Is Guilt Keeping You Unhealthy?

Women’s guilt is an interesting topic which has a surprising amount of research surrounding it. Goes to show how expansive and general this problem is amongst women. How often our immediate reaction to something that we want, need, or desire, is often followed by a sudden surge of guilt.Women generally feel more guilty when they put themselves first, when compared to their male counterparts. Feeling guilty may be a normal feeling, but it too much guilt when it comes to putting yourself first, is likely negatively impacting your life and overall wellbeing more than you realize.

Imagine if society as a whole told us we are not deserving of that job promotion that opened up, because you are a women. That would be insanely wrong and sexist right? What if we were directly told, we are not deserving of material things, luxury items, a day at the spa, a gym membership, time alone, vacation, a new outfit, time with your girlfriends, a romantic date. That would be a crazy thing to say. However. the problem is, no one has to tell women these things directly, because we already do it and say it to ourselves on the daily. We feel so much shame or guilt when we put ourselves first. We are constantly obsessing over what other people think of us, and in turn, this makes us hyperaware of how our actions, or non-actions, are perceived. It is a chronic obsession among women. It is so embedded through nature and nurture, that we are not even aware of the type of stress we are placing on ourselves, and on our futures.

To make my point more clear, lets take a common example of the average household after 4pm on a weekday:

You are married, live in a house, have a husband, and you have three young kids. You are staying home from work right now to take care of the kids, while your husband is at work. After taking care of the kids since 7am, your husband finally comes home from work. You are thrilled, because now you can take that time you’ve been craving to head to the gym (which you have been trying to get to for the past week). Suddenly, your husband exclaims, “What a long day! I am so tired!”. You hear him, and then that feeling starts to creep up into your belly, and that voice in the back of your mind starts to become more clear. It’s guilt. You suddenly start to feel guilty about leaving, and now a million excuses as to why you should stay home instead of going to the gym, start to flood in. You feel bad because your husband is tired, and now he has to watch the kids. You feel bad because there is laundry to do, and things to clean. You feel guilty because its rare your husband is home early, and you don’t spend a lot of time during the week together. You feel guilty because you should stay home and help your kids with their homework. You feel guilty because you should have done the laundry, cleaning, cooking, and homework help BEFORE your husband got home so that he wasn’t left with such a chaotic mess. You feel guilty that you didn’t do as much as you “should” have.

Wowza. That spiraled out of control real quick, and guess what? LOL! you are not at the gym. You stayed home, because you felt guilty, and then you listened to that guilt, and the excuses screaming in your head. Now you find yourself back down at the bottom of the priority totem pole where you originally belonged. Feeling like shit, feeling unfit, and folding laundry. How silly and daring of you to think you could put yourself first…hilarious. Only not hilarious, and actually quite real life. This is only one measly example of not making our fitness as a priority (which is obscene), but there are lots of other examples where women continually talk ourselves out of feeling that we are worthy of free time, and doing things for ourself.

Over the past year, and after a lot of self-reflection, I realized how much I talked myself into feeling bad about things I did not have to feel bad about. I literally caused my own anxiety, and I caused my own unhappiness. It was not purposeful of course, but I was just never aware of how negative thoughts were always on the forefront, a mile ahead of anything positive. I started trying to become more present in my thoughts. As soon as a thought popped into my head, I was present in it. How did it make me feel? Does my stomach feel uneasy? Did my mood suddenly change? Did I smile? Did I frown? Being present with your thoughts, creates a heightened awareness in yourself.

Feeling guilt, shame, anxiety, are not positive things to feel. You are not happiest or at your best when you are feeling any of these emotions. So if women are naturally more inclined to think this way, and are nurtured into thinking this way, then it is likely we are going to be feeling all the things that make us unhappy and feel unworthy. We are constantly allowing others feelings, emotions, and decisions, dictate how we live our lives. I started finding more happiness, and finding more success, when I became more selfish. Becoming more selfish will improve your life, if you find you are someone constantly putting themselves on the back burner. Becoming more selfish in just one avenue of your life, will spill over into other aspects of your life. For example, if you start to take more control over your fitness, your entire life and how it is lived can change dramatically. As a healthier human being, you are more energetic, sleep better, eat healthier, you are more positive, you are happier, you have less chance of depression and anxiety, and you are an all around better more energetic person for those around you.

Leave the laundry, the dishes, the homework. Leave your husband at home for an hour, because that hour is more than gym a sweat session. That hour to yourself does more for your family then having clean dishes every will. The more confident and stronger you are, the more you will project this confidence onto everyone around you. It will reflect off of you, and all of this positive change will come back to benefit you. What you radiate, will come right back to you, whether it is good or bad. So make it good, and then make it excellent. Put yourself first today, and then repeat for eternity.

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