Retrospective on The Guilt Complex

I posted The Guilt Complex in 2018. Here we are now in 2021, and I believe that with my few years more experience of living and existing and all that nonsense, I’ve come to have a bit more insight about my own emotions.

First of all, for anyone who looked at that post and felt that they experienced a similar thing – let me tell you right now: it gets better. I don’t know how, I don’t know exactly why, but let’s just say that maturity seems to be this intangible thing where one day you realise that actually your worth doesn’t depend on your always being in the right.

Looking back now, I can see that when I made that post about feeling guilty, it was because my sense of self-worth was wrapped up in my perception of my own ‘goodness’: I felt that all of my value came from being a ‘good’ (which in my case meant ‘well-behaved’) person. Now, thank goodness, that has changed.

Let me tell you this: you don’t have to be ‘good’ to still have value as a person. It seems simple written out like that, but I think it’s a difficult thing to realise. At least for me, no amount of reassurance ever really made it sink in. I think that I had to hit a certain milestone in life experience before it clicked. You can preach all you like, be told and repeat all of those grand sayings: ‘everyone makes mistakes’, ‘it’s not worth worrying about’, ‘nobody’s perfect’ etc. I parroted those things myself – I even thought that I believed them. I realise now that I didn’t – not really. They just hadn’t sunk in. It takes time, until one day, very subtly, something just clicks.

And so one day, you wake up, and when you think about that embarrassing incident which always made you feel really guilty before, suddenly it doesn’t feel like that anymore. You find that somewhere along the line, between those late-nights where you stayed up cringing thinking about it, you’ve forgiven yourself. And it doesn’t hurt anymore, at all.

I believe that, among other things, is what maturity is. It’s a strange thing, really. It kind of sneaks up on you, and then suddenly you happen to look back and you realise that you have actually grown a lot as a person. Let me tell you, it’s a good feeling.

This got me thinking about a lot of other proverbs that we all like to quote, but which we might not actually be convinced of. Another of mine was ‘the world exists in shades of grey’ – with my style of black-and-white thinking, I was often told this. I thought that I understood it – once you decode the metaphor, it’s a simple enough concept: life and morality are nuanced. People are flawed, we are all human. Not everything can be a simple dichotomy between good and bad. The world is not black and white. I heard these statements, and really thought that I believed them. But I didn’t really – I don’t think I had the maturity yet at that point in my life. Maybe I’m not there yet even now, but there’s a hopeful optimism in knowing that things that affect you at certain parts of your life will not affect you forever. It seems obvious now, almost clichéd, but that’s the beauty of hindsight, I suppose: we all change and grow as people. That’s why I think it’s good to look back on things, even things like this blog, which has made me cringe a few times, because it lets you recognise your own patterns of thinking – a sort of reflective mindfulness, if you will – which is truly very valuable.

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