Plagued by guilt – that's the way some people live. Everybody knows it is fine to stand up for yourself and get your own needs met. There's no difficulty when family and others are fine with that.

The problem arises when there's a conflict of needs between two people. Those who are kind and selfless will often sacrifice their own needs in order that other people can get theirs met. Nothing at all wrong with doing that on occasion, especially when you are in a reciprocal relationship where the other person does that for you, too.

What causes distress is when you willingly sacrifice often – and then others expect you to do it all the time! When you do that, here's what happens:

I look at it this way. There's "good" guilt and "bad" guilt.

In this latter instance, you need to realize this: You have done nothing wrong! If you have trouble accepting this, or feel that everybody else's needs outweigh yours, you might want to work on this. Counseling can help.

(Do not worry that I am suggesting you turn into a selfish person. Not at all. Truly selfish people would not be reading this. They don't feel guilty!)

"I get up and pace the room, as if I can leave my guilt behind me. But it tracks me as I walk, an ugly shadow made by myself."


"The term 'selfish' is used by others to manipulate and control us and make us feel guilty. Anytime we're not choosing to do what is best for someone else, that person will accuse us of being selfish to try to convince us to do what he or she wants."