Business psychology

“Not guilty!” Dealing with soloist guilt

- February 25, 2013 2 MIN READ

When I started freelancing, I felt guilty for having so much freedom when those close to me didn’t. I didn’t want people to resent me for “having it easy”, so I compensated by making life more difficult. I worked long hours, denied myself many soloist perks, such as sleep-ins and working from cafes, and took on more clients than I could handle.

A quick chat with with fellow soloists about guilt made me appreciate I’m far from alone. Between us we identified many types of soloist guilt.

There’s the guilt of doing something you love, which doesn’t contribute financially to the household. There’s revenue-discrepancy guilt, where there’s a difference between how much money you and your business partner bring in individually. There’s pricing guilt, where you’re concerned one of the hours you charged your client for wasn’t your most productive. Then there’s the grass-is-greener guilt, where you feel simultaneous remorse for not giving enough attention to your loved ones or your business whilst spending time with the other.

Intrigued, I researched the topic further to find some guilt is said to be healthy as it helps us learn from our mistakes and improve our behaviour; other types are irrational and can lead to low self-confidence and self-punishing behaviours (like working insanely long hours).

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Psychologists suggest that the first step to dealing with guilt is to recognise whether it’s trying to teach you something. If your guilt has no purpose other than to make you feel lousy, it’s time to do away with it. Guilt is an emotion, just like sadness or anger, which according to the cognitive view can be influenced by simply changing your thoughts. If you think of guilt as dead weight that you don’t need, then that’s what it will be. Putting a positive spin on your thoughts also helps you to manage and deal with guilt.

But before you feel guilty for feeling guilty, take heart that guilt-prone people have been found to make better leaders – which can only be good for business.

My view is if it stops you from enjoying your business and success, you need to send your soloist guilt trip packing. This is proving to be a work in progress for me.

Do you experience guilt as a soloist? How do you deal with it?