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Last week one of my FB friends had this as her status: Do you ever let others make you feel guilty for merely existing?

The other day, I read this post from Miss-Britt, and these two lines in particular: I want, most importantly, to learn how to validate myself (…) I want the freedom that comes from being able to both define and affirm who I am all on my own

These two thoughts from people who don’t know each other and will never meet are so closely intertwined that I almost can’t tell them apart. It reminds me of the quote “Be kinder than necessary, for everyone you meet is fighting some type of battle.”

Guilt is a useless emotion. Guilt is about the past, not the present. It doesn’t help, it isn’t productive and it has no intrinsic value once it has been acknowledged. I’ve done a lot of things wrong over the course of my life; I’ve wronged a lot of people, including myself. Once I admit that I’ve done something morally (or legally) reprehensible, and I try to correct my actions, guilt ceases to be a useful tool. Guilt has its place, but that place is not in my heart days, months or even years after the fact.

Guilt is a conditioned response – and if we have a lot of it, it is supposed to mean we have reached an enlightened spiritual state. I call bullshit. In that form, guilt is nothing more than poorly disguised self-righteousness.

But guilt is also related to validation – it gives other people power over us. I’ve written a lot about power – the power we have, the power we create, and the power we give away.

Britt touched on the freedom that results from defining and affirming who we are for ourselves. Reading that, I couldn’t help but think that she is already there – she just might not realize it yet. And that’s okay. It takes us Capricorns a while sometimes to get with the program.

I wish I had a magic formula for her – or for anyone who struggles with it. That has never been my battle; in fact, the ability to define and validate myself has been my only strength at times. No matter what happens in my life, I know exactly who I am, both good and bad. I don’t require anyone to tell me I’m doing it right (or wrong) for me to feel good about myself. My path has been twisted and broken over the years, but it was always, and forever will be, my path.

That came from the way I was raised, I think. My parents were both very independent, critical thinkers – and they gave me that gift. More importantly, they taught me how to use it and it has served me very well. We all need people – we wouldn’t be human if we didn’t. But your approval doesn’t make me a better person, just as your disapproval doesn’t make me a bad person. That’s the real freedom of being able to define myself for myself.

And I don’t feel guilty about it, either.