Outfit Post - Guilt: Nobody's Fault But My Own

Allow me to being this post with a description of my typical evening routine. I have put my children to bed and returned lingering toys to their rightful home. I change into an ancient oversized tee, remove my jewelry, take out my contacts, wash my face, and turn on my bedside lamp. My Kindle waits patiently on my bedside table. I climb into the warm, welcoming embrace of my bed, pull the covers up to my chin, and settle in for what I hope to be a solid night's sleep.

It starts innocently enough. I have a new book to read. A book which cost twelve bucks for my Kindle. Did I really need to spend money on a new book? I shouldn't have done that. The library is a few miles down the road, and I probably could've borrowed the book for free. We're trying to save money for a family vacation and here I am, sabotaging those plans. And what about the money I spent on thrifting this week? And the money that went towards a new swim suit at Target? That was wrong too. Wrong, wrong, wrong. I feel terrible. I am a terrible, horrible, irresponsible person. I can't do anything right.

Before I know it, it's one am and I'm no closer to falling asleep than I was when I first got into bed.

This is only one example of the guilt I carry around with me. Truthfully, I feel guilty all the time. I feel guilty about that extra slice of pizza I scarfed down at dinner. I feel guilty for skipping a run last night. I feel guilty for not taking my kids to museums more often, for not keeping a perfectly clean house, for spending too much time on the computer, for speeding on the highway. No matter the offense, you can bet my conscious is paying for it.

Ninety-six percent of women feel guilty at least once a day, and sometimes as much as four times a day. My guilt attacks tends to come at night, when I have time to ruminate on all the ways in which I've screwed up. Guilt is defined as a feeling of culpability for offenses. When we feel responsible for an action we regret, those feelings translate into guilt. Guilt says "I've done something wrong, or made a mistake" and is often combined with remorse. (Note: Guilt and shame are often confused. Shame says "I am a mistake" and is a toxic, harmful emotion that eats away at your self-esteem. Guilt concerns what you did; shame is a judgment about who you are.)

Guilt serves its purposes sometimes. It helps us know when things are morally amiss in our lives, and can trigger the desire to make amends. But women take guilt to a whole new level. Women feel guilty because we can't be successful career professionals, perfect students, glamorous girlfriends with perfect bodies, style icons, and public servants all at the same time. Instead of noticing the good we do, we let the things we can't do immobilize us until we feel guilty most of the time. Symptoms of this mindset include:
  • Feelings of inferiority. ''Other women pull all this off, why can't I?''
  • Feelings of inadequacy. ''I have no talents, look at so-and-so, she's just so talented, but I can't do anything.''
  • Feelings of worthlessness and hopelessness. ''Nothing I do really matters, so why try?''
  • Feelings of martyrdom. ''All I do is wait on everyone else – my husband, my spouse, my work clients, my children. I never get any me time and if I do, I just feel guilty for taking it.''
Studies have shown that women beat themselves up daily about their friendships, relationships, work and body shape. Almost half of all women are kept awake at night by guilt. Author Erica Jong has said, "Show me a woman who doesn’t feel guilty and I will show you a man."

Susan Carrell, author of Escaping Toxic Guilt, said: "Women feel guilt when they don’t think they are being good enough in their various roles – especially as wife, mother and daughter. That’s because familial, cultural and religious tenets teach women that being “good” is the most important thing. When a woman feels she is not putting another first, she quickly feels like she’s doing something bad, and then guilt rushes in." Women are more likely than men to internalise faults and admit to feeling guilty because “I am stupid", "I am a failure", and "I can't do anything right."

Guilt is a useless, toxic emotion, and serves only to shame us and point out our flaws. The only way around it is to give ourselves permission to be human. That means accepting our mistakes and refusing to allow them to define who we are.

Now it's your turn: Do you struggle with feeling guilty? What are some things you often feel guilty about?  Where do you think your issues with guilt stem from? Has guilt impacted your relationships?

Thrifted silk top; thrifted vintage 1950's skirt; H&M sandals; estate sale clutch; Michael Kors rose gold watch; Charming Charlie and forever 21 bracelets





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21 comments:

  1. Gawsh, you write the most thoughtful posts. I do struggle with guilt. I feel guilty for not spending as much time with my family. I feel guilty b/c I chose a career with little stability and my family worries.

    Thank you for this post a million times over.

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  2. Nope. I don't do guilt. It's probably the useless emotion in the world. I now guilt-free relish your outfit. You do turn a good color. Loving that orange top.

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  3. I just found your post and blog via twitter. I really enjoyed it and realized that I do the same thing every night. I sometimes disturb my own sleep worrying or guilt tripping too hard. I guess I realize I want more for my life and don't feel like I'm doing enough. Though my husband thinks I do a great job I still feel the need to pick at myself. Thank you and Thank you for this wonderful post!!


    ps. Beautiful outfit and Great blog!! :)

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  4. Just discovered your blog (link in Already Pretty). Love it. I feel guilty because I don't work hard enough, don't spend enough time with my child, don't read enough, don't practice the banjo, skipped a run (also). You name it. Thank you.

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  5. What a great post. Most of my guilt involves blogging vs. spending time with kids. I can usually get over it pretty quickly by reminding myself I spend a lot of time with my kids, I don't have to entertain them every second of the day! That orange blouse looks nice on you and I'm loving the blue bag! Oh, and I love that you included an Erica Jong quote! She's one of my favorite writers.

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  6. I discovered your blog via Already Pretty as well. Sally recommends well. Love what I've seen so far.

    Guilt? Much less so in recent years. I just finished reading "Good Enough Is the New Perfect" and think you might like it too. An interesting read about women defining happiness for themselves by not trying to be perfect in all ways, but excellent in ways that matter to themselves.

