Guilt by Potato Chip
As I ate a small (and I repeat small) bowl of potato chips today I realized that the minor gratification that I received from the salt intake would be quickly replaced by guilt. There would be guilt from knowing that in eating that small bowl of chips I was taking a detour from my normal healthy eating patterns; guilt from knowing that I just added 300 empty calories to my day. All of this guilt made me instantaneously question whether the potato chips were worth it.
I decided that the chips, in fact, were not the source of my guilt. I had to learn to take a step back from guilty moments; question where the emotion originated. For most of us, it stems from worrying about what other people think of us. We are held hostage seeking the approval of others and when we fall short, guilt sets in.
What is guilt anyway? Is it that sinking feeling that we are failing either ourselves or someone else? Is guilt an emotion we were taught inadvertently by parents who struggled with their own sense of “not living up” to some expectation? Why do we find ourselves having an emotion that serves no purpose?
Guilt makes us look at our lives in a negative way. I ate potato chips so I am a bad person. I didn’t go to the gym today so I am a complete failure. We focus on all of this negativity to a point where something as simple as eating a chip causes us remorse and self-loathing.
If we are working toward a level of self-awareness we must not allow guilt to consume us. We should be doing everything that we do, including eating, in a mindful way. We should be doing our best all the time. We should be consciously aware of our actions and our thoughts.
In reality, all of us are on this earth learning our own lessons. We are each faced with challenges and insecurities. It is important to realize that the very people whose approval we seek are also seeking approval from us. Once we understand that fact, we need to act upon it. If we find ourselves having a harsh thought about someone, we must stop. Just stop. Remember they are struggling and seeking approval too.
When we practice this often enough we begin to learn the real lesson. We learn the difficult practice of going easy on ourselves as well. We will stop beating ourselves up about each thing that we do, each way that we think we have failed. We will live mindfully, live honestly, and live in the present. When we learn to do that, we have taken another step toward self-awareness, and amazingly we will find that a bowl of chips is no longer the enemy.