Book Review: Let Go of the Guilt

Let me just start off by saying- Holy shit this book is one I wish I would have had much sooner in life. I learned so much from this book and received so much valuable and insightful knowledge from it. I’m just going to say it right now- I highly recommend this book, especially if you constantly beat yourself up for anything and everything and you find joy hard to find because you are so weighed down by all your guilt.

I am definitely someone who does that. I’ve spent most of my adult life, if not my whole adult life, beating myself up for things I felt guilty about. Because of the guilt I felt, I didn’t allow myself to be happy. Why? Because bad people don’t deserve to be happy and I felt like a bad person. And if we’re being honest, I’d say about 90 to 95% of my guilt is self-imposed guilt. Which apparently, is true for most people, especially women.

Here are some facts I learned from the book (in my own words):

  • Women face increased expectations due to all the choices they have. More choices can lead to more opportunities, but they can also lead to more opportunities to hesitate when making those choices or second-guess/make them feel guilty about that choice later on.
  • Cultural influences play a prime role in making women feel guilty. Whether it’s on a magazine rack, a billboard, a television show, or some other form of media, women are constantly being bombarded with images of what the perfect woman looks like. We are also constantly being shown/told what the perfect wife/mother should look like and what her hair, home, and life should look like. Perfection is an unattainable thing, but it doesn’t prevent us from feeling guilty when we don’t achieve it.
  • Women are more likely to be perfectionist. As a woman, I agree with this statement 100%. The pressure I’ve put on myself to be perfect for either something or someone has caused me more stress, anxiety, and worry than I can recall. The amount of nights I’ve had trouble sleeping because I felt like a failure in some area of my life is more than I can remember and more than it should have been.
  • Society plays a huge role in how we view ourselves. There have always been gender stereotypes and in the year 2022, some people are still stuck in those views. For example- a man who goes away on a business trip is seen as a good husband/father because he’s being a good provider for his family by working hard for them. A woman who goes away on a business trip is seen as a bad wife/mother because she is neglecting his husband/children and her responsibilities (cooking, cleaning, childcare, etc). I disagree with this line of thinking.

One of the biggest takeaways I got from this book is the phrase- “Happiness is a risk. Guilt is safe.” When I first read that phrase, I didn’t understand how anyone could think that… after reading that section of the book, it makes perfect sense to me.

Happiness means risking disappointment. It means risking that one day our happiness will go away and then we’ll be left with feelings of sadness, depression, and maybe even guilt. When you’re happy, you have everything to lose. But when you’re sad, depressed, or feeling guilty, you having nothing to lose because you’re already in the worst possible place you can be.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve been afraid of being happy because I know how quickly it can go away. And in my mind I’m thinking “Why should I try to be happy when I know it’s just going to go away eventually? It’s just easier to stay sad all the time.” And though to some very degree I’m right, on a much larger scale I am completely and totally wrong with that way of thinking. Being sad and depressed is like carrying around a backpack full of bricks that you can’t ever put down. Even when you’re sleeping or showering or reading a book, you have to keep that backpack full of bricks on your back… and it’s exhausting. Being sad and depressed all the time is fucking exhausting. After being sad and depressed for more time than I can remember, I am exhausted from carrying around that damn brick filled backpack all the time.

So what is happiness in this analogy? Happiness is the ability to either take off the backpack full of bricks or keep it on, but have the burden be lessened. I’ll use myself as the example for this analogy. Say that tomorrow morning I took a pregnancy test and received a positive result. I would be so happy that I would be able to take off the backpack full of bricks and dance around with joy (though where no one can see me because I can’t dance). In the case of being able to lessen the backpack’s burden, it would be things like yoga or reading a self-help book that would help get some of that weight off of me. Spending time with family and friends could help with both depending on how much time I got with them. Maybe this isn’t the correct analogy to go with, but it’s the one I’m using!

So to start my ‘guilt journey’ as I’ll call it, I decided to use a notebook for it. The author does give some space in the book for you to write things in, but I just can’t write in a book unless it’s a school workbook. Writing in a book feels wrong to me. So if I want to remember something, I use the skinny Post-Its (I can’t remember their name) to mark the spot.

So for my guilt journal, I picked the notebook that best describes me in any situation that requires a lot of thought.

So in the Peel Back the Layers Chapter, Valeries explains the PEEL method. This method is broken down into 4 parts- Pinpoint, Examine, Exchange, and List. It allows us to figure out what is causing us to feel guilty, why we’re saying to ourselves with this guilt, looking for the truth within the lies, and then examining he evidence we have to prove that truth.

So to start my guilt journal, I picked the three things I felt the most guilty about. I will share two of the three with you because since making this list, I don’t feel as guilty about the third one anymore as a conversation with my mom helped me with that.

The first guilt trigger is that I’m not able to be with my friends and family more. There have been times, especially within the last year, where I have felt incredibly selfish for leaving them in Pennsylvania while I remained in Florida. You can read my full thoughts on this on the slideshow below. Sorry in advance if my handwriting is hard to read!

The second thing I feel guilty about is not devoting enough time to my writing. This blog, my novel, and other writing always seems to be put on the back burner for one reason or another. You can read my full thoughts on this in the slideshow below.

So if you come across this book, I recommend picking it up and giving it a read because I’ve found it to be one of the most helpful books I’ve ever read.

What is the last thing that made you feel guilty? How did you overcome that feeling? I would love to know! I hope everyone has a great week!

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