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Non-Guilty Pleasures [Day 11 – 30 Days to Changing Your Game]


Today is Day 11 of 30 Days to Changing Your Game. We are one-third of the way through our journey – woohoo! Yesterday Yvonne DiVita got us focused on who we are and what our mission must be. Today, Dr. Mollie Marti takes on Guilt – where it comes from, what it can do to us and what to do about it so it doesn’t strangle our game.


Non-Guilty Pleasures

By Dr. Mollie Marti (@DrMollieMarti)

Escaping mediocrity requires the dropping of pretenses, social masks, and facades and resting in this truth…living in this world requires a tremendous amount of awareness and intentional action to be the person that you want to be and can be.

One of the big pieces you must put in place to escape mediocrity is dropping unearned and unhealthy guilt.  In this world on non-stop information, advertisements, and guru-ism, we fantasize of perfection (it is a fantasy) and use these images as ammunition against our self worth.  Each day, hundreds of invitations knock on your door to compare outside of yourself and conclude that you are not good enough, successful enough, wealthy enough, organized enough, productive enough, pretty enough, thin enough, famous enough, happy enough…you pick your poison enough.

When you don’t feel enough, guilt is right there lurking.  And the party within you soon begins. Because guilt never travels alone. Oh no. It brings its buddies (surely you’ve met them…dissatisfaction, hopelessness, helplessness, confusion, fatigue, overwhelm, and emptiness).  The internal party gets fired up with whoops of “should”, “can’t”, “why did you”, “why didn’t you”, and “what were you thinking????”

Am I suggesting that you dump guilt completely? Of course not (unless you’re seeking to become a sociopath).  Healthy guilt is essential for living an unmediocre life. Healthy guilt is appropriate to the offense, specific to the situation, and focused on improving a relationship with yourself or another person.  Healthy guilt is almost always paired with lessons learned and an intention to act differently immediately – not linked to a gut wrenching intent to “do better” in the future.

So what can you do to dump some of the guilt – and with it a heap of mediocrity?

1. Increase Awareness
(Tell me you knew a psychologist would start here…stay with me). You had needs as a child.  You had adults in your life responsible for responding to those needs. How did they do? Were they too busy trying to meet their own needs and fill their own emptiness that they did not have anything left for you?  Was a typical response to your needs to make you feel guilty for even asking for help?

Perhaps you were programmed with negative messages and expectations of perfectionism like, “Shame on you”, “You can’t do anything right”, “It is always your fault”, and “You are a bad person because you did that”.  Maybe they added a “God agrees you should feel guilty about this” layer.

These messages of criticism and shame get deeply embedded into your psyche and create a background soundtrack that infiltrates your being.  A never-ending soundtrack that creates your normal that feels right when in reality it is so wrong.  It largely is the byproduct of others (whether self-hating, selfish, clueless, or just too needy themselves) telling you and showing you that guilt is the way.

The child within you may need permission to explore and challenge all that was put on you when you had no choice but to receive it.  Give yourself this permission.

2. Own Your Goodness and Help Others Own Theirs
The reality is that there is evil in this world. There are people that knowingly chose to embrace extreme selfishness, hatred, violence, and a blatant disregard for humanity. You are not one of these. I see you there reading this…full of good intentions and hungry to improve yourself and help others.  You may not have exercised today or you may have eaten that ice cream right out of the carton or you lost your temper and snapped at a loved one…but you hold no hatred in your heart (except perhaps toward yourself). Be kind to yourself. Stop giving more energy to what you aren’t doing and own all the kind acts you do, day in and day out.

You are surrounded by people who are hurting, feeling inferior, and are hungry for affirmation.  Under those heavy masks they don, there is great pain.  Hold up the truth of their goodness for them.  Mirror back the abundant evidence from their life that contradicts the guilt that creates their reality from inside out.

Be aware that guilt can cause them to brush off your caring and dismiss your compliments – persevere.  I recently was doing some online coaching and commented about the goodness and potential I saw shining from within someone. His response:
“I’m really making an effort to accept support while trying not to feel like a total loser.”
“I just keep looking at what I did and it never measures up to what I should have done.”
“Don’t know what to say…almost physically painful to hear you say I’m worth it.”

This man felt that I could not possibly understand how far short of the mark he fell and his internal dialogue told him that he deserved his guilt.  The raucous strands and crescendos of guilt surging through his veins were drowning out his view of the precious, unique gifts within.  Against this reality, my attempt to shine some light on his goodness actually caused physical pain.

I challenge you to explore how you are not worthy of the guilt you rain down upon yourself. Also, become more aware of this invisible burden being carried by good, well intentioned people and choose to be more kind. Put a check on your moodiness and be generous with your praise.  Speak fewer criticisms, blame less, and refuse to leap to judgments.  The simple act of sharing your smiles, compliments, and affirmations can change lives.

3. Live in Community.
We human beings are social animals.  We need each other in so many ways.  We thrive only in community. When will you know you’ve found the right home? It sounds something like this (sometimes without saying a word):
Be you – this truly is enough for us.  Let it be enough for you.  Take time and space to breathe, reflect, and explore. You’re safe here. Tired? Rest. You tripped? We all trip. Let us help you back up and keep moving forward.  You are not alone – we also are fighting this good and worthy fight toward our better selves. We ask only this: be honest, be yourself, and do not give up…because the rewards of living an unmediocre life – a life of personal excellence – are worth the effort.

A big part of what inspired this post is a recent experience I had getting blindsided by a business associate who I thought was a friend but acted like foe. It was my amazing Best Life Design community that immediately swooped in to pick me up and encourage me forward. Salve for a hurting heart (thanks, team).

Escaping mediocrity requires a lot of soul baring talk.  Of course, you need silence to foster introspection, creativity, and wisdom. But it becomes impossible to use this silence when guilt, irrationalities, and self-hatred are bullying their way through the quiet.  It takes courage to reach out because it is often at the point guilt has convinced you that you are a complete and utter failure that it’s essential to reach out and share your feelings, doubts, and challenges. (If guilt has become an outright bully, you may need a coach or therapist to help you restore some order.)

My intent for this blog is to raise a flag of hope for you and to call you to action to waive it for others.  This flag reads:
“You are a good person. You do not deserve the guilt that infiltrates your soul and undermines your greatness.  You are being called as a light to others.  To shine, you must embrace a healthy pride of the good acts you do and stop frittering away your life focused on what you don’t do or what you aren’t being.  Choose to live with more love and pride and hope and kindness. Go Shine.”

Escaping mediocrity calls you to recognize that there is a richness to you that you have not yet begun to fully tap. Not even close.  Let’s take the next step forward together.  What changes have you made or will make to help yourself or others walk through the guilt to greatness? Please share.

Dr. Mollie Marti, a performance psychologist and lawyer, is founder of, a life design resource that provides tools, advice, and inspiration in all areas of life design, including health, fitness, relationships, finances, career, spirituality, and success.  She is widely published in academic journals and is co-author of The 12 Factors of Business Success: Discover, Develop and Leverage Your Strengths and Selling: Powerful New Strategies for Sales Success. With her unique ability to combine the science of success with the art of living well, Mollie is a popular trainer, speaker, and media source. She lives with her husband, 3 children, and large family of pets on an apple orchard in scenic northeast Iowa. Now this is a woman who really knows how to take a bite out of life!

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