When do you use the “D” word (Deserve) and the “G” (Guilty) word?

I was on my group mastermind Q&A call recently and one of the group members was in the Hot Seat receiving excellent coaching to her question. When the call was over I saw her post a comment in our Facebook group that she “felt bad” because she thought she’d taken up too much time during the call. While I appreciate her humility (because there are people who can self-servingly TAKE extra time) her well-intentioned comment struck me as a “knee-jerk” response. I know, because it’s a pattern and knee-jerk response for me.

Too often I hear women use responses like “I’m sorry” and “oh that’s OK” and “I feel bad” and do you know why? Because somewhere deep down we feel like we don’t deserve “it” or we feel guilty receiving it.

Sometimes we don’t even use these words to describe the knee-jerk feelings underneath because the pattern is so engrained in us as women. The Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) has a motto: to Serve and Protect. Sometimes I think women have unconsciously adapted this motto to be: to Serve and Deny. As women we have grown up learning that we are “good” when we serve others and often learn to “deny” ourselves because otherwise we are selfish. If we do allow ourselves something, we often qualify it by saying ‘I deserve it’ as if we need to justify it to ourselves. I know you know what I’m talking about. These beliefs are powerful forces in our culture and believe me when I say it is a learned behavior.

Now, rather than ask ‘where or how did I learn it’ I like the question, “How do I un-learn it?” because feeling bad about things truly does NOT support you. It is interesting information in that it teaches you that having more resourceful thoughts, behaviors and actions does support you. Like anything you want to change, you must become aware that it is happening, when it is happening and how it impacts you.

How to Un-Learn:

  1. Paying Attention. Begin by becoming aware of when you have the self-deprecating thought, belief, action or behavior.
    1. What do you say in your head?
    2. Where do you feel it in your body?
    3. When does it show up, i.e., what trigger’s it?
    4. How does it impact you?
    5. How do you feel when you say/do it?
  2. One new different action. Once you discover the answers to the questions above, decide on ONE new action, thought or behavior you will take as soon as you notice yourself engaging in the old pattern.
    1. For example: If you notice yourself saying “I’m sorry” for no apparent (damn good) reason, a different action might be to ask yourself “what am I sorry about”? Or to even say “I take that back.” This will interrupt the unconscious pattern that continually plays out. There are tons of different things you can say and do to interrupt this pattern. Just find one that works for you and do it consistently.
  3. STOP beating yourself up! You didn’t learn this behavior overnight and you won’t unlearn overnight. Don’t even go there because it’s too BIG a gap to go from changing an engrained, unconscious pattern you’ve been using for years to not doing it all. There is an old joke: How do you eat an elephant? Answer: One bite at a time. Take one act, thought or feeling at a time.
  4. It’s OK if you slip up, just correct yourself and for goodness sake keep doing it! Falling down is expected.
  5. Take small, adaptable steps that continue to build.
  6. Be consistent. It’s KEY to your success!

Reflection: Taking charge of your life is a process. Applaud yourself on what a great human being you are and how you are striving to make your life better and better every day, it will begin to counteract the self-criticism. There is a fine line between humility and criticism.

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Awareness, Confidence, freedom, Guilt, Julie Hawkins, limiting beliefs, Personal Empowerment

Comments (17)

  • Those are good steps for lots of other unwanted behaviors you find in yourself. I particularly like the idea of picking just one different action. That forces you to be specific and not to get so overwhelmed.

    I read that women are not as good negotiators, probably for some of the same reasons — we don’t want to hurt the other person’s feelings, or take more than the other person thinks we deserve. It’s like we have too much of a good thing. 🙂

  • Good One Julie! I like that you mentioned to “serve and deny”… man, it’s time to un-learn that stuff! Thanks for the distinctions and steps to change without pain. 😉

  • That is so true…to serve and deny. Can’t tell you how often I have seen this in so many people. It’s time to stop thinking that self-care is selfish. It is essential! We need to reprogram ourselves and make sure that our children don’t get these same silly limiting beliefs.

  • Hi Julie,

    I loved this article. So rich! And it addresses a mind-set that indeed is SO deeply engrained in women. I’ve certainly had to move through the “I feel bad” knee jerk response, and the sense that my worth is directly related to how I give… even if it is at my own expense.

    The more I’ve expanded into and life of service, the better I’ve had to get at finding the balance.

    One of the biggest turning points for me (and I share this with every woman I see struggling with same) is this: “If you can’t start practicing self-care and boundaries for yourself, start by doing it for those you love and serve.” You can’t give if you are depleted. You MUST practice excellent self-care and move into knowing your worth if you are to give to others.

    Thanks for some concrete guidance regarding how to move in the right direction!
    Sonia 🙂

  • Love this, Julie! I find I still say “I’m sorry” too often without enough of a (damn good) reason! I love your tips on how to “un-learn”, as we teach this concept of “un-learning” in our work. I.e, the truth is not lost, it’s buried under old ideas that we must “un-learn” in order to realize these truths as true for us. Thanks for the great tips!

  • Love this, Julie! I find I still say “I’m sorry” too often without enough of a (damn good) reason! I love your tips on how to “un-learn”, as we teach this concept of “un-learning” in our work. I.e, the truth is not lost, it’s buried under old ideas that we must “un-learn” in order to realize these truths as true for us. Thanks for the great tips!

  • Thank you for expressing this, Julie, I think we all needed to hear this. It’s so true, especially for heart-based entrepreneurs who have a passion to serve – it’s hard to receive the serving from others, unless we pay them. Love it.

  • Thank you for expressing this, Julie, I think we all needed to hear this. It’s so true, especially for heart-based entrepreneurs who have a passion to serve – it’s hard to receive the serving from others, unless we pay them. Love it.

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