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  • Writer's pictureAllison Fraser

Women and Guilt

A fun topic so I am going to use cake to keep you engaged.

Women and Cake

(but not the guilt of eating cake)

Guilt is not entirely awful. It can motivate us to get things done, keep us connected to our values, and remind us who we are and how we want to show up for ourselves and others. That's a nice layer of guilt in our cake, with just the right amount of everything we love.

Most women I know are also very familiar with the overwhelming feeling of guilt that shows up anywhere and everywhere, totally uninvited. Bonus: There doesn't have to be a special circumstance or anything particularly egregious to bring it about. I classify this type of guilt as one of those havoc wreaking, gremlin type feelings that hijacks us, isn't specifically useful, makes things complicated, breeds resentment, a sense of failure, and stays around way too long.

Guilt is complicated.

I've found it useful to try and break down its sources to lend some insight into responding with intention rather than reacting well, out of guilt.

Let's make a cake-

First layer- Women are relational in nature and in nurture, which creates oversight and expectations for others' experiences including their happiness. "I felt guilty., I was guilted into it., I felt bad..., I really should..., I really need to..." these are common phrases among the women I know and I can't help but wonder how much of what we do is done to relieve us of feeling guilt.

Second layer- Cultural messaging about how women should show up for others. That culture may be the culture at large, your family culture, your faith culture, your work culture there are so many things we are wired to be attuned to.

It gets busy out there trying to be all the things to all the people and do all the right things in all the places we serve.

Third layer- Your personal narrative.

This is how you believe you should show up, the standards you hold yourself to, the expectation and self imposed way of being. This leads to a "guilt or failure" pattern which traps us in a fairly nasty lose-lose.

This might be the layer that is most complicated and delicate to

manage and view as workable.

Fourth layer of this delicious cake- Guilt as an element of control.

Humans like to feel and be in control. Uncertainty breeds uncomfortable feelings and guilt can provide some relief. If we feel guilty, it will somehow control our behavior and yield desired positive outcomes.

Fifth layer- Guilt as a distraction from vulnerability. Sitting in guilt might feel a whole lot better than whatever else might be lurking. Guilt could serve as a distraction from fear, vulnerability, uncertainty, sense of failure or lack of agency. Before you say "No thank you" to this layer, know that awareness can help inform and alleviate uncertainty.

So how can we make this cake edible? Let's frost it up with come delicious notions.

Acceptance: Guilt is a human emotion and therefore inevitable. Women are relational which attunes us to the experiences (happiness) of others=GUILT.

Pause: Whenever guilt over something is starting to hijack your thoughts, take a pause. You can start to break the cycle of guilt as an automatic response by engaging in a pause and envisioning the possibilities.

Inquiry: Engage in self inquiry. Where is this guilt coming from? Is it cultural, is it created by my personal belief system and expectations? If so, is it workable? And what am I creating for myself if I am acting out of guilt?

Reflection: Is guilt covering for something? When you can allow a sense of failure or fear or inadequacy to point the way to new awareness, you interrupt the cycle of guilt and begin to create tools for healthier outcomes and mental and emotional wellbeing.

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