• Rebecca Ramdeholl, CHNC

Cut the Crap and Go with the Flow

Updated: Oct 2, 2018


By: Rebecca Ramdeholl, C.H.N.C.


It was a beautiful afternoon in August, just hanging around the pool taking in the scenery of Las Vegas.  My girlfriends and I went on our first trip, TOGETHER finally, as a bachelorette party.  Among the pretty boys, the flowing drinks and the fun chats while floating in the water, I noticed one of my girls sitting quietly on the edge of the pool.  Many years of friendship had conditioned me to spot an impending cry-fest behind those sunglasses, so I swam over to see what was up.   Oy!  The words that spilled out of her were full of guilt.  Guilt about leaving her kids behind to go on a trip, guilt about not mothering “right,” shame about still having the same job she’s had since she graduated high school, guilt about not loving her husband “enough.”  It was un-ending.  Guilt seeped into every aspect of her life.  Clearly, the relaxed atmosphere of days together, the female company and the booze had lightened my friend to the point that all she was carrying with her, just exploded.


Guilt is the most irritating emotion known to humankind, in my humble opinion.  Guilt is described as a cognitive or an emotional experience that occurs when a person believes or realizes – accurately or not – that he or she has compromised his or her own standards of conduct or has violated a universal moral standard and bears significant responsibility for that violation[1].  The guilt that I find many women experience, including myself, is the most useless kind.  The “implied,” the inaccurate guilt that we bestow upon ourselves.  So many of us adopt the persona of the creature at the bottom of the food chain.  We are last in everything, the last to receive, the last to accept help, the last to take care of ourselves.  We give so much of ourselves, that eventually, we lose ourselves.


Here are some of my “favorite” forms of guilt, that I think we can acknowledge, thank and let go of, and finally start to feel some of that old joy we had in pre-adult life.


1 – Mom Guilt

2 – Food Guilt

3 – Career Guilt


MOM GUILT


The worst, the WORST kind of guilt.  Never has the topic of motherhood been so polarizing as it is right now.  We question and judge ourselves on every topic under the sun.  Vaccinations, breast-feeding, baby-wearing, home-schooling, daycare or not, quit work or not, only child or not.  When at one time, having children was a personal, private and wonderful occurrence within a family – it is now shared with the world via social media.  But a mother’s pride quickly is dashed, when an unexpected comment suddenly darkens her world and makes her question everything she does, and the guilt then starts.


I remember a moment when I had posted a picture on Facebook of our new baby.  I had a quick delivery, and this time, I wasn’t hit by post-partum depression as I had with my first child.  But the 6 years of personal work to recover my health, and the whole back story to the picture, is not obvious to viewers.  They only saw a picture.  So, when I posted a picture of my 6-year-old, holding her baby sister at home, feeding her a bottle, guess what happened?  Among the many happy comments I received, one person felt compelled to say, “You’re feeding her a bottle?!”  Exclamation marks included.


Everything that a mother does, is for her child.  It’s never been anyone else’s business on how you choose to raise your child.  The words “should” just reflects what your parents, grandparents, society, school tells us.  Some of the “should” lessons are for our own good, in terms of safety and hygiene.  Unfortunately, when a “should” lesson keeps you stuck somewhere and you’re constantly unhappy, and you don’t even remember the last time you felt real joy with yourself, there’s a problem.  I “should” give my daughter a pink dress instead of black (because black is a demon color).  I “should” breast-feed because it’s the “best” food for kids (regardless of my potentially suicidal post-partum bouts of depression).  I “should” put my children in this afterschool program because all the kids are doing it and my child does “nothing.”  I “should” give my kid raw carrots for snacks (even though she hates them, and you later learn it’s because she’s developing an allergic reaction to them).   Yes, these are all personal experiences. 


If you think about it, our only goal in life as parents, is to help your children outlive you.  Keep them safe, give them happy times, teach and discipline them, nourish them, and give them opportunities occasionally to try something new.  Children will not become messed up because you pulled them out of dance.  If your child has a safe space to go to, to talk to someone, is loved and can appreciate what she has, she’ll be alright.  And you are enough.


