Guilty pleasures

woman eating cake

Feeling guilty?

Im feeling guilty and Im sick of it. I feel guilty about not spending enough time reading to my kids, guilty about feeding them McDonalds for dinner and guilty about the carbon footprint my dog is leaving. I feel guilty because I dont exercise enough and guilty because every time I walk into my favourite patisserie I cannot resist buying an almond croissant. 

Guilt – it’s a trip

Guilt is everywhere and its overwhelming. There are guilty consciences, guilty pleasures, guilt about the past, guilt trips…

Good Lord! Im feeling guilty about feeling guilty and wasting my time “ of which I have precious little to waste. So what exactly is guilt and how come so many of us feel it on a regular basis?

Guilty as charged

In psychology, guilt is described as an emotional state in which a person feels conflict at having done something that they shouldnt have done (or conversely, having not done something they believe they should have done!). Okay, I get it “ I recognise that nagging creature lurking behind my shoulder “ no, not my significant other, my conscience.  Its what Sigmund Freud described as, the result of a ‘struggle between the ego and the superego parental imprinting’ … uhuh. The good news is that feeling guilty is completely normal. 

Pleading guilty

Great, so this morning when I was shuffling about the supermarket in the ‘pretend nutritional snack’ isle, everyone else I spied buying Roll-ups was thinking the same thing “ I know these arent healthy and will eventually rot little Lukes teeth, but they will stop him from whinging while I pop into the coffee shop and gulp a skinny latte and scoff my almond croissant.

Guilt is a wasted emotion, a psychologist friend said to me recently. “Guilt cant change the situation. Its pointless unless you learn from it.” “On the other hand,” the same friend continued, “most people believe that guilt is what keeps us on the right track”.  It seems guilt is necessary. It may be necessary but does guilt have to follow us everywhere we go?

The guilt … em… crutch

According to Dr. John Grohol there are 5 positive steps we can take to lessen this crutch we call guilt. (Love that line: this crutch we call guilt.)

0.Recognise the kind of guilt you have and its purpose. For example; if your kids are gobbling roll “ups five times a day, you should feel guilty. Thats your brains way of trying to get the message to you about a behaviour you probably already recognise is a little extreme. Such behaviour may be self-destructive and ultimately harmful to your health (or at least to your childs teeth). So the rational purpose of this guilt is simply to try and convince you to change this behaviour. 

  • Make amends or changes sooner rather than later. i.e. at least cut down to one Roll-up a day. 
  • Accept you did something wrong and move on. (Those holes in Lukes teeth werent caused by broccoli.) 
  • Learn from your behaviour. (Feed the child more vegies, less sugary junk.)

And my favourite:

  • Accept that perfection doesnt exist in anyone (Im talking about the perfect mother who lives down the street in the perfect house, with the perfect husband, kids, car and life.)  Dr Grohol says that even though others may appear to be perfect, perfection doesnt exist (I knew it) and those who seek it are setting themselves up for failure.

So there you have it. Accept who you are. Accept the consequences for your behaviour, and dont wallow in remorse and regret. In other words, ease up on those feelings of guilt. A little guilt is normal but none of us are perfect (though I know a few people who think theyre close!)

Lisa Heidkex


Lisa’s new book What Kate did Next is on sale this December!

What Kate Did Next



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Authors Website:

Profile: After growing up in Brisbane, I ran away to Sydney, via London, and worked in book and magazine publishing. After many years living in the inner west, I woke up one morning to find myself married with three children and living on the North Shore”much to my surprise. I spend my days following the sunshine, with my head in my laptop, drinking cups of tea and writing about everyday women and their triumphs, tragedies and peculiarities. My first book, Lucy Springer Gets Even (Allen & Unwin) was published in January this year and my next one, Kate Cavendish Gets A Life (working title) should be out in time for Christmas.


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