Why Do I Feel So Guilty?
by Crystal Andrus
- I feel badly not giving my son the car tonight, even though he was an hour late on his curfew last weekend.
- I feel badly leaving the kids to go to yoga for an hour, when I’ve already been gone to work all week.
- I feel badly getting myself a massage, when I know how tight money is.
- I feel badly saying no to my husband again when I know how much he wants sex.
- I feel badly disconnecting my daughter’s cell phone, even though the bill was $ 500 this month.
- I feel badly not seeing my extended family, even though every time I leave I feel horrible about myself.
- I feel badly not lending my sister money again (that she never pays back), especially since we can afford to help out.
- I feel badly I don’t keep the house cleaner, especially since all the other women on my street seem to do it all . . .
The dreaded curse of guilt; legitimate or illegitimate, it robs us of our ability to set healthy boundaries, teach others how to respect us, and most importantly, how to respect ourselves. Guilt robs us of our joy.
I find it sad that, in many respects, we women are no better off now that we used to be . . . which can’t be with the feminist movement had in mind. Equality, choice, and freedom of expression were what our mothers and grandmothers fought for—not depletion, depression, and divorce. Many of us forget that it was only 50 years ago that women had absolutely no forum to voice their opinions, let alone get their own credit card or mortgage.
I recently read an article from 1955 Good House Keeping magazine that I thought had to be some kind of joke (it wasn’t) since it said, “The man is the master of the home. He can come and go as he pleases, and the woman has no right to question his judgment or integrity. She should always know her place.” In disbelief, I continued to read this serious essay, which assured women that their goal in life should be to make their homes a place of peace, order, and tranquility, one where their husbands could renew themselves in body and spirit. Women were to keep themselves looking lovely, keep the house looking lovely, and scoot the “already-fed” children off to bed (and keep them quiet) once hubby got home (and that could be whatever time he felt). He wasn’t to be bothered or questioned in any way, and it impressed upon women the necessity to keep her needs and wants to herself—not to bother him with her unimportant worries.
I was struck by one realization: Imagine the messages our mothers heard while growing up.
The truly ironic thing is that when I tell women today—in 2012—to start making themselves a priority, many feel just as unimportant, undeserving, and unable. However, this one is necessary if we want a joyous and empowered life. We have to refuse to be martyrs and victims and stop trying to have it all—all at the same time. There is no such thing.
The trouble is we’ll only make lasting changes in our lives if we believe those changes will be safe and truly beneficial.
If you can’t set stronger boundaries without feeling badly or afraid, then ask yourself, “Why am I filled with so much guilt? Why am I afraid to say no? Why do I equate being a martyr with being loved and valuable?”
If you’re a woman, let me assure you, it’s not your fault. You learned this: Your needs don’t matter. Selfish women put themselves first.
It’s simply not true.
It reminds me of the famous metaphor of the oxygen masks in the plane: “If you’re traveling with small children (or anyone else, for that matter) put your own mask on first before assisting anyone else. If you aren’t okay, you’re useless to everyone else. If you aren’t living the life you want, eventually everything else will fall apart anyway.
Only you can decide that guilt can no longer drive your decisions, rob you of your purpose and joy, and dictate the kind of woman you’ll be.
Decide now that if you’re going to do things for others, do it with a willing and wanting spirit. No more “should!” If you can’t do it with love and joy, then you’re really not helping anyone at all.
Soon you’ll happily accept that setting boundaries isn’t about negating other people’s feelings; rather, it’s about understanding their fears and not owning them as yours. It means being strong about your wants and needs, and being firm but loving in the way you execute them.
And that’s healthy behavior to teach everyone!
Crystal Andrus is a bestselling author, international speaker, women’s advocate and Founder of The S.W.A.T Institute (Simply Woman Accredited Trainer) ~ the world’s #1 online Personal Empowerment Certification Coaching School for women. She can be reached at www.crystalandrus.com or www.swatinstitute.com.