All those other moms out there, who constantly seem to knock you down instead of building you up, who call you out on your “mistakes,” who challenge your every move with your child, will never be appeased by anything you do.  So let it go.  Let go of the “should” in your life, and get un-stuck from the guilt and depression that you may experience as a mother.


 Overall, guilt is good for you, provided it lasts no longer than five minutes and that it brings about a change in behavior. [2]  If the guilt propels you to make a change that you’ve already been wanting to do, then just do it or work towards doing it.  Guilt, when applied to behavior, is the little alarm system that tells us when we are not living up to our own standards[3].  Just make sure these standards are your own, and not someone else’s.   Don’t carry guilt with you for 20 years. Make the change.  Stop with the guilt, it’s useless after those 5 minutes end.



FOOD GUILT


Once of the greatest blessings, and I’d have to say a bit of a curse, was getting an education in holistic nutrition.  I did it simply to empower myself with knowledge to help my family address some skin issues and to help them grow as best as they can.  But with the education came depression.  The revelation on the state of our food, the consequences of how and what we ate was overwhelming, and it took away my joy of food as we are not “supposed” to have an emotional attachment to eating of any kind.   As a holistic nutritionist, people think that I am on the ball always on what I eat, and how and when I eat.  It’s so exhausting to constantly think about how a specific food I will eat will affect my system, how I will react to it, what it’s doing to me.  I fall down a rabbit hole and I feel like I’m going crazy and I’m not able to enjoy the moment anymore.  The guilt itself is far worst than the actual food itself.  Going into a stressed state over food is common for people who start to venture into natural health and start researching and exploring what’s out there.


An example of this would be my morning adventure with a cup of coffee.  Do I drink bullet-proof coffee?  Do I add coconut oil or grass-fed ghee to my coffee?  Do I just stick to my usual double cream and double sugar?  Do I drink coffee at all?  How do I deal with the shakes after?  How much calcium is it going to leach from my bones?  Am I screwing myself up, if I drink coffee with non-organic cream?  How can I replicate that beautiful flavour in a healthier version?  Two teaspoons of sugar is too much, how do I drink my coffee without sugar?  I heard black coffee is better, but it tastes so bitter!  Where do I find good coffee that tastes good without sugar and cream?  STOP!  This is the kind of crap that goes through my head on an average morning, when I decide to enjoy a cup of coffee on a cold winter’s morning.  By the time I drink my coffee, I have a headache.  This is an example of a type of food guilt.  So now I’m drinking my coffee, but not enjoying it.


Overthinking like this always leads to stress.  Stressing over eating food is worst than eating the food, as stress is way more damaging, and the effects are felt for a long time after the “crisis” is over.  The best way that I deal with this is to recognize that food is just food.  Food is not evil or good.  Food is sustenance.  Sometimes it makes you feel good, other times it makes you feel blah, or you feel nothing!

We all know what’s good or bad for us.  The hard part is the Changing.  It’s harder to become a vegetarian when your entire family eats meat and has no interest in trying something new, and vice-versa.  It’s hard to cut back on beer when it’s a social “norm” for a night out.  At the same time, it’s complete misery eating a salad that you HATE.


Your body undergoes more stress when you're eating something healthy and totally HATING it, while your friend is wolfing down that burger in a totally stress-free moment... (don't worry, the stress will eventually come for your friend down the road if she keeps inhaling those burgers!).  Occasionally, it's okay to let down your guard and enjoy your food. Sure, that mayonnaise is not healthy, but stress is unhealthier.


Mindfully eat your food, and accept the consequences, be aware of what it does, joyfully accept its treasures and any nourishment it gives, and then stop stressing about it.  Move on, move around, enjoy your self, and love life.  Every second is another opportunity to make a better choice than the last.  Be kind to yourself, and your human limitations.  Enjoy your food, and the next day, enjoy your healthier foods in peace.


