Guilt is a powerful motivator

In some ways, I feel as if my life is ruled by guilt. It is a sad way to be, really, as I find there are few things I do in life because I really want to.

I sing in my church choir during the school year, which involves a couple hours of practice during the week plus a few more on Sunday. I enjoy doing this, but it takes me away from my family, although I am mostly okay with this smallish commitment. On the other hand, my choir also has additional concerts, practices for those concerts, fundraisers, etc. I participate in the fundraisers because I feel guilty if I don't; I certainly wouldn't want someone to think I am not pulling my weight. Some extras I go to and feel bad because I am missing family time and other extras I skip and I feel bad because I think I am letting my small choir down.

I have been invited to countless things over the past few years. I go to as many as I can, because I don't want to let people down, particularly when it involves friends I don't see often. But what happens when the third person that month wants me to go to a birthday party or a party where someone is selling something? Whom do I say no to? You can't do everything, but some people seem not to understand that. Or worse, the person who asks you to do something and just cannot accept your no because you are tired, don't want to spend the money, just have no interest in doing said activity, whatever. I have pressured people in the past to do stuff. Now that the shoe is on the other foot, I don't do that (unless the person is someone who bugs me about stuff).

When I stay late at work, I feel bad for being away from the family. The same is true when I ignore Jordan at times on my day off trying to get work done from home. But I feel as if I don't do this extra work, I am not doing my fair share. After all, there are people in my office who pretty much always work 45, 50, even more hours. Can't I put in a few extra ones? One of my bosses has made me feel guilty for not being in the office on Wednesday. I did call him on that, and he has not brought it up since, fortunately, but it is always there in my mind.

I look at the snack sign-up sheet at Jordan's school and feel guilty that my name is not on it. I just sent in snacks in July and August. But a note went home reminding us to sign up for snacks. It seems to me that someone else should be jumping on board before I do again, yet since it is a new school year, perhaps I should get on board.

And, as I recently complained to a friend, Jordan's school, which I love as far as the academics and teachers are concerned, goes overboard with fundraisers. Less than one and a half months into the school year, we have already seen one for a holiday collection, one for Original Works, and one that is a kids' version of the entertainment book. I am not even including the Market Days (food stuff) or the request for gift cards for the big dinner-auction next month (for which tickets last year were $120/couple). Brian and I have one nice (read expensive) dinner out per year for my birthday. I refuse to give that evening up to have to sit at a table with people I don't know, eating buffet food, and bidding on auction items. Because how can you go to that and not bid on something? It is like going to one of those girlfriend parties and not buying whatever wares they are peddling.

Right now, when Jordan is at school, should I be blogging? No, I should be cleaning or doing laundry. But guilt be damned, I just felt like doing my own thing. And don't try to make me feel guilty about doing this. Because you probably will succeed.


a friend said…
If you don't want to do something, then you should just tell your friends, sorry, you can't. And that is it. You don't owe them an explanation. A friend (or your family) should not make you feel guilty. Stand up for yourself!

Good luck with all those fundraisers.
ashley said…
it's interesting that you write about this now...i've been struggling with not saying "no" enough lately, too, and it can definitely take a toll and wear you down over time. my new idea is to only commit to two things per week, and two things per weekend. if i have fewer "slots" available to fill, then i'm hoping i'll be more selective about what i say "yes" to.

another thing i'm trying to do is to ask myself, before i commit to anything, "is this something i will look forward to doing? is it something i will enjoy?" i think it's a huge step to be mindful of the decision, and be deliberate about choosing things that will bring you some sense of satisfaction.

it's not just about choosing what you will do with your life. it's also about choosing what you won't do. and feeling good, and strong, and confident when you do say no, because you're being proactive in shaping and directing the quality of your life. that's what i'm telling myself, anyway. ;)
Facie :-) said…
A friend, I did end up telling a friend "no" today. It was something I wanted to do, but I had done too much that weekend already. And I have to tell you, for once, I felt okay about saying no.

Ashley, I think your idea is a good one, and I kind of followed it tonight. After running around all weekend while visiting my mom and out-of-town aunt, I called up Mike and told him I could not hear his son play tonight. I know this was my best chance to hear him since we all know I am probably never going to drive out their way for a 10 p.m. show, but I just needed to eat dinner with my relatives and drive back to the Burgh and be done. It is something I wanted to do, but not wanting to do the seventh thing that weekend won out. Good luck to you.

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