Feeling Guilty about Getting What You Want

Photo by Pinhed via MorgueFile

It seems that we are so trained to go with the flow and to accept whatever comes our way, that we don’t know how to react when something goes our way. Why do we feel guilty when we get what we want?

In my last post, I wrote about how I was passed over for a big promotion at work. On paper, the job seemed like something I should want. Higher pay. More responsibility. Public recognition of my talents.

But I knew in my heart that it was not really what I wanted. So I did not do the necessary things a jobseeker would do: no follow up after interview, no inquiry after months of waiting to hear.

I simply listened to my instincts and used them as my guide.

Last week I had another “setback” at work. I was asked to take a leave of absence from my state job to serve as a direct mail political campaign consultant. This is something I do every other year. It is typically a 2-4 month period of long hours with no days off.

Normally I do not hesitate to say yes to the opportunity. While it is strictly voluntary and not required, it is strongly expected that if you are asked, that you will help.

This time I had a request.

In the past, I have spent many hours in the office at night when nothing is going on, simply because my bosses had to work late. Even when I was weeks ahead of my own deadlines. This time I asked for the flexibility and leeway to work from home at night when I was ahead of schedule. This would afford me time with my family and a better mental health outlook (last time I did this I nearly went insane).

My boss did not outright reject the idea, and said he would call me the next day after talking to the person who would be my middle-manager supervisor.

When he did call, he simply told me that he had decided to ask someone else to do my job instead, rather than deal with my perfectly reasonable request. He chose insanity over creativity. I must admit I was not expecting him to do this, but rather push back and get me to cave, or at least strive for a compromise.

At first I felt horrible. I knew I had shot myself in the foot at my job, but after the last few years of disrespect from my supervisors, I no longer cared. It took me about a day for the feelings of guilt and remorse to go away.

I realized that I was simply feeling guilty for getting what I wanted. In all honesty, I did not want to do the assignment, and I also did not want to say no. This left me in a weird place.

But after the dust settled, I got both things I wanted. I do not have to do the assignment and deal with the insanity, and I did not tell them no. Maybe in my bosses’ mind I told him no by making the request, but I reminded him that I never said I wouldn’t do it.

It’s a sad commentary on our society that we are ingrained to feel guilty about getting what we want, that somehow society has suffered if someone does not play by the rules. In all honesty, the program will survive without me, although I would argue that the final product will not be as good without my input.

The feelings of pain that linger, I have decided, are feelings of rejection. My boss chose to reject me, to isolate me, and to treat me like crap. It’s a bit like leaving an abusive relationship.

But I must share with you, and urge you towards a mindset that does not punish you for speaking up for what is right for you and your family. It wouldn’t have been fair to anyone for me to blindly commit to repeating a destructive program run by people who refuse to work smarter rather than harder.

Sometimes we need to be happy with the way things are supposed to be.

Now, sitting out this election will probably have a negative impact on my standing at work, but that is beyond my control. My boss already harbored these feelings about me.

My major challenge now is making sure I spend 2012 – my last year at my job – working to build something to transition to, whether it be a new job or a work-at-home career. I now have the motivation and need to make this work, and I am happy that the circumstances have put me in a position where I must act.


 

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10 Comments
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  3. I’m glad you were able to keep a positive attitude about this, John, even though it seems tough. A lot of us have been in similar situations. Hang in there and keep working towards what’s important to you.
    Jeffrey recently posted..How to Take the Declutter Challenge! (Plus Updates)My Profile

    • Thanks Jeffrey. It is a strange feeling when you come to terms with something that is “supposed” to be bad. This has freed me up to focus on what I really want to do.

  4. Just found your site from a comment you left over at Debt Princess. You summed up perfectly issues I had with my last job — I wanted to get my own way on certain matters, but I didn’t want to sacrifice my boss’s good impressions of me in order to do so. It seemed like it was more important for someone not to be ‘mad’ than it was for me to be happy! I’m now self-employed, but this is great advice to keep in mind if and when I work for someone else again.

    • All the weird dynamics of an office full of sociopaths makes me ill sometimes. Glad to hear that you were able to find a new path out of your situation. Thanks for reading Jennifer – I’m glad you found my site!

  5. It’s inspiring to see how positive you are. Good luck!

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