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Women and guilt: Why it’s not worth the effort

/ Jan 29, 2013 8:14AM / Print / ()

Women and guilt: Why it’s not worth the effort

How often do we start a sentence with one of the following phrases: "I must"; "I better"; "I should"; "It's expected".

If you're regularly expressing things this way then you're probably making choices you don't want to make but simply feel obliged to make in order to keep up with the "musts" and "shoulds" in your life. From my experience, I have noticed that women tend to be particularly skilled in making these choices.

We are really good at doing the things that satisfy the needs of others before satisfying our own. And the motivating factor behind these choices tends to be guilt.

Why is it that if we make choices that prioritise our own needs we feel guilty? I was once told about the "burnt chop syndrome of mothering". You know the situation - mother cooks the dinner and one of the chops is burnt so who does she serve the burnt one to? Herself of course! Why? Because she feels guilty that somebody else in the family will miss out if she puts her own needs first.

Research has shown that women tend to feel guilt intrinsically. As Felicity Haufmann once said: "Motherhood has been an exercise in guilt". Women put the pressure on themselves to be everything to everybody.

But if we're responsible for applying the pressure, we're also in a position to take it off.

Feeling guilty to the point of putting our personal needs at the bottom of the "to do" list is one of the challenges we face in managing life balance. We need to let go of the guilt about our choices and recognise that making some decisions that put our own needs first will actually benefit the other people in our lives as our sense of wellbeing improves.

For some people, making those choices comes naturally. For others, it's difficult to let go of old habits. One idea to help start making the transition is to include just one activity of "me time" each week. Do something just for you because you want to. It might be as simple as taking an hour out to read, buying takeaway instead of cooking dinner one night, or going to the movies with some friends.

Try it this week.

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