Why Do I Feel Guilty When I’ve Done Nothing Wrong?

March 22, 2016

It’s just not fair.

I found myself in a fluster yesterday. In fact, I’ve found myself in a fluster three times in the past two days, and each time it’s because I’ve felt guilty when I hadn’t actually done anything wrong. They were little things that left me taking on a wave of despair, when I should have just brushed them off without a second thought.

The first time, I was driving. I had to slow down because a cyclist in front of me was weaving around like he’d had eight shots of tequila before he hopped on his bike. As a result of my being cautious, a red-faced man in the car behind me was beeping and waving an arm out of his window, urging me to go around. But a car was coming the other way, so I stayed safely where I was. I found myself looking in the rear-view mirror, raising one palm up to the sky in an apologetic gesture and mouthing ‘I’m sorry’ to him. I felt guilty, but I’d done absolutely nothing wrong.

The second time, I was walking out of a shop and the alarm went off. I hadn’t found what I was looking for inside so I left, empty handed, about 30 seconds after walking in. Again, I’d done nothing wrong, but I felt my face flush as I hastily opened my bag to show the security guard I had nothing but a purse and phone inside it.

The third time, I was late calling a friend in London because I’d been stuck in traffic. By the time I hurriedly logged on to my laptop to Skype her, she was clearly fast asleep. She’s having a tough time and I felt absolutely riddled with guilt that I hadn’t managed to get in touch with her. I cursed myself for not leaving myself more time, even though I’d allowed myself more time than usual specifically so I could make a cup of tea and get comfy before our chat.

Of course, I hadn’t allowed for the extra 45 minutes I’d spend in traffic, because my crystal ball hadn’t shown me there would be a crash on my route. It was totally unavoidable, just one of those things, but I felt guilty nonetheless.

Why do I feel guilty?

Because I want to be perfect. I don’t want to ever let anyone down, I want to be there for my friends, I want cyclists to ride safely in their own lane so I can keep to the speed limit and not get yelled at by some angry, impatient ball of fury behind me. I want to arrive at every appointment with a few minutes to spare so I can brush my hair, compose myself and settle in with a cup of tea. I don’t want technology to fail, leaving alarms to go off by accident and making me feel like I’ve filled my bag with goodies I have no intention of paying for.

Everything should go to plan so everyone can see I always try my very best – then my good intentions can be visible to all.

Guilt is such an all-consuming emotion; it sits heavy on my shoulders and makes me feel sick to my stomach. I have to remind myself I shouldn’t feel guilty for things that really aren’t my fault, and save the crippling nausea for the occasions when I actually do slip up – because as much as we all wish we could be superheroes, sometimes we hurt people without cruel intentions.

Image via tumblr.com.

Comment: What do you feel guilty about at the moment? Is it valid?

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