Many of our thoughts about ourselves are actually not our own at all. Outside influences can have a major impact on how we view our actions and even our physical appearance. You may compare your life with that of others and feel guilty that you aren’t perceived to have achieved as much. Sometimes family members or friends can make you feel inferior with their questions and observations about your life. It’s time to take a break from these negative influences and to reflect on what you want. Learn how to improve your mental and physical wellbeing while tearing off the shackles of guilt imposed by others.
What pressures can affect my wellbeing?
FamilyEven the most well-meaning of family members can chip away at your confidence, merely by asking questions that highlight certain areas of your life. You could be of an age when family and even society expects you to have married, bought a house and and started a family. If these are all things you really want and you haven’t yet achieved them, being questioned about these subjects can cause negative feelings towards yourself and knock your self confidence.
FriendsAs you grow older, you will undoubtedly discover that friendships change, as your friends, and you, make certain life decisions. Parents can often be made to feel that they need to keep up with the social lives of their child-free friends. Single and child-free people may feel the pressure of questions about when they intend to marry and start a family. The same pressures can be felt with regards to work as some friends may have already discovered their perfect career and be content climbing the corporate ladder. In contrast, you may not have found your career path, or may feel completely happy to have a low-pressure job with minimal commitment that allows you to concentrate on other aspects of your life that you deem more important. In all of these situations, you may feel that you aren’t living the life that is expected of you, especially if friends expect you to be just like them.
YourselfThe reality is, you can choose to ignore outside pressures, but this is easier said than done. For many of us, our hardest critic is ourselves. It’s particularly difficult if you had visions of where you would be at certain points in your life and these goals haven’t been achieved. Alternatively, you could have achieved these goals and still feel discontent or frazzled by the building pressure of maintaining what you thought you always wanted. For example, your dream of having the perfect family may be much less than perfect in reality. Your well-paid job for which you have strived so hard might not be what you envisioned at all.
How do these pressures affect our wellbeing?
- Guilt – the feeling of guilt can be overwhelming for those who feel they haven’t achieved their potential or feel they should be much happier than they are.
- Depression – being constantly bombarded by pressure from family, friends, and work colleagues can lead to bouts of depression. If your peers and loved ones don’t find you worthy as you are, the chances are, you won’t feel this positively about yourself either.
- Low self-esteem – If you judge your success by certain goals and these goals haven’t been reached then you may experience feelings of failure, which can knock your self-esteem.
- Low energy – depression and anxiety can render you inactive which may lead to a vicious cycle of doing nothing, feeling bad about this, and again, unable to do anything about it because your energy is depleted.
- Regret – looking back you may question past choices and blame yourself for not making the right ones which has led you to an unhappy place in your life. You might begin to question relationship breakups and begin labelling an unworthy ex as the one that got away, just because you think you should be married by now. Or perhaps you regret turning down a previous promotion because you feel as though you would be financially better off if you had accepted it.
How do I pursue my own wellbeing and let go of the guilt?
- The first step is to stop feeling guilty. This includes regret about how your life could have turned out differently if it wasn’t for certain choices you made at the time. The fact is, there is absolutely nothing you can do about past decisions; you can only learn from them and move forward.
- If you're feeling guilty that you haven’t met your family’s expectations, realise that it isn’t your responsibility to live your life for them. This also means letting go of the guilt you may experience when you take time out for yourself.
- Express your feelings to loved ones and explain that although you appreciate their concern, you would prefer to make your own life choices.
- Parents often feel guilty for allocating any time or attention to their own wellbeing. However, self-care is essential for parents, because looking after your physical and mental health means you are better equipped to help your family. Talking to a close friend or a counsellor about your concerns and the causes of your stress is a great way to release any burdens and feel more confident about taking time to focus on improving your own wellbeing.
- Embrace nature – both exercise and being among nature have been proven to improve mental health. Combine the two and go for country walks or, if time is limited, spend your lunch hour strolling through a park or in the fresh air.