As an Empath, Enneagram 2 and a Yellow personality, I am drawn to helping others, putting myself last and feeling A LOT of guilt whether it makes sense or not. We all feel guilt in our lives for one thing or another and I’m going to share with you how I started saying “NO”, navigate through the guilt and live life as guilt-free as possible!

Today I was running some errands when I decided to walk into By the Way Bakery (a local gluten and dairy-free bakery near where I live). I am actually about to embark on yet another part of my personal health journey and this one involves an Elimination Diet, so I decided that I would treat myself to something sweet that I know I won’t be able to enjoy for a while. I had zero qualms about choosing a few treats (besides having a hard time picking what to get…YUM) and felt happy about being in there and buying these items. As I was finishing up trying a sample, a woman walked in off the street and wanted to also buy herself a little treat. She then went on to JUSTIFY why she was ALLOWED to eat this treat. “I went to the gym today, so I figure I can have one thing”…this used to be me.

A little backstory about me, and why I would feel the need to justify food…I’m overweight. I have been overweight most of my life. I was very successful at losing weight (over 100lbs actually) and attaining such health that it was the best I had ever felt. Unfortunately for me, I deal with hormonal imbalances so a lot of my weight has come back on, even through staying very active, eating very very healthy and having 3 surgeries in my 30’s to address these imbalances. After my recent Hysterectomy in July, I started to gain more weight and found myself feeling guilty for eating ANYTHING (even vegetables), and I finally decided that was ENOUGH! I stood up for myself and decided that I’m going to stop treating myself like crap because my body is struggling, and I’m going to stop feeling GUILTY for living my life. This was the catalyst that changed everything! In that same breath, I also decided that if I was going to start healing, that I needed to start saying “No” to people, even if I could say “Yes”. It was time I started saying “Yes” to myself!

Why is it that we (especially women) feel that we need to JUSTIFY the food we put in our mouths, the clothes we wear, the jobs we have…basically all the choices we make? The worst part is that many of us, no matter how much we stew over it, make pros and cons lists, consult with someone or pray on it, feel GUILTY after eating the food or going out in that outfit, or working that job and so on. Guilt is like a merry-go-round that never ends, unless YOU GET OFF!

I have always been an empath, and for those of you who don’t know what an empath is, it is basically someone who FEELS EVERYTHING from EVERYONE all the time. I feel people’s energies (good and bad), I know when people are upset even if you can’t tell by looking at them or talking to them, I feel it all. I am also an enneagram 2 which is described as “The Helper”, and boy, have I lived up to that title! I have gone through most of my life helping others before helping myself, doing for others before doing for myself and eventually…forgetting about myself entirely until one day I realized that it’s not okay.

When I first started saying NO (especially to others) I did feel guilty, but soon enough instead of feeling guilty, I felt relieved! It was so nice to finally have time to live my life the way I wanted without the strings of the guilt puppet master dangling above me! It is not easy every day and by no means do I always feel good about saying “no” to people or even myself, but it doesn’t ruin my day anymore.

My advice for those of you reading this, who find themselves being plagued by guilt all the time, is when you are faced with a decision…stop, breathe and ask yourself: “What would make ME HAPPY”? Not the backhanded “helping others makes me happy” or the “eating a salad makes me happy” (because eating healthy is the right thing to do) because I’ve done that and it doesn’t work!

Next time you’re at a crossroads, feeling like you’re being put in a position where you have to choose between what you feel is right and what would make you truly happy:

  1. Think about how you feel. Had a long week? Feeling tired? Stay home instead of going out for happy hour. Caring for yourself will make you more present for the next time around!
  2. Think about your priorities. If getting extra sleep instead of staying up late to watch a movie with your significant other is what you are really needing, do that! They won’t be mad!
  3. Think about your heart. If you want to volunteer at the animal shelter instead of taking an extra shift and making more money, do it! Someone else will take the shift and you’ll get to do something that really means something to you.

Listen…I love to help people and I do love a good salad (I’m kind of a health nut), but sometimes what you really want is to stay in and practice self-care instead of walking a friend’s dog and sometimes, you really want to eat the damn burger and fries instead of a salad! SO GO AND DO IT!

If you don’t start prioritizing yourself now, when will you?

Valerie Altman is a self-employed piano and voice teacher, wellness enthusiast, and fur mama living in CT. She loves anything creative from music to crafting and photography. She loves to be in nature and in the warmer months you’ll find her there. 
Follow Valerie on Instagram: @valeriealtman813

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