How to Feel Less Guilty About Practicing Self-Care

When I think of guilt, I imagine this giant weight casually sitting on my shoulders.

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It’s a heavy and intrusive feeling that takes up so. much. space. The feeling of guilt acts as a burden and a distraction to the other feelings that are also coming up for us. It likes attention and is determined to get it.

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, the definition of guilt is the fact of having committed a breach of conduct, especially violating law and involving a penalty.

When we learn about where guilt comes from, we learn that it is a feeling rooted in consequences. Our feelings of guilt come from a fear of being punished. In connection with self-care, a lot of times we have fears around “sacrificing”. There’s a chance that we would rather “sacrifice” ourselves to fulfill our responsibilities. At the same time, we are sacrificing our ability to care for ourselves in the process.

Unfortunately in the process of sacrificing our self-care, we just do not show up as our best selves or do our best work for others in the process. I know this first hand, as when I was a brand new social worker and therapist, I threw myself into my work. I came to work early, left late and worked way, way too much. 

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It was a really tough pill for me to swallow, but I had to realize that my low energy was actually impacting others in negative ways. Ways that as a social worker, were actually distracting to the healing process of my clients. They were more worried about me than themselves! It was important for me to realize that I was tired and needed (and deserved!) to rest.

When you notice you are feeling guilty about taking care of yourself, dive into what’s underneath that feeling of guilt. Ask yourself:

  • Why are you feeling guilty?
  • What’s causing you to feel guilty about taking care of yourself?
  • What do you think will happen if you choose yourself over others for a moment? What are you afraid of?

Remember, guilt is attention-hungry feeling and is ever-so-heavy. To alleviate that burdensome feeling, question why guilt is showing up and look closer into the other feelings that you are having. Address those other feelings with honest answers. Emotional wellness can come from doing this important work. I realized that my other feelings of my fear of failure and feeling unhelpful needed to be addressed so I could ultimately give myself permission take care of myself.

How do you feel less guilty about taking care of yourself?



  1. Ali says

    If I don’t take care of myself then I think this will eventually come out in a negative way and impact on others in my family, typically by my guilt-tripping them when I am tired and feeling sorry for myself! So I do try to head this off by looking after my needs too.

  2. Jory Stewart says

    It’s interesting the part that talks about a breach of conduct. I often feel guilty about taking rest instead of… because I will be looked at as not being a good friend, or the best performer at work. Often times we feel as if we have to sacrifice ourselves to be better in these other areas.

    • Michelle says

      You are so not alone in feeling this way Jory. For so many of us, we attach “saying yes” and not creating space for rest, a lot of times out of fear of disappointing others. Thank you so much for sharing!

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