Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Guilt If I Do, Guilt If I Don't

When did going to the gym become something I feel guilty about doing?

My friend, Guilt, calculates the cost of me going to the gym (gym membership, nanny coverage, lost work productivity) and reminds me of all the things that are on hold or that I should be addressing while I work out. I ignore him and leave the house.

As I walk to the gym, Guilt starts mapping out the most efficient way to workout and shower so that I minimize the amount of time I am there. I often skip classes because when all is said and done, you are at the gym for almost a whole hour and a half. When I work out on my own I can get it all done in an hour. Guilt doesn't like it when I'm there for more than an hour.

I climb on to the elliptical, I strap on my headphones, and try to steer the channel to something "valuable" - maybe CNN? When my hand inevitably
reaches to change the channel to any of a number of reruns of crime shows, Guilt starts a-buzzing, "Isn't it bad enough you aren't working/taking care of your children/supporting your husband?! You are doing something just for YOU?! And now you are actually watching trash TV on top of it?! You could be at LEAST using this time to read a business book!"

I take off my headphones and flip on my Kindle which is loaded with 10 books I really should read. The bouncing and reading aren't mixing. I flip it back off after 5 pages and put the headphones back on. Guilt is quieter because I tried but he's still there.

I finish my workout, run down the stairs, shower in 5 minutes and put my hair in a ponytail because I don't want Guilt yelling at me if I take too long to get ready. I leave - happy that I got it done but it's a tainted happiness. It's one laden with "yeah, butts".

I remember in my 20's, going to the gym was something I felt guilty about NOT doing. But now, with a career, two small children, and a husband who works full time, I often feel guilty when I am at the gym, or for that matter, doing anything just for me.

This isn't really my story anymore...I have learned that guilt is THE most unproductive motivator, if not actually demotivating. Guilt is a killer of all things good, and provides no positive outcomes. Guilt should be put out to pasture, pronto.
But dozens of clients I've talked to over the years continue this internal struggle of knowing when it's not only okay but required that we put ourselves first. Career, physical health, passions - these are things that we all would bend over backwards to help our families prioritize. Now it's time for us to believe that we deserve equal priority, and we should ask for that from those who support and love us. And Guilt needs to go hang out with someone else.

Rebecca Rodskog is a Change Management Coach and Consultant, an Actress, Speaker and Writer. She lives in Manhattan with her husband and two children.

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