I’m walking towards to the door to my building with a running commentary going in my head.
“You’re taking the stairs.”
“But I’m tired and there’s a twinge in my low back.”
“You’re taking the stairs, all four flights of them.”
“I’m really not feeling it this morning.”
“You’re taking the stairs, you fat, lazy stupid bitch. You’re marching those feet up all of the stairs because you missed gym time yesterday and you are a fatty fatty worthless bitch.”
I walk up all four flights of stairs to my office. I do it because I’ve guilted myself into doing it. Even though I had to use ugly language to do so. It is two sides of a coin. On one side, I’ve guilted myself into doing something healthy. On the other side, I’m a mean bully who doesn’t think much of herself.
One of my coworkers started a conversation about guilt the other day. He started by asking “is guilt a wasted emotion?” Two men and two women were in on this conversation. Both men agreed that guilt was wasted, that it was an emotion that made them get worked up over things that did not matter. Both women (one of them me) said that guilt was a motivator and therefore not a wasted emotion. Now, I will be the first to admit that my data here is not statistically relevant, but I have a strong feeling that if I expanded this poll we would see that most women see guilt as a motivator. Because guilt has been a tool used to control or motivate women for centuries. Having sex. Not having sex. Having babies. Not having babies. Having a career. Not having a career. Eating that donut. Not eating that donut. Pulling off a piece of fruit from that knowledge tree and taking a big ole bite. Not taking advice from snakes.
Raise your hand if you have lost track of the number of times you were guilted into doing something you didn’t really want to do.
If you love me, you’ll….
I see my coworker’s point. I also allow guilt to work me up into a tight stress ball over something I have no control over. I mean, I can try really hard to tell you that I no longer feel guilty about Chris’s death, but honestly I’m not sure that will ever happen. At least that guilt no longer keeps me up at nights (sort of, mostly) and that is why I totally get the wasted emotion argument. But I will say that a good portion of my daily life is centered around the guilt as a motivator idea. The guilt motivator, even though it is getting me to do something good for me, is at times very ugly. The things I tell myself out of guilt are so awful and uses language I would never tolerate coming out of anyone’s mouth. It is the kind of language that if I heard it being spoken to another person, I would interject and tell that person to shut it. I’m going to eat that donut but then I’m going to spend an extra thirty minutes on the treadmill. If I even for a moment think about not doing the extra time, that awful language picks up inside my head and the next thing I know I’m doing extra extra time on the treadmill.
Some days, guilt is the only reason I get out of bed in the mornings.
I know it doesn’t have to be this way. I know there are better methods of motivation. It’s just that this form of motivation has been with me for a really long time. It’s what I know. It’s habit. It is all that is hard to break. If I wouldn’t let a person talk to someone else that way, why on earth do I talk to myself that way. Do you put question marks at the end of rhetorical questions? Yes, I know I could google that but I don’t really care.
If I love me, I’ll…
What if I just ate the fucking donut; no strings attached?