CAREER GUILT / SHAME


The final guilt which we need to talk about is career guilt, or a better term, would be career shame.  Shame differs from guilt in that it emphasizes what is wrong with ourselves. It has a much more inward focus, and as such, leads shameful parties to feel poorly about themselves, rather than simply the actions they have taken.  In fact, shame can lead to withdrawal from social situations and a subsequent defensive, aggressive, and retaliatory behavior, which only exacerbates conflict, rather than alleviating it.[4]


I bring this up because this is something I find rather common among women who have children, and are hitting a certain age.  A lot of us have found ourselves stuck in the same spot we’ve been, career-wise, once the hurry and rush into marriage and children have finally calmed down.  While there are many of us who have managed to juggle career and family with grace, there are tons of us who are either regretting not pursuing further schooling, or having children at a certain point in our career that it’s stalled its progress. 


When we start to regret not pursuing our goals from our younger years, we start to feel resentful and nostalgic.  This inevitably leads to guilt, because now we’re experiencing guilt about our children.  Women aren’t supposed to feel guilty or resentful of their children, because they are a gift, right?  Of course, they are gifts, but let’s not kid ourselves and say that motherhood is rosy and that every day of our lives have been enhanced by our sweet children.  Motherhood can be rough, and it definitely effects our life plans.  Pre-children, pre-marriage, there was just you.  You with your dreams, your ambitions and goals, your vibrancy and exuberance for life yet experienced.  Children take that away, for a long time.  You can never go back to how you were.  You’re allowed to mourn this loss, as long as you can see the good of the changes as well.  This is something that I picked up after suffering from post-partum depression for 8 years with my first child. 


Many women have never “recovered” from becoming mothers.  They’ve found themselves wrapped up in the lives of their children, to the point that they only live for their children.  They’ve forgotten the most important person in their life, which is themselves.  You cannot be a good parent, if you think of yourself as less, as unworthy, as a broken person.  Children pick up on that, and they will emulate.


So, what does this have to do with career guilt/shame?  As usual, the haters and snobs start with their comments and uninvited suggestions and opinions.  You still work there?  Don’t you have any ambition?  How come you’re not working?  What do you do all day?  Why are you working so much, don’t you know you have kids?  This kind of bulls**t just shames you for your life choices, no matter which way you go.  Again, it’s nobody’s damned business what you do with your life.  Every job out there is honorable.  It feeds your loved ones, it nurtures, it shelters you.  You work from home?  You don’t make money, but you’re at home with the kids? Your kids are older, but you’re still at home running the show?  Awesome.  Everything that you do, has an impact on the lives of your children and loved ones.  Anyone who says otherwise, always has an ulterior motive…such as belittling you so that they can feel better about their own choices is usually the one.  Even envy can rear its ugly head.

Shame serves no constructive role at all.  It only serves to make us feel small, to feel a weight that isn’t there if you just drop it.  Shame and guilt can lead to all kinds of physical and mental issues, such as low self-esteem, depression, anxiety, eating disorders, and suicide[5].  This is something that really needs to be kept in check.


When we feel shame, our behavior changes as we try to cope.  Below are a few tactics I find that mothers typically use to deal with shame:

  • Seeking…perfection. An attempt to overcome shame by preventing the possibility of future shame. One way to do this is by aiming for perfection -- a process that inevitably fails and causes more problems.

  • Diverting blame. By blaming our faults or problems on others, we can avoid guilt and shame. However, doing this fails to get at the core problems and as a result, fails to achieve its purpose.

  • Being overly nice or self-sacrificing. People sometimes compensate for feelings of shame or unworthiness by attempting to be exceptionally nice to others. By pleasing everyone else, we hope to prove our worth. However, this inevitably involves covering up our true feelings, which is, once again, self-defeating.[6]

The last point pisses me off to no end.  So many women do this, and I wish they would just stop it. You can be nice, and self-sacrificing, but really don't make this a permanent feature of your personality.  The martyr is a martyr for a reason, the martyr is dead.  If you want to live your authentic life, we really need to start saying no and stop raising people's expectations that you will be there 1000% of the time for them.  Because you know what happens?  No one is there for you - your impression of invincibility has worked too well.  Ask for help, say no, and be totally selfish once in a while.  You are worth private times, chill-out times, and you should be able to enjoy them without worrying that you'll ruin a relationship by asserting your space.  If it's a problem, then it needs to be discussed, and either moving forward, or eliminated.


