a world that has become so dependent upon our beating ourselves up that we can't even have a cookie without telling ourselves that it's against our better judgment. We must find and focus on our flaws because, in advertising especially, we are constantly presented with numerous solutions to fix those said "flaws." I'll give a popular example. Take an excerpt from the hit movie Mean Girls for example. The other girls are gathered around a mirror, and each make their rounds listing off a part of them they don't like. "My nail beds suck" etc. When they move over to Kady, she struggles coming up with what to say. She settles for "I have really bad breath in the morning." This entire little scene is obviously a farce on how women are not only expected to but encouraged to pick themselves apart. In our society today, we see this is diet culture, body image, self esteem, the work place, relationships, and so on. We have gotten to the point that the mere proclamation from a woman that she is in fact beautiful is a brave, commendable, and somewhat revolutionary thing. I don't know about you, but I find that pretty disturbing and very alarming.

What other mentality are we supposed to adopt when we are constantly presented with the image of "health" meaning getting a sexy butt or an 8 pack? We are constantly being shamed into exercising and "healthy" eating, internalizing the idea that everything else in our lives falls into pale if we can obtain what the media deems as the right way to look. In other words, sweets become rewards as if you were a dog. Exercise is almost like punishment. It becomes excessive. It becomes extreme. And it disrupts our mental and emotional health. But what can we do to help ourselves and help others stop these habits?

1. Become aware of those little things you just say because you feel like you have to. One time I was out to lunch with a friend. She decided to order a milkshake and finished the majority of it. She then said, "I probably shouldn't have eaten that, but I did." I looked her straight in the eye and asked if she really meant what she just said. She was completely taken back. She then told me in an almost confused and very surprised manner that, no, she didn't. In fact, she didn't know why she had said that at all. She just felt like it was what she was supposed to say. There you have it. We are our worst enemies 99% of the time. We constantly guilt trip ourselves because we have been conditioned to feel bad about treating ourselves or taking care of ourselves. Instead, we slip food and ourselves into these black and white "good" and "bad" categories and therefore continue to perpetrate a cultural phenomenon that largely hurts us all.

2. Along the lines of the previous point, stop guilting yourself. Everything in moderation. The more you restrict, the more you crave. The more you care, the more likely you are to binge and develop an obsession with dieting and weight loss. Everything in moderation. Don't let a magazine or another human being tell you that your worth drops dramatically after you have a slice of cake. Don't let yourself fall into a mind set of all or nothing, in which there is only one way to be happy or one kind of beautiful or one kind of health.

3. Mean what you say, say what you mean. All those phrases I listed before are direct quotes from friends and loved ones and myself at a time that all fell pray to the self-inflicted guilt cycle. Nonetheless, it's not entirely our faults. You have the media, modeling industry in many ways, and crazed weight loss/diet culture to blame for your skewed view of health and misdirected body image. But we have to take responsibility when it comes to implementing our own habits into our lives. Ask yourself why you're saying the things you're saying or doing the things you're doing. If you're doing it for you, great. If you're doing it to conform in some way or for fear of being rejected by society, then perhaps you should take an inventory on yourself. Awareness really is key, and with time and cultural know-how, you'll be able to speak for yourself, listen to your own voice, and create a lifestyle that reflect total, mentally emotional and physical health unadulterated by narrow beauty ideals.

Now comes the time where you put forth the effort and action to stop imposing that social-contrived guilt upon yourself. Follow these easy steps, and you'll be on your way to a more well-rounded and happier you. Your time is now. I believe in you!

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