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I’ve been feeling awfully guilty lately about my lack of work.

I am self-employed. When I don’t have work, I feel guilty for not working. Every time I do something that I enjoy, I feel guilty. Even if it’s a chore that I happen to really enjoy. For example, a few days ago, I was hanging my laundry on the clothesline to dry, an enjoyable chore, but a chore nonetheless, and I felt a pang of guilt. I was working, for crying out loud! I was doing chores, and yet, the guilt appears.

I’m constantly “shoulding” myself – I should be working on a script; I should be writing; I should be looking up grants; I should be preparing for my audition tomorrow; I should be trying to get work; I should this; I should that. It gets to the point that even if I’m doing something on the incredibly long “to-do” list that I’ve created for myself, I feel guilty that I haven’t done the other things on the list already.

Maybe I actually have an addiction to feeling guilty.

Guilt can be a useful thing, certainly. It makes me do the things that I really, really, REALLY don’t want to do. It guides me. It keeps me honest. It can even act as motivation.

But I seem to be addicted to it. I cannot allow myself to enjoy my life. I constantly think, what right do I have to sit on this couch and read a book, when I’m not bringing any money into the household?  How dare I go shopping for new clothes, when I haven’t earned a proper pay cheque in three months?

I have what some would consider a dream life: I don’t have a full-time job. When I do work, I LOVE what I do. I don’t make a lot of money; however, I have all the time in the world to walk my dogs, and read, and relax. But I just can’t shake the guilty feeling that I don’t deserve any of it.

Do other self-employed people feel this way? Do you find it hard to relax and enjoy yourself when you’re not working?  I need to learn how to deal with this.  It’s a big part of being an actor: learning to deal with the times when you’re “resting between engagements.”


You see a clothesline; I see guilt. (Photo credit: Grant MacDonald)