Stop Feeling Guilty About Choosing Yourself

Woman sitting on couch with book open and pen
Do you ever feel guilt creeping in even when you’ve done nothing wrong?

Do you ever feel guilt creeping in even when you’ve done nothing wrong?

For many of us, that feeling’s all too familiar. And what’s worse, we feel guilty about doing things we desperately need — the mental health days you take on the verge of a meltdown, time away from work spent on your kid’s field trip, or the vacation you’ve planned for months.

It’s time to put that toxic way of thinking behind you!

You are valuable and worthy of taking time for yourself. And guess what? When you unashamedly take that time for yourself, you gain a chance to checkout, recharge, and improve your overall wellbeing, which ends up improving your job performance!

At DotConnect, we believe that there’s nothing in life that should come before your health. Your career, family, and circle of influence are all important. But if you’re experiencing feelings of guilt just because you want to take care of yourself, there’s something wrong — we understand because we’ve been in your shoes before.

Come along with us as we take a look into why we feel guilty about taking care of ourselves, how we can curb those negative emotions, and the value of putting yourself first. The journey to healing starts with the first few steps, and we hope to help you on your path to healing through this article.

Why Is It So Hard to Take Time for Ourselves?

Everyone has different circumstances for choosing to be self-sacrificing — some typical examples include an unhealthy work-life balance, an over demanding partner, or taking care of children. Whatever your situation, we can all agree that ignoring our desires is a trend that only leads to burnout and exhaustion.

Some of the problem may stem from limited PTO options — if PTO is even an option for you. But having paid time off doesn’t mean we’re going to take it. A study done by the US Travel Association found that Americans are earning more paid time off than ever, around 24 days. However, we only choose to take advantage of half of it!

Why don’t we use our time off? Why aren’t we taking those valuable days to dedicate some time to our mental health and switch off our working minds to spend it on ourselves?

After all, that time is there for most of us. So why aren’t we taking it?

It could be the reasons that we talked about a second ago — a fear of failure at work or even the desire to use work as a way to escape what’s going on in our personal lives. But when it comes down to it, we can do better. We don’t need to continue down a guilt-ridden path that leads to burnout.

That leaves us with the million-dollar — or at least the dollar amount of all of your unused PTO — question. How can we break that cycle of guilt and start putting ourselves first for once?

Three Ways to Break Free of the Cycle of Guilt

At DotConnect, we’re all about people.

We love building relationships with them, seeing them succeed, and helping them grow both professionally and personally. So when we see people struggling to put themselves first, we look for ways to give them support and help them find ways to heal.

To throw off that heavy burden of guilt and care for yourself, you need to find time to do these three things.

#1 Check-in with Yourself

Let’s face it, personal growth starts with awareness, and if you’re looking for the root of your guilt, you need to figure out what causes it and why it’s there.

You need to begin your guilt-defeating journey at square one — you. Take a second to look inwards. How is your day going? Has guilt crept into your day already? If it has, try to pinpoint where it started.

Maybe you took today off from work, and you feel like you’re letting the office down. Or possibly you started thinking about everything on your to-do list once you finish your workday. Whatever the cause may be, you can start to break the cycle once you can identify what’s causing it.

After you’ve identified the “what” behind your guilt, you can start looking into “why” that feeling is there. It could be something as simple as being afraid of inconveniencing someone else, or it could be rooted a little deeper — like a core belief that you’re failing if you aren’t achieving 100% of the time.

There are numerous reasons you may feel guilty about taking care of yourself, so it’s essential to figure it out for yourself. And that may mean hitting the pause button on life for a second when you start to feel those negative emotions creeping in around you.

Once you can identify what’s causing the guilt and why it’s there, you can start finding ways to stop the guilt in its tracks.

#2 Stop Inconveniencing Yourself

That’s right, we said it. Stop inconveniencing yourself with the needs of others.

Yes, you need to be empathetic and help other people, but empathy and guilt-driven assistance are entirely different. Taking on extra responsibilities out of a fear of failure or helping others because you feel pressured to do so only makes the situation worse for you.

Here’s the thing — when you self-sacrifice to prevent others from feeling inconvenienced, your guilt only grows.

Have you ever been in this situation? One of your co-workers asks you to take on a project outside the scope of your expertise. You don’t have to do the project, and other people in your office probably have more knowledge in the area, but you take it on out of the sheer worry that your co-worker will feel inconvenienced by the word “no.”

What happens after you take on that project? Do you feel better because you’re doing a good deed for your co-worker? Of course, you don’t!

In fact, you lose multiple times in a situation like that. First, you feel guilty because turning down the project would inconvenience your teammate. Then, once you start the project, the guilt only increases because you feel out of your depth while pushing through the extra work you took from someone else.

If this sounds like a situation that’s all too familiar to you, there are some things you can do to start putting yourself first.

Start by taking a step back from the situation and entering the role of an observer. Is saying “no” to them going to cause significant challenges for them, or is it just something they don’t want to do? If it’s not something that will be detrimental to them, it’s okay to say “no” without feeling a shred of guilt!

Another important thing to remember when you’re put in a possible guilt-inducing situation is to be intentional about your communication. You need to set boundaries and communicate your needs clearly. Let others know that when you can’t do something for them, it’s because you need to take care of yourself and not because you want to inconvenience them.

Remember — you don’t need to feel guilty about putting yourself first. And often, you will gain more respect from others when you communicate why you can’t do something for them instead of continuing to pile more onto your plate — setting boundaries is a healthy thing, and it encourages others to do the same!

#3 Embrace Your Imperfection

Say it with us: “I am not perfect, and that’s okay!”

It’s one of the most challenging things to do at times, but embracing imperfection is critical to breaking the cycle of guilt in our lives.

If you’re expecting perfection out of everything in your life, you will be disappointed in yourself. The reason why is because you’re fundamentally imperfect like everyone else. You’re going to mess up from time to time — it’s just a fact of life. The harder you are on yourself, the more guilt you will feel when making mistakes.

Let’s say it together one more time to really let it sink in, “I’m not perfect, and that’s okay!”

Things will be messy from time to time, you won’t be able to juggle everything, and you’ll drop the balls you have in the air. When you hit your limit, take on too much, or just run into a challenging situation that makes you drop everything, you have an opportunity to grow with grace.

Yes, it’s tough to fail. But there’s beauty in failure because it shows you how strong you truly are. The things you’ve been juggling are still there — even though they may look slightly different from the impact when they hit the ground. You can brush off the dirt, pick them up, and find an improved way to start again.

Better yet, as you start over, you can analyze everything as you pick it up and determine if it’s even necessary. Sometimes, it takes dropping the ball to realize it shouldn’t have been yours to juggle in the first place.

Choose DotConnect to Help You Choose Yourself

We get that choosing yourself can be challenging. Trust us — we’ve got more than one recovering overachiever on our team. And when that sense of guilt for choosing ourselves starts to creep in, it can feel like an epic battle of wills.

But you can put yourself first and defeat guilt in your life! Our CEO and founder, Dom Farnan, personally understands how it feels to let the burden of guilt keep you from putting yourself first. It led to a journey of self-discovery that helped her narrow down the things that were worth juggling in her life.

At DotConnect, we’re experienced talent advisors that help people find careers that put their humanity first. We believe that you’re more than a name on an org chart and have helped companies like Beautycounter, Samsung NEXT, and Zendesk build people-focused teams.

If you’re ready to make a change and work with a talent advisory company that’s dedicated to your well-being, or if you’re interested in joining our team, reach out to us. We have the tools you need to help you start choosing yourself!