Feeling Guilty Affects Even the Strongest Women
Have you ever found yourself feeling guilty even though you know there is no good, compelling reason to feel like this? You can give yourself counter arguments against feeling guilty, but still, you can’t stop feeling guilty. There are reasons for feeling guilty, and they are not your fault. You are raised to feel like this. Whether it's guilt or other feelings that undermine your self-esteem, this has been ingrained in you since very early in life. This was not necessarily done deliberately to make your life miserable, it's just the way society operates and this kind of pattern is spread from generation to generation.
Do you want to be radical and break it? You better be ready for disapproving glances, possible alienation, and being labeled in some unsavory manner.
Feeling Guilty Was Rewarded by Your Parents
As a little girl, you probably learned how to respond and behave to get approving smiles and glances of acceptance from your parents and other family members. Your parents would forgive you if you showed you were feeling guilty. They would even show more affection to you when they saw that you regretted something. And, a lot of that was a great upbringing. You've learned important aspects of compassion, getting along, sharing, and so on.
But, there was a part of yourself that you needed to renounce in order to keep getting these loving glances and smiles of approval. As a little girl, you felt you needed that approval. You needed to know that you are good, accepted, and loved. In order to get this, you learned to shut down your own authenticity. You needed to modify those parts of yourself in hopes of getting along and keeping everyone happy. You felt it was your task. The little girl would learn to quickly shut down the parts of her that met disapproving glances from her beloved parents or family members. It's not even your parents fault. They too were raised like this. If you displayed anything that was considered socially inappropriate or different, they would start feeling very uncomfortable. They possibly had the best intentions in mind, but you quickly learned how to avoid making them unhappy.
Women Evolved to Be People Pleasers at the Expense of Personal Happiness
Not too often can you recall when your independent thinking was rewarded, unless it was aligned with your parent’s way of thinking. You get where I’m going with this? We women are raised to be people pleasers. This has been happening consistently throughout our life. If we are “nice,” compliant, and going along, we are liked.
Have you ever had a different opinion from your colleagues at work? Even if you are about to point out a very important fact or discrepancy, you most likely felt very uncomfortable. Hopefully, you went ahead and expressed it in spite of those fears. The reason why you feel uncomfortable is your individuality was usually met with some kind of correction of your behavior or attitude because you were raised to get along with people. Basically, our upbringing was focused on making good members of society even if it meant we sacrificed our personal happiness.
Living an Inauthentic and Compartmentalized Life Can Lead to Excessive Feelings of Guilt, Anxiety, and Emptiness
This kind of upbringing often leads us to learn to put our needs behind the needs of others. When you live like this, you wind up living an inauthentic life, even though you may feel this is the way you want it. Because of the lifelong grooming process that focuses on making us compliant, we lose touch with who we really are and thus have to settle for living a compartmentalized life. When we are not in touch with ourselves and compartmentalize our lives, it's easier to try to fulfill all of these roles and please the people who have expectations from us. This contributes to potential resentment, anger, and anxiety symptoms. Counseling and therapy can help you avoid being swayed by these expectations and learn to be centered within yourself. This allows clarity with who you are and what you want. Such clarity leads to empowerment to make changes in your life that help you live a full, joyful life. Mindfulness based body-mind oriented counseling can help get to our authentic self faster when utilizing this approach. Learn about how we develop body postures that affect our mood and relationships.
A Modern Grown Woman Is Still Bombarded by Different Messages of How She Should Be
Besides our family upbringing, society has its own expectations from women. We women are judged for all our choices regardless of where we live. If we are stay-at-home mothers, but we are not working on our careers, we receive messages that we are inadequate. Similarly, when we focus on our intellectual or career pursuits, people judge us as selfish or lacking family values. They shame us for dressing too provocatively or “like an old lady.” We get numerous mixed messages from society and the media on a daily basis. We are encouraged by some hardcore feminists to demonstratively throw our bras in the air and burn them, while producers of products and services for women appeal to our insecurities and try to sell us things that will supposedly make us feel better. Whatever choice we make, we may feel bad for it because we'll meet disapproval from someone, somewhere, sometime. Finding a balance between all of these values has been a challenge for me, and I believe it is for many women.
Dare to Be Yourself
The good news is, it seems that as women age, they can live more authentic lives. They come to the realization that they deserve to be themselves. It's wonderful, but I want to remind other age groups this too. You don't only deserve to be yourself, but it's the best way in which you can contribute to this world. How amazing this world could be if you dared to shine through with all your idiosyncrasies. Similarly, how much damage to the world can be prevented when you speak up against something that isn't right? Anger is a powerful emotion that can help us learn about ourselves. Read about how anger can empower you to live an authentic life in my article, Understanding Anger Can Empower Women to Live Authentic Lives published in Psych Central.
Changing your regular patterns may be difficult if you start doing it suddenly. It will feel very uncomfortable. Maybe you can start with small changes. Another important aspect of this is dealing with underlying feelings of anxiety and emptiness and figuring out who you truly are. I can help you with this. I provide mindfulness-based body-mind oriented counseling and therapy. Learn more about my approach.
What are your thoughts about this topic? Do you think women neglect themselves? How does this affect their families? Please leave a comment and let me know what you think.