Have you noticed all the outrageous amount of guilt and worry society in general heaps on people in a myriad of different ways!
This post has arisen from a conversation I had with a work colleague recently (well not that recently…it was about 6 months ago…). It went something like this:
Him: “its starting to get darker earlier now”
Me: “well yes, this happens in winter…its annoying but not that bad” (or something)
Him: “yes, but its better in the winter, you feel less guilty”
Him: “well you don’t feel so bad about wasting the sunshine by staying indoors and you can eat what you like without feeling guilty in winter”
Me: “Um… don’t you just do the things you want to do regardless of the weather?
You get the idea…
What is it about society and guilt nowadays?
There is an underlying expectation in society of certain behaviours at certain times or from certain people and failure to live up to these perceived expectations causes people to feel guilty. Even if they don’t say the words “I feel so guilty”, it often manifests in the tendency people have to justify their choices or feelings. I don’t think people are really aware of it, I am certainly not immune to it myself but I am trying to stop.
The person who wants a bar of chocolate, and feels it necessary to say “I know its naughty but I’ve had a hard day” ” I know its naughty but I will go to the gym later” or ” this is all I get to eat until tea time” or countless other justifications people drop into conversation to live up to society’s expectations. In a world where we have been brainwashed to believe there are bad foods and good foods and the only acceptable way of living is “clean eating” and that whole food groups must be written off to attain the status of healthy or virtuous, it is almost impossible to eat in the company of others without in some subtle way justifying your choices!
This goes double if you do not fall into society’s size norms. If you are a-typical in the eyes of society, you are really only socially acceptable if you are attempting to “normalise” yourself. You must be on a diet and it is acceptable for anyone to comment on your food. Consequently people feel the need to justify their choices as a preemptive strike.
It is not just food related. This guilt and justification is prevalent in the field of exercise too. I have heard people providing extensive justifications as to why they find a particular exercise or exercise session hard. They go to great lengths to explain that they are coming down with a cold, or did a lot the day before or can usually do more…It is ok to find exercise hard, even the fittest people are tired after a work out… I think that is the point…
There is an innate tendency to justify shortcomings in one area by telling people about things you can do better in others. I find myself doing this a lot to be honest (I can’t run but I can deadlift…that sort of thing). There is a tendency to justify (both to yourself and others) the decision to have a rest day or miss a workout by listing the reasons that it is ok, or by making a bargain… I will miss this one but I will do two tomorrow, or I will run or walk further to make up for it.
These are but a few examples of people feeling guilty and feeling the need to justify their own choices. I am not sure what has caused a lot of it, but I have a suspicion that large scale advertising of “the ideal lifestyle” has a lot to do with it. That coupled with the endless targeting of slimming products and beauty products at people can lead people to believe that they do not measure up unless they are seen to be striving for an imaginary, corporate advertising driven perfection!
The problem with all this is that it can only get worse because the justification/guilt cycle has become ingrained in people’s heads. It is now subconsciously (and sometimes consciously) passed along to children and more and more people who do not conform to this are being singled out.
It seems to have got to the stage where even just stating that you are not on a diet and actually you quite like your hair all curly has become a non-conformist statement!
I haven’t even begun to talk about the guilt you are made to feel about not wanting children, or the guilt new mums feel at not being able to live up to the “perfect mummy” ideal (this one is hearsay on my part but I am assured it is definitely a thing)
Lets attempt to let go of the guilt. If you want to stay indoors when it is sunny, stay indoors. If you want a bar of chocolate have one. If you want to live life your own way, live it without having to justify yourself to anyone.
And wouldn’t it be wonderful if it was as easy as that!
It is more than that though…we have to work on both sides of the equation. We have to work on no judgement as well as no guilt… If someone says they don’t want to exercise (or diet or whatever)…let them make that decision. Don’t tell them they are wrong, or make them feel like they are wrong.
Lets all try to stop assuming that everyone’s motivations are the same. Lets all try to remember that the media driven perfect pinterest lifestyle is not attainable, or even desirable, for everyone.
Well if the doctor approves it must be good… 🙂
3 thoughts on “Not guilty!”
One of the plus sides to growing old is that you can (largely!) stop trying to please people and justify yourself. If I am asked to a party I just reply ‘no thanks, I don’t like parties’. If I feel like going out to get some beer, my only justification is ‘because I can.’
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This is a brilliant attitude 🙂
Honestly I think more people need to stop endless justification and guilt (myself included tbh)
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It was a real revelation. I’d always struggled to find ways to avoid parties (I hate them – even as a teenager I only went because, well, that’s what teenagers do) and then I thought well, bugger it. I’m not ever going to a party again! Oh, blessed freedom! Oh joy!
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