Guilty as charged?
Why do we feel so guilty?
I have noticed I am feeling a great amount of guilt for thinking about my needs and wanting to express them. And I’m sure I’m not alone. In our society, women are often expected to prioritise others before themselves, and it's not uncommon for guilt to creep in when we dare to do something solely for ourselves. The concept of self-care, expressing and meeting our desires, has been surrounded by a cloud of guilt and societal expectations for far too long. I want to explore this issue and empower myself (and others) to overcome the guilt that often accompanies meeting our own needs. What are the roots of women's guilt and how can we release ourselves from it?
Expectations and Roles
From a young age, women are socialised to be caregivers, nurturers, and self-sacrificing individuals. We are encouraged and conditioned to prioritise the needs and desires of others above our own. Whether it's taking care of children, managing household chores, or catering to the emotional needs of loved ones, the burden of responsibility often falls disproportionately on women - all of this unpaid, BTW, often on top of a full-time career. Consequently, when we attempt to carve out time for our own personal fulfilment (or even just to rest!), we can experience overwhelming guilt as if we are neglecting our obligations or being selfish. This guilt stems from deeply ingrained expectations that undermine women's autonomy and self-worth. I know from experience how challenging it can be to start reclaiming time for myself and my own interests, and how others made me feel guilty - “the children missed you”, “are you out again?!”, especially when I had spent so long ensuring everyone else was looked after. I am at a point now where I am not depended on as much as my children are grown up, but I still receive the comments about being “out AGAIN?”. The expectation seems to be that Mum is always at home “in case she’s needed”, that my time is not really mine, but waiting to be put to the disposal of others - “You can pick me up then, can’t you?”, “By the way, we’re going to XYZ on Saturday, you can do that, can’t you?”. What about Mum’s needs? After thirty years of making sure everyone else is ok, isn't it time I look after me?
The Importance of Self-Care
Self-care is not a luxury; it's a necessity. Women, just like men, deserve to prioritise their physical, emotional, and mental well-being. Engaging in activities that bring joy, creativity, relaxation, and personal growth is crucial for maintaining a healthy and balanced life and mindset. By investing time and energy into ourselves, we can recharge, reduce stress, and enhance our overall quality of life, and become happier and more fulfilled. However, societal conditioning often makes it challenging for us to embrace this self-care without experiencing guilt or feeling the need to justify our actions. When my activities began requiring some financial investment, I felt I was taking away from my family by spending money on me, whether that be on decent skincare products, classes, hobbies, or time away from the home. I work bloody hard for the money I earn, and it has taken me a long time to believe that I deserve to spend some of that money on myself, for myself. It also has taken me a long time to realise that I need time on my own, and I need to start booking that in. This may well involve me staying away from home for a few nights every few months (which again will cost money). Why should this make me feel bad? I need space to just be, for quiet, time for some headspace. Without it, I know my mental health will suffer. It’s not a luxury, it’s a necessity for survival!
Overcoming Women's Guilt
Breaking free from women's guilt requires a shift in mindset and the courage to challenge the societal status quo. It starts with recognising that prioritising our own needs and desires is not a selfish act but a means of self-preservation and personal growth. We should cultivate self-compassion and understand that our well-being is just as important as anyone else's. I could almost argue, more important - you cannot pour from an empty cup, so if you are completely depleted of energy, how can you meet anyone’s needs? Setting boundaries and learning to say "no" without guilt is crucial in reclaiming our autonomy. Building a support network of like-minded individuals who understand and validate the importance of maintaining their “self” can also provide encouragement, support and motivation along the journey. I am so grateful for the women I now have in my life, who do exactly that.
Embracing Empowerment and Celebrating Self
Women must embrace their own power and celebrate their right to prioritise themselves. By letting go of guilt and unapologetically pursuing our passions, dreams, and self-care routines, we can lead by example and inspire others to do the same. Society benefits when women are strong, fulfilled, and living their lives authentically. It's time to dismantle the narrative that equates women's self-care with selfishness. By celebrating self-compassion and self-worth, we can unlock our true potential and uplift each other.
Women's guilt in doing things for themselves is a deeply rooted issue perpetuated by societal expectations. However, by understanding the importance of self-care, prioritising our own well-being and challenging these norms, we can break free from the guilt and associated negative self-view.
It's time for us to be empowered to prioritise our well-being without guilt or justification. It’s time for me to feel empowered to prioritise my own well-being, without guilt or justification.