This is something I struggle with a lot. Something I am consistently working on.
I feel guilty for everything…lots of things I cannot control. Guilty for things others do. I carry the burden of guilt and it is so incredibly destructive. This is probably the most destructive emotion that I deal with on a consistent basis.
I felt an incredible sense of guilt and shame when I left my career in medicine. I thought about all the people who had invested time to train me. I thought about all the patients and the system I was leaving with one less healthcare provider.
I feel guilty when I see those who are homeless. This the guilt that hits me the most often and the one I struggle with the most. It doesn’t matter if I am in Austin, Colombia, Romania, etc—seeing people on the street struggling to survive hits me to my core and makes me feel an intense sense of guilt. What makes me that different than these people—a set of life circumstances, perhaps familial support or education, access to healthcare or mental health care support.
Some feel anger, indignant, righteous when they see the homeless. Some pity. I feel empathy and guilt, and have a sense of anger that we don’t have better programming to take care of our fellow citizens when they fall.
I feel guilty sometimes that I am able to travel and create this life for myself.
I feel guilty about leaving family and friends back at home. For missing baby showers, kids birthdays and weddings.
I don’t have a great answer for this one. I love Brene Brown’s books and work on guilt and shame. But I find that it is constant work for me. There is not a quick fix. I have turned to gratitude—to expressing my appreciation for what I have, for where I am, etc and I try to not focus on the “why” I have a certain position in life but instead “what” I can do about it or “how” I can make a difference.
I try to use this “survivors guilt”, “white guilt,” “guilt of privilege,” and all the ways that this guilt affects me to move myself to action. To advocate for others when I can. To help others I see struggling. I remind myself and get reminded by others that I cannot take on everyone’s burdens. I cannot and should not feel guilty for others. I should not feel guilt or shame about my past. I don’t want to give up being an empath because it allows me to connect with people in such beautiful ways, but I have had to learn how to channel it in productive ways, and sitting in guilt and shame is not one of them.
(For those who don’t know… I am doing “30 days to 30” and sharing life lessons and stories in order to celebrate my birthday—hoping to break stigmas and stereotypes about what 30 means and looks like)