I personally find these coping mechanisms exhausting and stressful.  These are perfect ways to ruin a relationship or marriage.  Being on guard all the time, walking on eggshells around everyone, and never allowing yourself to be human and to screw up, is a waste of time and a sure way to a boring and unhappy life where you never get to be yourself.

With all this guilt that you carry, no doubt that you’re stressed.  Find time for yourself, and be kind to yourself.  You CANNOT do everything.  And I will tell you right now, you will not please everybody, and not everybody is going to like what you do.  If you are a kind person, you have love and give love, and you have your health, then you’re okay.  Start shedding some of that guilt by truly confronting the issues why.  If you are constantly regretting something, or you’re always wondering what if…. then do something about it.  Either go ahead with your old plans, or make peace with your guilt, acknowledge it, let it go and move on.  We are so hard on ourselves, and our self-expectations are ridiculously high.  Encourage yourself to try to do better, but find comfort in your own self and be gentle with criticisms.  Forgive yourself.  You are your own best friend.  Learn from your mistakes, and then live your life in your own kind of happiness.


Everyone falls apart, but all those pieces are creating a new picture of yourself.  Guilt has a place to propel you forward, but don't live in it.  You will fester.  Everything we experience makes us what we are.  And today, what you are is enough for the whole world.  And if you’re surrounded by toxic people who only strive to make you feel small, then remember…. you DO have a middle finger. 


Xoxoxox Rebecca


p.s. on a side note, if you need something to simmer down and help you deal with your stress and your propensity for taking on too much of the world’s weight, then my recommendation as a Certified Holistic Nutritionist is to try out a few supplements to help you along until you get a handle on things.  These are not meant to be consumed like candy, though!  Check out my previous blogs on the effects of stress and anxiety. Always make sure to drink lots of water to keep hydrated, eat more natural than processed foods and go outside and move around.


AND finally….if you haven’t had a chance to download my book, here’s the link to do it.  It’s a great little read on how stress effects your body, and some natural ways to kick your natural health in gear, and start developing a kick ass attitude towards life.  I hope you enjoy it!


DISCLAIMER:  I am not a professional in the areas of mental health.  These are my personal opinions and experiences, and professional recommendations as a Certified Holistic Nutritionist.  There are wonderful resources out there that I’ve utilized when I went through post-partum depression and any ongoing issues with depression and anxiety.  Please reach out to a support network or group if you are experiencing difficulties.  You can also check out https://www.mentalhealth.gov/talk/community-conversation/services/index.html (United States) or https://cmha.ca/document-category/mental-health/ (Canada).  There are several medical, diet, and lifestyle approaches to managing medical conditions (anxiety/depression).  None of these are a substitute for professional medical advice. If you have any of these conditions, or are taking medications for it, please make sure you’re being monitored regularly.

REFERENCES

[1] “Guilt.”  Encyclopedia of Psychology.  2nd ed.  Ed. Bonnie R. Strickland.  Gale Group, Inc., 2001.  eNotes.com. 2006.  31 December 2007.

[2] http://undoingdepression.com/road-to-recovery/learning-new-skills/guilt-the-postives/ - Accessed October 19, 2017

[3] http://undoingdepression.com/road-to-recovery/learning-new-skills/guilt-the-postives/ - Accessed October 19, 2017

[4] Barker, Phil. "Guilt and Shame." Beyond Intractability. Eds. Guy Burgess and Heidi Burgess. Conflict Information Consortium, University of Colorado, Boulder.

Posted: July 2003 <http://www.beyondintractability.org/essay/guilt-shame> - Accessed November 8, 2017

[5] Tangney June Price, Stuewig Jeff, and Debra J. Mashek.  Moral Emotions and Moral Behavior.  Annu Rev Psychol.  2007; 58: 345-372. 

LINK: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3083636/ - Accessed November 8, 2017

[6] Barker, Phil. "Guilt and Shame." Beyond Intractability. Eds. Guy Burgess and Heidi Burgess. Conflict Information Consortium, University of Colorado, Boulder.

Posted: July 2003 <http://www.beyondintractability.org/essay/guilt-shame> - Accessed November 8, 2017

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