Guilt, Shame, and Obligation vs. Self-Care

Revealed Healing Health Coach Self-CaWe’re already done with January now, and I don’t know if anyone else feels the same way, but the post-holiday crash hit hard last month. I “resolved” to write a few “Happy Holiday/New Year” posts, but December and January were tough months for me, and maybe you can relate.

I’ve heard many of my friends and trusted mentors say that January is the most depressing month of the year. A close friend of mine, who specializes in personal growth, posted on Facebook that January reports record numbers of suicides and cases of depression. I can certainly see why. With shorter daylight hours, colder temperatures, post-holiday disappointments, and broken resolutions, I can agree with those sentiments. As we dive in to February, now is the time to reflect, learn, and grow.

If you repeat the same self-care routine you did in January for the rest of 2017, will you be a healthier person at the end of the year?

Have you made commitments and resolutions you know you’re not following through on because you’re not really passionate about them?

Let’s put the brakes on here and take a 10 second time-out.

Whether you can relate or not, let’s just agree that we all do things we don’t want to do. Whether it’s getting up at the crack of dawn to run 5 miles, going to work knowing you’re expected to clean up the messes your supervisor has made, wiping poop out of a toddler’s dirty butt, or needing to go to the bathroom in the middle of an enthralling movie – we do stuff we don’t want to do. Sometimes we do these things out of love and responsibility for ourselves. Other things we do simply because they’re a part of life. Other times, we do things we don’t want to do because of shame, guilt, or a sense of obligation.

That shame, guilt, and sense of obligation is the part I want to focus on today.

A few months ago, I wrote about my struggles with feeling guilt and obligation to perform, with little time for relaxation and recovery. There are three reasons why I pushed myself mentally and physically too far:

#1. GUILT:

For me, I wanted to do the things I thought I should be doing. By not exercising, feeling exhausted by my schedule, and struggling with work/life balance, I felt like I was not doing what I should be doing. Consequently, I started to use guilt by “should-ing myself to death” in hopes of completing my to-do list perfectly, every 24 hours. In essence, I couldn’t allow myself to be human. This of course led me to #2.

#2. SHAME:

If I had a nickel for every time I allowed shame to change my life patterns, I’d be a billionaire. Guilt comes due to behaviors and habits that are detrimental to your health and well-being. Shame, however, comes due to the false idea that you as a person are unworthy, less-than, or “bad.” Shame is the root of depression, eating disorders, other forms of addition, and self-limiting beliefs.


I believe that we as humans are obligated to do certain things to maintain our health in various areas of life. However extreme obligation can do much more harm than good. In everything, my philosophy is grounded in balance. Any habit that becomes extreme, I refer to as an addiction. It is possible to slowly creep over into perfectionism when we feel obligated to hold ourselves to an impossibly immortal standard. That standard we can never reach keeps us stuck in the loop of feeling (you guessed it): shame and/or guilt.

OK, so… What now?

You realize often feel guilt, shame, and obligation, so what now?

It is my recommendation to do absolutely nothing to “fix” the problem, and certainly don’t add another resolution to your list. The only thing to do in this moment is to check-in with yourself, and be present. You may recall this Two-Step Awareness Process from my previous post. This process involves a Body Check-In and a Mental Check-In where you can uncover the actions, habits, people, and behaviors that are the catalyst for triggering guilt, shame, and obligation within you.

Click to start this quick Two-Step Awareness Process now.


I had a conversation the other day with a client who kept running into the same issues over and over again, without realizing the issue was being created in their own mind. By taking the time to check-in with themselves, they were able to see how their own thought patterns were creating their own problems. It is no coincidence that this same person struggled with issues of performance, self-care, and vocalizing their own needs in an authentic way.

The key to habit change is going to be awareness. You can’t do anything about a problem if you don’t recognize it as a problem. This is why the Two-Step Awareness Process is so important: it opens your perspective to seeing and understanding things you may have never noticed previously.

So what is it that you can let go of today that is a source of stress for you? What is it that you feel obligated to do, yet you have no passion or desire to back up your obligation? Is there a source of guilt or shame that convinces you to cling on to something that no longer serves you?

On the journey with you,

Brandie Nicole

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