Women are amazing at making themselves feel guilty. From the young woman who is pursuing her career and putting her relationships on hold, to the mother going back to work, to the older women who are having it all. We sacrifice a part of ourselves at every step and so guilt creeps in like an unwelcome visitor. You don’t want to be rude so you let it stay. But it turns into the guest from hell and before you know it, it’s living with you and using all your best towels …well you know, it would if it could!
A few years ago I was in my mid-twenties, had just bought my first house with my husband of five years and was living a pretty good life. I was questioned on when I would ‘settle down’. People asked if I was going to party all my life. And so guilt set in. Was I being selfish putting my career first? Of depriving my parents of grand children? Of course I wasn’t! But guilt moved in.
I had my first child at 29, followed last year by my second. I had 8 month leave each time then went back to my 48 hour working week. I enjoy my work and also love my social life. I was then again consumed by guilt. Was I a bad mother for wanting to work? Was I a crap employee for putting my family first? Should I want to spend every minute with my kids? On and on.
An epiphany of sorts occurred one day when talking to my mum. She told me she has loved every bit of her life. Even all the mistakes. And she is really happy with her lot in life – not something to be taken for granted! She didn’t have half the opportunities I’ve been given. She wouldn’t have dreamt of holidaying without her kids. She worked hard to give us everything.
And yet she’s quite sad for the women of today who put themselves under such pressure. Is that it? The world we live in today expects perfection and so we try to live up to that persona. But it doesn’t exist and it certainly doesn’t lead to a happy life. Learning to be selfish for the right reasons and trying to live the life that makes you content at the end of the day is all we can strive for. Social media has been a contributing factor, as it is through this that we see so much of what other peoples lives are like and feel we should be achieving that too.
Taking stock every now and then can help. It’s easy to tell someone not to feel guilty, it’s another matter entirely to get them to listen. We can all do our bit. Curb your opinions. That friend who has no partner – don’t ask her for the millionth time when she’s going to find someone, ask how her work’s going or about a hobby you know she’s into. That girl who can’t come out because she’s studying – don’t pressure her to drop it, ask if it’s all going ok and if she need a snack break or some help. That mum who’s always cancelling plans – don’t snap at her because she’s so unreliable, ask if it would be easier for you to go to her, if she needs babysitting help or just a hug. They are all probably going through their own struggles and your change of attitude could make a difference.
• Listen to your mum!
•Look at what puts the biggest smile on your face.
•Look to the future a little bit – regret is a terrible burden.
•Say screw you to societys supposed norms (yes I’m a mum and yes I have a life!).
•Love, laugh and live as extravagantly as you can manage.
• Let the haters hate.
• Do anything because you feel it’s expected – it won’t end well.
• Feel bad about anything that makes you happy.
• Bottle it up – when life gets a bit heavy then share the load and let someone in. You don’t have to do it alone. We all need help now and then.
How does guilt impact on your life?