For many women, feeling guilty is often second nature. However, why feel guilty about something you probably have no control over.
That little voice in your head can be important. It keeps you from inappropriate and socially unacceptable behavior, but don’t confuse having a conscience with guilt. Your conscience is in play when your own sense of right and wrong directs you into action. Guilt, on the other hand, is when you criticize and blame yourself, and even feel responsible for events beyond your control. This can be paralyzing and destructive.
It’s especially easy for women to succumb to feelings of guilt. Women are usually taught to be carers and nurturers, but unfortunately many women believe that this means they should put their own needs last. So, whenever you do something for yourself (saying ‘no’, reading a book, having a facial) you may experience that nagging little voice in your head telling you that you should be doing something else.
It’s important to examine those ‘shoulds’. Are they your own values that you truly believe in, or are they the beliefs of others? For instance, is it in fact your mum’s belief that your children watch too much television, or your husband’s belief that you ought to be a stay-at-home mum?
Feeling guilty provides a clue that you need to take a look at what’s going on … separating what’s important and what’s not. By being sure of your values, you will know what is important to you and it will be easier to make decisions based on what you believe in. We all have core values, which are meaningful and personal … it’s why we do what we do, what’s important to us. It’s good to take stock from time to time.
- Ask yourself what’s important to you in your life now.
- Create a plan with designated slots for all your important activities, including breaks. Because they’re all included, you won’t need to worry about what you’re doing, when you’re not doing it, or how you’ll fit it in.
- Maintaining a balanced life doesn’t mean having equal time for everything. Work usually takes the bulk of your time, but make sure to include the right amount of time for the right things.
- Don’t overcompensate with your children because you feel guilty about being a working mother. It’s not good for them or for you.
- Look at how much your family gain by what you do. You’re a role model for them.
In your diary, make a list of the things you feel guilty about and ask yourself how you can forgive yourself and let go. Compare your list with your values to give yourself some perspective. Think about your guilt and explore what it’s really about.
Remember that just because you feel guilty, doesn’t mean you’ve done anything wrong. Commit yourself to start thinking ‘What now?’ instead of ‘I should have’. This will stop you agonizing over what you could have done differently and help you to focus on the future. Talk to a friend. Their perspective might help to change your perception of the situation. Put up a list of your priorities and the next time you get that niggling feeling, check your list. If it doesn’t make the top three, stop worrying about it.