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  7. I feel guilty about a lot of things: eating an extra piece of chocolate, not spending enough time practicing my flute, eating too much, reading too much, talking too much, not reading the Bible enough, telling too many dirty jokes. There is always something I feel guilty about. I think it stems from my general feelings of inadequacy and the extremely unrealistic goals and ideals I have set for myself. There is always someone who does something better than me or is more "together" than me. Guilt doesn't really impact my relationships, but it definitely impacts my mood.
    By the way, LOVE the outfit and love your posts! I just started reading. Now, I check your blog every day!

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  8. Such a great article. My therapist told me about 20 years ago: When you feel guilty, either stop what you're doing ('cause it's wrong) OR stop feeling guilty ('cause it's useless/toxic). Easier said than done I know. I strive to tell the diff between *doing* actual bad things (rare) and *feeling* guilty for no real reason (social conditioning).

    I'm a therapist now myself, and so many clients struggle with exactly the issues you wrote about. I'm so happy to have found your site, and your wonderful, honest writings.

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  9. Oh the guilt. I have guilt just from reading my blogs on the iPad while my son rides his bike. I could be doing something! I could be washing clothes, dusting the house, weeding, or baking a dessert. But this is the first time I've sat down all day. And it feels divine. Heavenly. The air is summer-warm. The sun is shining. There is a cool breeze. And my son is pretending his tricycle is a race car. I'll try to banish the guilt. After all, isn't that what we women do? Banish or cope with our self-imposed guilt?

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  10. Hi! We just "met." I'm a commuter from Sweet Sal's Already Pretty. She has never steered us wrong in the recommendation department! Glad to find you here.

    Um...did you creep into my head? Because I'm pretty sure I could have written that myself (but perhaps not as eloquently) word for word. Yes, I've experienced ALL of that at one point or another. I work hard to struggle with it less by taking care of myself and recognizing that *I* am a person who is worthy of that care. I also take the time to recognize all I do that I'm AWESOME at.

    You look lovely!

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  11. I was feeling guilty as I read your post for being such a crappy writer compared to you...lol. j/k
    Love this post...mostly because I think there isn't a soul out there that can't relate. I feel guilty often about my blog because as of right now it doesn't bring in much monetary value but takes up TONS of time and energy away from my son and family- I try to do it on the off hours..but sometimes I throw on the cartoons to get a few posts done while Connor is watching TV..guilt guilt guilt.
    Then I remind myself that it is OK to want a tiny sliver of the day for myself...celebrating the woman I was before baby...
    Balance is the key for me...
    I will say..I should feel a certain amount of guilt over my ridiculous shopping habits lately...if it isn't nailed down..I pick it up to buy it lately..what the heck????
    Have a great week.
    C

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  12. Wow, just found your blog and I'm smitten! You have AMAZING style. I've just spent the last hour poking around your archives. If I found myself in your closet ( okay, that may be kinda creepy :) I'd feel like I'd just won the lottery!

    Now about the guilt, I don't struggle with that as much as I worry. I worry about everything. Do you think that the difference between the two is as simple as fretting over the past vs. fretting over the future? I'll have to give that some more thought.

    Anyway, thanks for being the owner of one terrific blog.

    Cheers, Doreen

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  13. I do feel guilty a fair amount, but reading your post made me realize that it's something that consumes me a lot less than I think it used to. Although I still spend more time worrying than I'd like to. I kinda think that a lot of this stems from my mom, since no one does guilt better than a Jewish mother, and lord knows she spent a lot of time worrying about things (like me) herself.

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  14. I feel guilty almost all of the time. Guilt that I could be a better person, that I'm not paying enough attention to friends and/or family, guilt that I haven't accomplished XYZ, guilt over eating ... you name it, and I have guilt over it. The best way I have found to deal with it is to try and forgive the small things and realize that "my best try" is not a pejorative.

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  15. I feel guilty incessantly, and I feel guilt about the guilt!

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  16. Guilt is the most unproductive emotion. I think when I understood that I was not responsible for so many things in this world...I began to experience some small freedom from it.

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  17. Found your blog a couple of weeks ago and have really enjoyed reading it! Your post reminds me of Brene Brown and her study on shame. It reminded me of her book The Gifts of Imperfection. I don't necessary feel guilty, but I certainly beat myself up for not being perfect or performing perfectly. She talks about shame being the birthplace of perfectionism. I've been thinking I needed to read it again b/c I've started a new job and I've been really hard on myself b/c I'm not doing the job perfectly. Thank you for your willingness to be vulnerable. Your truth will inspire others!

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  18. The 4% of women who "don't feel guilt" are lying.

    You're like my counsellor - I love you!

    www.blahblahbecky.co.uk

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  19. Your post resonates deep within me. I am (with minor adjustments) feeling exactly the same way, questioning my every move, feeling guilty most of the time, feeling worthless more often than I'd care to admit...You have given me a lot to think about and I am feeling better already just knowing I am not alone and there are others who feel the same way. Thank you for your honesty :-)

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  20. What a great post! I do think women are far more prone to feeling guilty than men. I know I have that too. I feel guilty for not spending enough time with the kids, not having enough patience with them, not following my creative pursuits into a job that would make me happy instead of keeping a well paying job that keeps us financially secure. Guilt over spending money, for sure! I think as I've gotten older my guilt has lessened, but it's still there.

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  21. Thanks for featuring Charming Charlie in your blog!! We have added your blog to our blog mentions page on our website. It’s a page we created exclusively for showcasing Charming Charlie blog mentions!
    http://www.charmingcharlie.com/blog-mentions

    ReplyDelete

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