- Dina Cohen
Guilty as Charged (Not You; Your Thoughts)
Updated: Nov 27, 2019
Today I took my baby for a check-up, and thanks to the advances of Western medicine, my lucky girl received five (!!!) vaccines. Naturally, we both freaked out. I felt horrible about subjecting my baby to pain. For a moment, I wished I could just disappear. I didn't want my baby to see that I was the one responsible for this!
I felt so guilty seeing my child cry in pain, but did I regret taking her to the pediatrician today? Of course not! I'm so grateful that we are offered protection against some really nasty illnesses. I felt awful watching her get poked so many times, but I'd do it again in a flash.
You see, here's the thing:
Just because you feel guilty about something, it doesn't mean you actually did anything wrong.
Feeling guilty about my kid getting vaccinated doesn't mean I was wrong to allow it. The fact is, we can feel guilty about all kinds of things that aren't actually wrong.
What if feeling guilty about eating cake doesn't mean it was wrong to eat it?
What if feeling guilty about missing a workout doesn't mean it was wrong to miss it?
Maybe it's time to stop assuming that if you feel bad about something, you shouldn't do it anymore. Feeling bad about something may mean you want to choose differently next time (such as when you insult your best friend), but it also may mean that your thinking is at fault.
Let's play a game. Choose the more desirable outcome:
Situation 1: Baby is bawling because she is getting poked repeatedly
Thought: "I brought her in here; I am the cause of this pain."
Result: Mama flees the room (don’t worry, I didn’t)
Thought: "It's going to hurt her for a moment but I'm glad she is receiving this care."
Result: Mama reassuringly pats baby
Situation 2: Eating cake
Thought: "Healthy eaters never have cake."
Result: Many possible outcomes here, including eating several more pieces because “I messed up anyway"
Thought: "It's healthy to enjoy a variety of foods."
Emotion: Gratitude for the pleasant experience
Result: Satisfaction, moving on
Situation 2: Missing a workout
Thought: "I’ll never meet my goals at this rate. Why can’t I just get it together?”
Result: Acting irritably the rest of the day
Thought: "I chose to do something else that is valuable to me today."
Result: Acting calmly the rest of the day
I imagine you can see where I'm going with this.
Your thoughts are extremely powerful. They lead to emotions, and emotions lead to actions. Essentially, if you want different outcomes, try thinking different thoughts, because it's your thoughts that are at the root of it all. And remember:
Don't believe everything you think.
If you notice an unhelpful thought, you have the choice to replace it with a more helpful one. When you think differently, you'll feel differently.
Hopefully, you'll feel not guilty. :)