I wasn’t seeking excellence as a perfectionist. I was seeking it because I was imperfect.

If you have read my book Journey Through The Guilt Trip, you know that in my 20s, I had a nervous breakdown, trying to meet expectations that I thought would make others accept me and like me more. I strove to be the best I could, and always said that I was competing against myself all of the time and to some degree, I guess I was. Although, when I now look back, I realise that the competition with myself was driven from hiding the fact that I knew that I could never be truly perfect.

And herein lies the problem. People who are driven to succeed may look like they are set upon perfection, but in reality, they are more likely to be incredibly sensitive to the fact that they are anything but – their effort is more to keep that hidden from the world than anything else. And this is important. We tend to hold up ‘successful’ people as those role models for the rest of us – work hard, strive to be more, to be better, just like them. But if we don’t understand what has been driving them, we may be striving in the wrong direction. If they have been driven by a quest to hide their imperfections, thinking that if they show them that society will judge them and find them lacking, then we are in a tricky situation. Can you honestly say that you show compassion for your idols who seem to fall from grace? It takes a big person to see the humanness of their idols and not feel somehow cheated.

But to feel like this is to miss the point. Let’s celebrate these people not because they are perfect, but because they have succeeded even when they were NOT perfect. Don’t judge role models by what you want them to be but by what they are. It is healthier for you and them, as we stop holding people to impossible standards and get disappointed when they cannot be met.

To read Journey Through The Guilt Trip, go to Amazon or click here

How Do You Deal With Advice And Feeling Guilty For Not Following It?

How do you use advice given by others, without triggering guilt?
That might sound easy – if you are asking for people’s advice on a problem you are having, it doesn’t seem logical to think that this will create any guilt – surely the two are mutually exclusive?

Not necessarily. When you ask for the opinion or advice of others, the relationship you have with them may start bringing in all sorts of expectations and assumptions about what you are going to do with that advice, and therefore may start triggering guilt trips.

Say that, for example, you have an issue with your partner, and you talk to your best friend, who has known you considerably longer than said other half. Depending on how you have phrased it (if you are having a general rant, chances are, you haven’t been kind about the perspective of your partner) their advice may range from sort it out to kick them out. Once you have had the empathy and compassion, and the time to rant and rage about everything, you calm down and realise that you were maybe a bit excessive with how bad the situation really was. Now you are in a conundrum – you feel guilty about painting your partner a certain way, knowing that it may not be strictly accurate. But you can also feel guilty that you have got some very wise advice from your friend who has always had your back and who may actually be around for longer than your partner. You want to keep both happy, but this can feel impossible – if you make up with your partner, it looks like you are ignoring the advice of your friend; and if you side with your friend, you may lose a partner who really didn’t do that much wrong. You can’t keep both happy – so what do you do?

The simple yet complex answer is to make it clear that your request for advice is based on your need to use it or not, depending on what you think the right thing to do is. What do I mean? Well, getting advice or wisdom from other people can sometimes help you process your situation and give you hidden insight, so there is a lot value in asking for it. however, many of us don’t set boundaries around that advice, by making it clear that, while you welcome their opinion, you are going to ultimately make up your own mind. This is really key to living guilt free, because you don’t want to get into that crazy situation where you feel obliged to act against your own values and judgement, just because you have solicited advice from someone who then expects you to listen to it.

By also focusing some time on understanding how you want to interact with those people – what do you want your role of daughter / son or friend to look like – you can more control over the obligations set up when advice is sought or given. Knowing that you appreciate their opinion but that ultimately, you are going to make the decision for yourself, can lead to deeper connections with people as well as a clearer mind when the decision has to be made.

Stop Saying Sorry

I am one of those people. Those people who apologise. And then apologise for apologising. And apologise for apologising for apologising (you get the drift). There is a spiral that you can sometimes get into that has guilt at its heart. You do something wrong and over apologise, to the point where you then feel guilty for feeling guilty – the cycle is never ending.

This impacts sufferers of anxiety the worse. They can drastically increase their symptoms because of the guilt they feel for showing their anxiety. They try to manage their symptoms but then (because it was always going to) their symptoms show themselves, and they feel so bad that they increase the guilt they feel, making the symptoms worse and worse, until they are caught in an eternal loop of guilt and shame.

And we all feel it with them. I can’t tell you how many times conversations have included someone saying to me “Stop saying sorry”, including when I was in labour with my children! The more you apologise for who you are or what you do, the more you are telling the world that they can dictate to you what is right or wrong.

A lot of it has to do with the concept of being ‘polite’ or ‘nice’ – it’s good manners to apologise – if you have upset or hurt them in some way. But you can’t do that just by being you. It doesn’t work like that. Take accountability for any actions you take, of course, but don’t go apologising for who you are. The world needs you to be big and bold and uniquely you – not apologising for taking up space.

Using Social Media for Mental Health Support

TRIGGER WARNING – REFERENCES SELF HARM. 

This week has been heartbreaking. I follow a lot of people on Twitter who suffer from various forms of anxiety, depression or mental fragility. One of those people self harms and during one such episode, posted a picture of their wounds up on the social media platform. They was clearly in some distress so the immediate response from most people was concern that they get them checked out and that they take the medication they was prescribed. But what I found upsetting was how many people immediately – during the episode – were incredibly cruel to them, saying that they were being triggered and they had just caused them to relapse. They were horrified that this had happened and has apologised but they were clearly not thinking straight when it was posted.


I don’t pretend to understand what it is like to be triggered by such a picture and I do understand how very tenuous the control is over the conditions. But I also struggle with holding them fully responsible for this. They are very clear in their tweets and posts that they struggle with this, and it would be fairly logical to assume that there is a risk of them having an episode. And this makes me wonder, how much responsibility do we have to take in order to make sure that others aren’t triggered? I am not for one moment saying that they were right in posting it and quite rightly they removed it as soon as the medication kicked in. But now they are still getting abuse, and they are still mentally frail, so I just don’t understand why it is okay for them to be held responsible for the mental states of others, but not the other way round. 
How much responsibility should you take for yourself if there are things that trigger you? If I know I am triggered by something, isn’t there some form of rationale that says that there are certain people or accounts I should probably avoid because the likelihood of seeing something triggering is fairly high?
It is so depressing to think that people look for mental health support online because they feel they don’t have access to any other type of resource, and I feel for all sides of this particular discussion. Having to navigate social media anyway is incredibly difficult, but doing so trying to avoid certain topics must be exhausting.

Please seek help when you need it – there is no shame or guilt associated with needing some support:

https://www.samaritans.org

http://www.samaritansusa.org