Guilty as Charged: A Female

A pile of dirty dishes and pans lay in the sink.
Moose alternates between bringing me toys and giving me the stink eye (rain = no dog park)
I reset my alarm and didn’t go the the gym this morning…and didn’t go after work.
Quizzes and assignments wait in my work bag to be graded.

Guilt.

This has been an emotion I have become more aware of recently, and while it is not overwhelming or ruining my days, I have thought about it more. A quick Google search turned up some interesting articles:

“Women guilty of feeling too guilty, study shows” from MSNBC.com

“The guilty-all-the-time generation: How 96% of women feel ashamed at least once a day” from MailOnline.com

Lots of women are feeling lots of guilt on a daily basis. I am guilty of feeling guilt over food, exercise, cleaning, pet care, work, and being a wife. As I walked the dogs, I asked myself, Is there such a thing as healthy guilt?

For example, I was enjoying my time relaxing on the couch, watching House Hunters, and catching up on blogs. Moose’s relentless heavy sighing and death glares eventually got to me – I felt guilty because I was being lazy when he and Frankie needed exercise. So I got up and we walked for two miles. Not even a minute in and I was happy to be out of the house. By the end of the walk, I felt better (fresh air and moving the body) and the dogs were happier. Is that healthy guilt because the experience and result were positive?

I have gotten better about exercise guilt. In college I believe I had become a little too dependent on exercise and would feel bad about myself if I skipped a day. Going two days without getting to the gym meant I would likely be crying that day over something small. Looking back, my life was really stressful and getting those endorphins flowing became necessary for my daily functioning (not to say that was okay, but that’s just my analysis of it now eight to nine years later). But with exercise guilt, who are we feeling guilty towards? Ourselves? Society? Other women? Men?

A lot of guilt stems from what society, our culture, our families and friends, and our experiences tell us makes us “good.” To be a good __________, you must ____________.

Growing up, my mom cooked dinner every night for the family. Unless my sister or I had practice, we all ate together every night at 5:00pm when my dad got home. While no one ever put pressure on my mom to cook, she did it and seemed to not mind it. Now, as a married woman, I have found myself feeling extreme guilt (probably more so than any other guilty feelings) if I don’t have a plan for dinner. There have been tears shed (by me, not Brody) on nights that Brody comes home from work and I have no idea what we are going to do for dinner. I like cooking, meal planning, and grocery shopping, so the tears do not come from not enjoying the process. The guilt comes from feeling like in order to be a “good” wife, I need to be responsible for dinner…just like my mom was.

Come to think of it, I wonder if a lot of the guilt we experience comes from our childhood and, in particular, mothers. My mom lost around thirty pounds when I was in elementary school by joining a weight-loss group called TOPS. She set a positive example for how to eat well, not restrict calories, and enjoy treats in moderation. Maybe this is why I do not experience a lot of guilt regarding food. The only time I feel very guilty about food is when I overindulgence in sweets and feel sick to my stomach. Even then, which doesn’t happen very often, I know that I can make better choices the next day and be a little more active than normal.

While searching for articles about guilt, I found this article by accident. After reading it, I felt worried. I feel like this mom is setting up her daughter to see food as the enemy and to experience lots of guilt over food as a teen and adult.

Where do I go from here? Again, luckily I do not think I experience more guilt than the average female my age without kids (because that brings on a whole new load of guilt), but I think it’s something I can work on in my own head. I am good about being disciplined and having goals, so this is just a new kind of goal.

This website includes a concept that I appreciated; it says “In truth there is nothing right or wrong. Everything is just a manifestation in this world of form. Circumstances are neutral until the mind labels it.” I will work on moving past labeling everything as good or bad, healthy or unhealthy, or right or wrong, and we’ll see what happens.

Questions:
What guilt do you feel the most often?
How do you move past feelings of guilt?

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