Okay, I’m totally joking with this title.
Of course we can’t be all things to all people, but do you ever find yourself trying to do just that–and then feeling completely overwhelmed by unnecessary guilt when you simply can’t do it all?
It’s becoming more and more common in our society today–with constant streams of excellent reasons to feel completely inadequate . . . coming at us from every angle.
But I’ve stumbled upon a fantastic solution, and I thought it might be helpful to share. (We’ve even included a printable PDF below that will walk you through this process . . . because we’re just nice like that at Power of Moms.)
To start off, here are a few recent reasons I felt unnecessary guilt:
- I wasn’t volunteering in the classroom often enough.
- I wasn’t singing with our church choir.
- I wasn’t driving into Long Beach to visit my mom as much as I wanted.
- I wasn’t making all the holiday crafts and decorations that I know my kids would love.
Maybe these things don’t seem like a big deal to you, but they were a big deal to me, and they were eating at me . . . week after week.
And this is the only solution I knew:
Just stop feeling guilty. Stop beating yourself up for nothing. There’s no benefit to these negative thoughts. Move on to more important things. Focus on the positive.
But that wasn’t working for me. I needed to go a step further, and the solution I discovered has totally eliminated my guilt. (I’m honestly giddy about this.)
Here’s the key (at least, for me):
The reason we feel guilty is because we are concerned that other people–who don’t know what’s in our hearts–will automatically assume the worst about us.
The teacher at school might be thinking, “Wow, I wonder why she doesn’t come in more often. She’s probably just watching TV all day.” And the choir director might be thinking, “I call her about choir practice every Sunday, but she never comes. I bet she doesn’t think this choir is very important.”
After realizing I felt guilty because people didn’t know what was in my heart, I decided it was time to help them get to know it.
It worked beautifully.
I stayed after kindergarten one afternoon and opened my heart to Spencer’s teacher. “I’m so sorry I haven’t been here to volunteer more often. In my heart, I would be here every single day, but my life has been a little overwhelming, and though I’m doing my best to balance, I’m simply not able to make it here more than once a month or so.”
Do you know what she said?
“Oh, that’s no problem! I never even gave it one thought. Of course you’re busy, and this is the first time you’ve had all your kids in school. I bet you need these few hours to get things done at home. I’ll just put your name on the office list under ‘Will volunteer when she can,’ and anytime you’d like to help out, you’re welcome to be here.”
I left the school feeling like a million bucks. No more guilt.
That Sunday, I sat down with a nice little note card and wrote a message to our choir conductor at church. I thanked him for calling me each Sunday and for doing such a wonderful job leading the practices. I told him that in my heart, I wanted to be there for every single rehearsal, but I was stretched too thin, and I was sorry that I had to step back from the choir for awhile.
He pulled me aside later that day in the church hallway and said, “Thank you for your kind note. I know you’re a busy lady, and there’s no problem at all.”
I had such success with this method that I kept right on sharing my heart with everyone I felt I was letting down.
I told my mom that, in my heart, I would be in Long Beach every afternoon to go for walks down by the ocean.
I told my children that I really would love to be that “crafty” kind of mom they dream of having.
And what was so amazing about this process was that every single person I let into my heart completely understood me. They really weren’t assuming the worst, and I can’t even tell you how much relief that brought me.
They know I’m human–just like they are. Just like you are.
So this is my invitation to you today:
Share your heart with others and erase that guilt.
Although we, as deliberate mothers, can’t be all things to all people, we can be a lot of things to a lot of people. And I think that is absolutely more than enough. Don’t you?
QUESTION: What methods have worked for you to erase your unnecessary guilt?
CHALLENGE: Do you want to join me in this process?
Below, I’ve included a simple printable where you can figure out which parts of your heart need to be shared so you can reduce your guilt.
On the left, you write all the reasons you feel unnecessarily guilty. In the middle, you identify who needs to know what’s in your heart, and on the right, you choose the best way to communicate with that person. (Then you just pick one at a time and DO it.)
Click here to download the PDF: “Erase the Guilt by Sharing My Heart”
And once you try it out, let me know how it goes in the comments below. (But if you don’t get around to commenting, that’s okay, I know in your heart you would!)
I love this! There is too much “mommy guilt” going around and it’s wonderful to have an article to remind us what’s important. I did something similar recently when I needed to go from volunteering each week in my daughter’s class to not at all. Some things had changed in our lives and our schedule and I did not have the time. I felt really guilty week after week but finally talked to the teacher after school one day and told her I would love to be there each week but filled her in on our situation. She was more than understanding and appreciated how much I had done for the class already. Mommy guilt…gone. It really does work!
April Perry says
Great experience, Mary! I love hearing how this same process worked for you. You are wonderful!
Oh, I thought this was wonderful! I have those same thoughts and know that it isn’t the right season, but it is so hard to not do them all some weeks. Thank you for sharing this so well.
Love, Love, LOVED this! Thank you for sharing!
I loved this post! Thank you so much for sharing. I often feel guilt and it effects my attitude & relationships. This is such a wonderful way to respond to guilt. thank for sharing 🙂
This is exactly what I needed to hear today. I appreciate that you not only addressed feeling guilty and the desire to please everyone, but provide a proven action that helped release you from guilt and live in freedom. I definitely want to give this some thought and see what areas I need to work on in my life.
Rachel Nielson says
You are a masterful communicator, April. Thanks for reminding us that when you let people into your heart, they not only understand you better, they also feel more appreciated themselves. GREAT advice.
April Perry says
You’re so sweet. Thanks Rachel. It’s such a relief when people don’t expect you to be perfect, isn’t it? I love our Power of Moms community for that reason. xo
The best advice I’ve ever received and taken to heart is that “guilt should be reserved for sin”. It has allowed me to live so much more freely. Thank you for this article April! I look forward to seeing you in Las Vegas in April 🙂
“Guilt should be reserved for sin.” I love that! So true, and so freeing!
Andrea Davis says
Such great advice, April! Thanks for sharing with all of us. I am always feeling guilty. 🙂
Brilliant! Works in the office, too.
So what do you do when the person you share with says that they understand but they actually don’t seem to ? My grandmother lives an hours drive away. She says that she understands that it is difficult for me to get to see her but in the next breath complains that no-one goes to visit her and that she is forgotten about 🙁
April Perry says
I can completely relate to this. I’ve just found that if I can decide what is a reasonable expectation for myself (like visiting twice a month or something like that), then whenever the person expresses a desire for more of what I’m not able to give, I can say, “I know it would be nice if we could get together more. I’m excited I can come twice a month.” (And then change the topic to focus on what kinds of things you’ll do when you get together.) Good luck!
This is perfect. I’ve been feeling that, too. The guilt about not being able to reach that elusive bar of “expectations.” I’ve realized, for me, part of it is having knowledge of something I should be doing but not having the time to carry that out. With the power of the Internet at our fingertips, we are always learning about the Top 10 Things I should do with my Finances, my House, the Environment, my Figure, my Health, my Kids, my Relationships…etc! So I learn and acquire knowledge about all these things that really are good to do. But there is NO WAY I can ever do them all!
Maybe the most important person I need to write a note to is myself…and let myself let the expectation go.
This was great and something that is really hard for me. And btw, I love the title! 🙂