10 Ways to Quiet the Guilt of Not Being Able to Do It All

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Let's say you can't make it to your friend's baby shower and host 10 friends for dinner and squeeze in a power yoga class and finish your taxes this weekend. Is your reaction, "Oh well, that's too much for any sane person to accomplish anyway. Whatevs." Or is it: "What the hell is wrong with me? I'm a failure!"

Superwoman's a myth, but we all keep trying to be her, so our guess is the latter. Which probably makes you feel hella guilty. And incompetent. And sorta sad for yourself.

Click through to learn how to cut yourself a break already.


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  • Dial Back the To-Do List


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    Live and die by your to-do list? That's great if it keeps you on track, but maybe you need to take a closer look at how realistic it is. "Choose three things that have to be done, then a couple of others only if you have time," suggests Yvonne Thomas, PhD, a Los Angeles–based psychologist whose specialties include self-esteem and relationships. Prioritizing what you really care about will help you say "no" to what you really don't.

  • Treat Yourself Like a Friend


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    If a friend confessed how inadequate she was feeling, would you pile on and agree? Nope. So why is it totally okay to be such a bitch to yourself? Self-criticism only makes us depressed, insecure, and anxious. Offer yourself the same support and understanding you would a pal and lose the self-judgment. Having this internal support will help you rebound more quickly from icky feelings of failure.

  • Tweak Your Self-Talk


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    Think back to what you said to yourself last time you couldn't hit that work deadline and help your kids clean their gerbils' cage. Was it, "Gah! I'm such a failure"? "You have to be aware of negative self-talk," says Thomas. "When you hear it, stop yourself and turn it around." Remind yourself of what you have accomplished, then mentally list the facts that back it up so your stubborn brain believes you.

  • Resist the Urge to Throw a Pity Party


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    Let yourself wallow in feelings of inadequacy and you'll only sink lower. Self-pity prevents us from stepping back and being objective about our situation, so turn off those Grey's Anatomy eps, get dressed in normal clothes already, and remind yourself to stop being so egocentric. Yep, that's right. Tough love, sister. Lots of people in the world are suffering, and to a far greater degree than you are.

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  • Focus on Others


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    When you feel like you're not doing anything well, do something nice for someone else. Run an errand for a sick neighbor. Visit your great-aunt Nonnie. Hell, open a door for a stranger. Research shows that doing something nice for someone else eases stress, reduces the part of your brain that looks for threats, and makes you more aware of rewards. (Like your loved ones.)

  • Be Here Now


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    When you practice mindfulness -- that is, bringing awareness to the present moment and where you are in it, without labeling it "good" or "bad" -- you're able to disengage yourself from upsetting emotions. It also helps you get in touch with your intuition, control stress and fear, and put a stop to your "busy brain." Yoga and tai chi can help you become more mindful. Or try meditation.

  • Confide in Your Friends


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    We humans tend to be stubbornly self-reliant. And while that's a boon when we're, say, going across a prairie in a covered wagon, it doesn't make as much sense when we're feeling down in the dumps. "It's okay to ask for help and lean on others for support," says Thomas. Tell a few friends you trust what's bugging you, and give them a chance to cheer you up and remind you of all the ways you're not a failure. That's what friends are for, you know.

  • Take Care of Yourself


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    When the going gets rough ... take a super-long shower. Or drop everything and head to a barre class. You could even read a book or take a nap. When you take time for yourself, you're not being selfish, points out Thomas. (Or lazy!) "It's about self-care," Thomas says. "To be strong for everyone else, you have to take care of yourself."

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  • Get Moving


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    With your crazy-busy schedule, you may think the last thing you have time for is a walk in the park. (And certainly not several times a week!) But working up a sweat releases brain chemicals that relax you, improve your mood, and boost your self-esteem. Bonus: Exercise also ups your energy levels so you can get more done.

  • Get Some Help


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    So let's say you've tried some of the strategies on this list. And you're still not feeling great about yourself. What then? While it's not necessarily a lickety-split fix, therapy is a solid option. "There's no shame in realizing that you can't do this by yourself," says Thomas. "In fact, asking for help from a therapist is a sign of strength."

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