Leaving Societal Norms Behind

Internalized Guilt

Internalized Guilt

It’s a weird feeling when you know everything has been talked about and things are fine, but you still feel guilty. It’s like this deep internalized guilt brought on by deeply rooted societal norms. How do you deal with feeling guilty for loving another person (even when your other partner(s) are totally fine with it)? How do you deal with feeling guilty for any physical touch, any affection, that you share with that new partner? What if the thought of that person making you happy makes you feel uncomfortable because you’re so used to society’s delusional expectation that your “one and only” should be the only person making you smile. I mean – first off, how fucked up is that? And secondly, why in the world should you ever feel bad about feeling happy? Your brain needs a tweak!

Some # of Months Later…

I started writing this article months ago…possibly even a year ago. Unfortunately, I only got as far as that first paragraph. I let those words flow out of me. Threw my emotions on the page, and said FUCK IT I’m done. Then proceeded to go on with my life and just put the work, and time, in to learn how to unlearn that guilty feeling. Honestly, I’m not sure I would have been very successful at completing this article had I tried to back then. I didn’t know the answers to those questions. I didn’t know what to do. I was lost. I felt weak and incapable, and frankly, I felt pretty dumb. I was so into the concept of polyamory but I couldn’t figure out how to make it really REAL in my own life. I had been having experiences, and moving forward, and writing out my journey, and helping others. Life was going well, in a sense. Yet, I still was unable to grasp how to get my mind to stop feeling so garsh darn bad all the time. What was I supposed to do?

Luckily, life went on and over time I was able to adapt to my new train of thought. Polyamory found a home in my mind – it was no longer just an exciting new visitor, it unpacked its bags and decided to stay. I was officially living with polyamory, in one form or another, and it felt great. Of course, it wasn’t until I spent more time to figure myself out that I was really able to let go of the guilt. I didn’t realize how much guilt was kept inside simply because I was unable to recognize my true self. Unable to love my true self. I wasn’t guilty because of what my partner(s) might think. I felt guilty because I hadn’t truly accepted myself yet. Shit, I hadn’t even met myself yet. Not fully. It took a lot of guts and a lot of analysis, but I finally figured myself out. I finally realized who I was underneath all this societal programming, and outside of all my relationships. I found the me that existed bare naked beneath all the connections and assumptions and actions. The raw, simple me that was the foundation to all things in my life. It had been rotting and crumbling, squashed under a spray can of jealousy and a thick book of unaccepting overprotection. But when I picked it up, and looked at it head on – it magically mended itself.

Where Does It Come From?

Internalized guilt has nothing to do with anybody else, but you. It isn’t about your partners, or your parents, or your teachers, or your children, or your neighbors down the street. It isn’t about your coworkers or your boss, or your really awkward cousin. It’s about you, and how you’ve been crushed and hidden beneath society’s standards. Society’s expectations. How you’ve taken to heart, and internalized, all this hate and prejudice to the point where even if you don’t agree with it, you are discriminating against yourself. Internalizing anything negative can have negative consequences, and when those negativities are constantly spoon fed to us from infancy, it can be hard to escape them – or even to realize they are there.

But they are there! They are there telling you how to live your life. They are there every step of the way, through all your relationships, and all your interactions, telling you how to behave, how to act, how to feel. They are controlling you. The reason you don’t realize this isn’t because you don’t know these things exist. You can be extremely aware of them and yet still fall victim to them. The real problem is that you don’t know who YOU are. Not truly. You haven’t fully discovered, uncovered, or redefined and examined who you truly are. And, thus, you haven’t accepted yourself.

Finding & Accepting Yourself

If you’re ever going to stop feeling bad for the choices you make in life, you’re going to need a solid foundation to stand on. A strong sense of self to back up your position. A deeply rooted understanding of yourself that is so concretely accepted that not only can you vocally defend yourself against others, but you also realize that you don’t actually need to. There’s no reason for you to have to explain yourself. You deserve to exist. You have a right to be. You are who you are, and you love who you are, and it really doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks or says. THAT is how you’ll beat those little voices in the back of your head. THAT is how you’ll get rid of the shame and the guilt. THAT is how you’ll move forward, brighter and bolder than ever. Fearless! Fruitful! You ARE you! That’s all there is to it.

Give it some time, though. Don’t rush it. Don’t be anxious. Don’t overanalyze and don’t freak out on yourself. You’re trying. It won’t happen overnight, even when it feels like it does. It’s a process. It may be long and slow, but it’s the pit of all strength. Spend time each day thinking about yourself, about what it means to be you, about what you like and dislike and the reasons why, about the ways in which you interact with others or do things. Think about everything there is to think about. Don’t form any premature conclusions, just allow yourself time to sit and think about it. What means the most to you? What is most important? What makes you happy? Sad? Angry? Worried? And why? When do you most feel productive, or successful? Finely comb through all of your existence, all of your essence, all of everything that could possibly go into what makes you, you. And when you’re ready. When you’ve figured it out, for sure…you’ll know. And when you truly know who you are, you’ll be able to love yourself. And then the internalized guilt will begin to melt away, as if it never existed. Trust me – I know. Just have some patience. You’ll get there. It’s all worth it, I promise.

In the meantime…

I recommend reading through a few of our articles to help you along the way. The first one I’d suggest you check out is titled Polyamorous & Single, you’ll understand when you read it why I find this article to be so important in the process you are about to embark on. I’m not saying you have to just dip out on any relationships you’re currently in, but really making sure you take time for yourself is so extremely important it can’t possibly be emphasized enough. The second one is titled Respect, and actually won’t be out until Jan. 17th. So hang in there for that one. You’ll like it though, I swear. This process will take you sometime. Don’t worry, the article will still be beneficial to you even after a week has passed by.

I also suggest checking out different polyamorous and non-monogamous non-fiction books. Or any books that delve into examining who you are, in and outside of a relationship. The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman is a great place to start; and the bonus is you’re learning not only about yourself but about others, too. Then there’s the typical ones, like The Ethical Slut, Third Edition: A Practical Guide to Polyamory, Open Relationships, and Other Freedoms in Sex and Love by Dossie Easton and Janet Hardy. Of course, anything related to working through jealousy. Psychology and sociology texts are great, too. I personally, really loved the book What Love Is: And What It Could Be by Carrie Jenkins. Check out our Media Representation page for a more extensive list of books, as well as polyamorous-friendly films.

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I am a pansexual, demisexual, greysexual, homoromantic, non-binary, transmasculine, genderfluid, solo-polyamorous relationship anarchist; as well as a plant-based Wiccan mama. I'm also neurodivergent, and overall identify as Queer. I love writing, photography, dancing, travel, hiking, cooking, gaming, planning, and motherhood.

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