Lately, I’ve been thinking about and discussing with my friends a theory about women and why we do the things we do. It has to do with guilt. I’m starting to believe that most of what women do is driven by guilt or that we are in the constant pursuit of avoiding it. We do something to avoid feeling guilty and we do something and then feel guilty for doing it.
Let me give you some context. Say an acquaintance invites you to a party. You think about why you should go, why you shouldn’t go, and cringe at the thought of feeling bad—guilty—for not going. You attend the party because you don’t want to feel guilty for not going. Think about a friend’s birthday that you forgot about or about picking up your kid from school later than usual. How terribly guilty does a woman feel about something like that?
Women fear guilt, yet guilt is woven into our everyday. Science backs this up. Based off a study from 2009, women feel habitually guilty more often than men. This habitual guilt indicates anxiety related to the guilt as well. I’m not entirely surprised by these findings. Men tend to go about life making decisions that benefit themselves and their families. Women naturally put others before themselves. We tend to go about life contemplating which decision is going to offend whom; we think about how not to hurt others’ feelings. Whichever choice leads to a more peaceful outcome, we’re going to choose that. Even if it means doing something we really don’t want to do.
While I understand why women are the way we are, I think we have to learn to let go if we want to live happy, healthy, less anxious lives. We have to release the guilt. This may mean learning to say no more often. It may also mean having to be honest with yourself.
When you give in to guilt, you’re preventing yourself from making positive actions. Feeling guilty only perpetuates negativity. The more often you feel guilt and the longer you let yourself feel it, the more you’re preventing yourself from flourishing. And yes, this is a feeling you can choose to feel or not to feel. You have to give yourself permission to do what’s best for you and your family, regardless of whether you feel guilt. If you stand up to guilt just once, it will become easier every time thereafter to stand up to it again and again. Stand up to guilt enough and it won’t even cross your mind.
Having a conscience and awareness is good, but constantly fearing guilt and acting from that fear is damaging. Release the guilt and move toward the positive. Stop wasting your time on breeding negativity and shame.