Guilt – good/bad?

I’ve been thinking a lot about guilt – the emotion behind it and whether it is always considered a “bad” emotion to have or does it have a time and a place where it could be considered “good.”

This, of course, was sparked by an email conversation with two of my favorite fit friends – my sis (duh) and my friend Steph who is almost 30 days into the barre n9ne challenge (and looking SUPER fab, I  have to say!). It all started because I mentioned in an email this morning (yes, we email often throughout the day about our workouts, rundates, and LOTS of barre n9ne chatter…we’re obsessed, clearly) that I was feeling guilty for moving my AM run to the PM for today. I am feeling majorly tired this week and I totally blame it on how DARK it is at 5am when Scott and I now get up to run in the morning. In my defense though, I was also feeling sad at missing out on an AM runner’s high, something that often is the only thing that gets me through the day…especially given my killer commute to the office.

But anyway, they both agreed that duh, I should not have felt guilty for simply moving my run to the PM. I’m still working out – hello! And then Steph mentioned some guilt about “only” going for a two-hour walk yesterday with her pups versus going for a run. As if a 2-hour hike in the woods with two golden retrievers is a cake walk or something! So as we’re chattering back and forth, talking eachother off the guilt train, it dawned on me…well two things did, actually.

I – we – are WAY too hard on ourselves. All three of us are workout fiends, we love, love, love hitting up barre n9ne classes as often as we can fit them into our schedule and we love to run, together, apart, rundate style, you name it. So why the guilt? Is it just a natural instinct? Is it innate? Or is it a learned emotion?

Is there a time and a place where guilt can be a good thing? My answer (which might seem a little controversial, I’m not sure) is: YES. I think for some people, the guilt complex is the only way they can self-motivate:

…To live a healthier lifestyle.

…To get that workout in that they know their body is craving even if their mind is trying to ignore them.

…To be a better friend by checking in more often just to say “hi” versus letting so much time go by between visits (yes, we’re all busy, but a quick call or even a text might mean the world to that friend whose missing you! I know I just did that this week with a favorite friend of mine, and voila! We’re meeting for lunch today, in fact!).

…To do well by doing good, versus taking good fortune in your own life and only reveling in it instead of paying that good fortune forward with others.

When guilt kicks in, in these cases, I tend to think that’s human nature’s way of saying, “stop and listen.”

But where does that “good” guilt complex that’s telling you to “stop and listen” end and the “bad” guilt complex begin? I think, like so many things in life, it’s a fine line. Much like the fine line between confidence and arrogance.

For me, this exercise – just writing this post – has clarified something for me: I’m a super motivated person generally, so guilt for the most part, has no place in my life. I need to banish it much like the negative self-talk thoughts I recently talked about banishing. For me, guilt spins quickly into negative thinking – it’s that “stop and listen” mentality again, but “stop and listen to what you’re saying/thinking and cut it out” mentality that I need to pay attention to more closely.

So what do you think? Is guilt always good? Always bad? Is there a fine line?