According to Webster’s Dictionary this is the definition of the word:

1: responsibility for having done something wrong and especially something against the law.
2: a feeling of shame or regret as a result of bad conduct.

And, according to Webster’s Thesaurus here are a few synonyms and antonyms:

Synonyms: Antonyms:
blame innocence
culpability guiltlessness

This is the first time I’ve looked the word up in the dictionary and I have to say I’m surprised at the definition. Why? Well, I’ve been using the word a lot lately when talking to myself and this is not the definition I would have used. Let me explain.

A. When I don’t get to my writing desk or I don’t meet my word goal for the day. I say I feel guilty. I don’t think I’ve done anything wrong and it certainly wasn’t against the law – well maybe Linda’s law but…

B. Someone asks me to do something and I have something else on my schedule for that time period so I say no. Again, I didn’t do anything wrong or against the law…

C. I take time for myself. A nice long walk, a bubble bath, or meeting with friends instead of working on my manuscript or leaving my days open in case someone wants me to do something for them. Is it wrong to do that? Bad conduct? Against the law???

Even more astounding now that I’ve read the definition, is why I think I should feel guilty for any of this. I’m entitled to look after me first or make my own decisions as to what I do with my time am I not? Why is it I feel that everyone else’s priorities are more important than those I’ve chose for myself?

Here’s the thing. I’ve always been this way. I was taught to put everyone else above/before myself. It was the right and neighbourly thing to do. My role models always did, and I live what I learned.

We show/train others how to treat us. I’ve dropped everything and gone to help others so often now it is the expected response from me. Even I know I will say yes. Others don’t feel guilty calling me because they know I will do it. I’ve trained them well.

Problem is, I’m older now (not necessarily all that wiser so I’m finding out), and I struggle with being the one everyone expects to say yes. I still believe it is a good thing to help others out, and I’m all for it, and I will still say yes to some things, but sometimes my needs and wants have to come first.

When I try to tell myself this, I feel guilty (there’s that word again). Then I get angry with myself for feeling this way or for giving in and saying yes when I wanted to say no. Why am I angry at myself? Because I said no and disappointed them, but mostly, because I feel I did a disservice to myself.

I know the world won’t stop if I say no, although the first time I said it, I was in a real state. Heart palpitations, sweaty palms, waiting for the hammer to fall on my head! I held my breath for the reaction from the other person. First there was a shocked look on their face and then they shrugged their shoulders and said. “Okay, I’ll ask someone else. No big deal.”

Even though I know this, I still feel guilty every time I don’t say yes. Old habits die hard and I need to work on this some more.

After all – If Momma ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy!

About Linda O'Toole

Women's Fiction Author
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