We’re all guilty aren’t we? Of something? No matter how big or how small.
A white lie, a missed meeting, a forgotten call, an unseen message, an attempted try, a “no I didn’t”, a ‘borrowed’ item, a “I thought you were doing it”.
Most of my TV watching is based on guilt. Who did it? (I watch A LOT of Scandinavian Crime).
Looking for guilt is vastly different to feeling guilt. But both can be as equally destructive.
Looking for guilt has arguably turned our society into paranoid, self-destructive human beings. The more we look for guilt, the more we convince ourselves that things are false, and the more we believe things are false, the more our belief and trust in people is eroded. Just the other day, I was reading how Rachel Botsman believed that the biggest challenge facing young people growing up today will be determining what is true and what is false. Are all of those likes on my post true? Did they really say that? Did that really happen like they said it did?
Why are so many people trying to pull the wool over our eyes?
Just watch the news tonight and question everything you see. Everything you know. Do you believe it? Do you know the truth? And if not, who is guilty of misleading you?
Pause – don’t worry this isn’t going to turn into some conspiracy creating, fruit-loop ranting, monologue.
But when I think of guilt, I think of how dangerous it is. How many negative feelings and unhelpful arguments that it can cause. The quest for what’s right, can too often turn into the quest for who’s wrong, and I think it’s hurting us.
I once read Brene Brown in a bookclub at work. While some dismissed it as soft and fluffy claptrap (which they’re perfectly entitled to do), over the last few years I’ve begun to try and stick to one of Brene’s mantras that “assume that people are doing their best”.
Or alternatively, innocent until proven guilty.
I think I’m gradually getting better at this, until of course, I see things that can’t be excused – like, who was doing their best when they put a container of forks (with no spoons) next to the soup?! FFS! Verdict - Guilty!
Of course no-one, and more so I, are perfect. There will always be times when you look around and need to let off steam. But just for the next week... try assuming everyone is innocent and doing their best. Know that you don’t really have an idea on what’s going on in their head or their life. And treat them like they’re not guilty.
Before you do that though. Start with yourself. Guilt can rip you up and tear relationships apart. Guilt is driven by assumptions. Assume-ing “makes an ass of u and me”. (Don’t go Googling who said that first. I just got lost down an internet warren of Benny Hill, the Odd Couple and a typewriter teacher).
When you yourself are feeling guilty, you may have nothing to worry about at all. When you’re assuming someone else is guilty, they may have no idea that you think they’ve done anything wrong.
My psychologist once said to me “you need to start choosing between guilt and resentment.” To be honest, I had a hard time digesting this. Neither of these are good right? On the one hand I’m disappointed or worse, pissed off at someone or something. On the other, I’m feeling guilt and regret about doing (or not) something. The point she was making though, was that sometimes you do things for yourself and sometimes you do them for others.
If you never put yourself first and are always putting things off for other people, then over time you might start to resent those people or situations. If you do put yourself first, you might have to live with a little bit of guilt. In this case, guilt is a good thing, because it’s better than resentment and ultimately you’re going to be in a better place to help others in future.
You could be mistaken for thinking that guilty or not guilty is black and white. However, like anything in life it’s never that easy. Sometimes it’s black, sometimes it’s white, but mostly, let’s face it... it’s grey.
In my work with Never Not Creative over the past 2 years, I’ve heard stories that would stop you from ever considering a career in the creative industry. From being unpaid, or being bullied at work, to people punishing themselves for never being good enough – you wouldn’t touch the creative industry with a barge poll. Yet of course... we do. The reaction to this could be a relentless pursuit of the guilty. Maybe it will end up that way. But for now, I know there’s a lot of good to give in our community. There’s goodwill and good advice and a whole heap of "didn’t know better".
I see our job as shining a light on the things you didn’t know and were never taught. So many of us that reached positions of leadership and management were never taught what that meant. We got there because we were good at other things. Being creative, crafting the crap out of the sublime, winning pitches or dealing with clients. In rare cases were we promoted to these positions because of our ability to understand, empathise or nurture others.
We’ve been guilty of rewarding the right things in the wrong way. We’ve been guilty of assuming the work matters more than the people. We’ve been guilty of not doing enough to rectify this. As a result, we have creatives struggling from financial pressure, imposter syndrome and the inability to cope with all of the dynamics outside of the ‘craft’ of their job. And it’s taking its toll.
I have 3 children that also show a passion for creativity, and I'd wholeheartedly support a move into our industry (if that's what they wanted). But I'd like that industry to be a little bit better at supporting, rewarding and teaching resilience, empathy and the right to be heard and valued.
If we just condemn ourselves as guilty, we won’t get anywhere. It’s time to use guilt in a better way. To put ourselves first, focus on what’s important and to make sure that the next generation of creatives don’t turn around and find us guilty... of doing nothing.