I really don’t know how to get past feeling like a bad person who ruins lives. Help!
I’m coming up on a year from divorcing my husband – my choice – and I still feel bad for him, my disappointed parents and my small daughter.
On the plus side, my daughter is doing really well and my ex and I remain friends, completely able to put her at the center of our ongoing plans.
I still feel, however, like I hurt the people around me and that my reasons weren’t good enough. It’s hard for me to believe my choice doesn’t make me selfish or careless.
How do I stop feeling like a total heel and beating myself up every day?
Dear Doubting Divorcee,
I started to answer your question and found myself inexorably drawn to comparisons between what I think you must be feeling, and to the remembrance of what I felt in a very similar situation. Suddenly quoting Elsa and saying “let it go” just didn’t seem like enough to encompass all of the ideas and emotions that are wrapped up in times like these. Oh the feels!
So, let’s imagine that this wonder-filled and strange and marvelous world is a kind of game, and your life as a character has one main quest-line, to live the best life you can to the best of your abilities. Certainly you will have side-quests and objectives that come and go along with them, for example you’ve already unlocked the +1 progeny achievement with your mini-companion, and a large part of your quest line will now be devoted to helping her become her best self as well. Along the way you will continue to encounter many other players (NPCs to you), some of them worth keeping because they will enhance your character in so many ways.
However, there are times when you need to allow these others to fade out of your story. The reasons why are legion. Ultimately, you’ll find if you hold on too long, or give in to the doubts that often surround these unhealthy interactions (or are caused by them), they inhibit the pursuit of your own goals. These NPCs, just like a hefty DOT, will cause you to feel like you’re slowly being depleted because they are a drain on your time, or your money, or even your joi-de-vie.
In terms of your own attributes, selfishness, like carelessness, is so often a matter of perception. The truly selfish never stop to wonder if they are, or to question their motivations. They very seldom look at the world around them to assess their impact on it, choosing rather to assess the world for what it can provide and how it may be used to further self-serving gains. Your feelings of guilt are a likely indicator that you have many talent points distributed into being empathetic and caring. You attend the emotions and desires of those around you. Caring and empathy are wonderful qualities, but if you find you’ve also allocated points in being a people-pleaser it may make you vulnerable to self-neglect and self-sacrifice in situations where it is unwarranted. It may also leave you open to attack by the sinister EGO, an often malevolent force for the status-quo, and the twin devastators – regret and fear.
Dear DD, please remember that no legendary quest is ever easy. Sometimes we are forced to make difficult decisions because the alternative would be a life that is less worth living. In these times we must acknowledge our right to choose, and the power of our actions. Your decisions are not less worthy than the choices of the NPCs around you. Learn from the mistakes that may have caused the situation you left. Forgive yourself for being human, and don’t try to fit an unrealistic standard of perfection. Appreciate those who surround you with love and support. Understand that you have no more right to take on the emotions of everyone else going through this game than they have to try dictating or playing your character for you. Self-respect and self-determination are not acts of selfishness or carelessness they are acts of self-love and a powerful message to your daughter. Stop imposing limits on your progress with the perceived judgments of others. Trust me when I say that with practice, this will get easier. Mario didn’t always get to the right castle first, but he did get there.
There will always be those who play more skillfully than you. There will be other NPCs who have your best interest at heart, and those who do not. Strive to treat them all with gentleness but not to give them more of your energy than they deserve. Save some of that gentleness for yourself as well. Have confidence in your judgments and trust yourself, because you are strong and capable. Live well. Play your best.
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