Guilt: “Noun. the fact or state of having committed an offense, crime, violation, or wrong, especially against moral or penal law; culpability: He admitted his guilt. A feeling of responsibility or remorse for some offense, crime, wrong, etc., whether real or imagined.”*
I have done nothing to feel literal guilt about, yet I somehow perceive that I am at times overwhelmed by feelings of guilt for all manner of everyday things. Kind of surprisingly, from talking to friends, I realise that I am far from alone.
“Guilt” is one of a myriad words that is incorrectly used, so much so that to many people its real meaning has been dampened, but I have yet to find another word that adequately describes how I feel on a daily, sometimes consuming basis.
As for “female” guilt, a lot of my feelings are, I believe on the whole, gender-specific.
I think these kinds of perceived guilt are a huge issue amongst women, probably more so the further you get into your 30s and beyond. I am saying all of this with zero qualifications other than my own experiences and from talking to female friends.
“Guilt” is maybe only appropriate in the sense that all of these thoughts are seemingly constant so it’s a weight in my head, burdens it feels to me that I bear.
An hour into my morning and my guilt chain of thought is pretty much as follows, though bear in mind that my work is as a self-employed stenographer and blogging is currently an unpaid hobby: I am fully capable of working but I have made myself unavailable for work this week, I feel tired but a friend has just had a baby and epitomises tired so I shouldn’t complain, I don’t have children so I should appreciate and make better use of down-time than I do, I shouldn’t have sausage and egg for breakfast, I am not going out to work so the cleaning should have been done by me not the cleaners yesterday, I should only have bought one pair of jeans not two yesterday, I have too much clutter, I have too many clothes, I shouldn’t be sitting down, I should finish writing this rather than getting up again to check on the sausages in the grill, oh, and make another cup of tea, I should have arranged to meet a few of my friends I haven’t seen in ages but had time to meet up with this week, I want to go out for coffee now but I should be updating my website and doing my online Photoshop course, I should have been working and earning money rather than doing that course, I shouldn’t have bought a new laptop for work because the one I was using isn’t old or dysfunctional enough to justify a new one, I need to work more to pay for the laptop … and it’s ongoing in its cyclical fretting and contradiction and wasted head space.
As it happens, I’ve now made a decision to pause writing here to turn off the sausages and go out for coffee. Arguably, “guilt” has been replaced by “procrastination” in this scenario.
However, deep down I know I can rationalise all of this so I have no reason to feel guilty (and, yes, I know that “guilt” is the wrong word). I earn enough money when I am working to be entirely self-sufficient, my job has given me lots of hand/joint/nerve issues so working less is a good thing, time spent blogging is good as it is a hobby and a route to finding a less body-destructive way to earn money, a Photoshop course is useful and something I want to know more about, I have enough money to pay for a new laptop and my old one has been stressing me out with its unreliability and bulk, it’s ok to be tired and anyway I got up at 0630 this morning (but it wouldn’t be ok if I ranted to my friend with a days’ old baby about my feeling tired), sausage and egg is fine especially as I rarely have that for breakfast, I was the sole home cleaner for years and cleaners are now used as it was about time my partner dealt with keeping our home clean, just as I didn’t make plans to see friends this week, neither did they suggest it and anyway I wanted to get through more of my Photoshop course ahead of a two-week work trip.
As my actions in no apparent way affect anyone else’s well being, it really is of no interest or concern to anyone whether I am or am not working/earning/socialising/eating a fried breakfast/cleaning/tired/resting/spending money I have/studying/hoarding/going out for coffee. Similarly, no one has said or done anything that prompts my feeling bad for all the things I feel bad about but know I have no reason to feel bad about. These are all pressures, anxieties and burdens I have imposed on myself which do nothing to improve my day-to-day life.
Where do all these feelings of guilt, inadequacy and a sense of what I should be doing come from? Of course I have my own theories and maybe I will share them one day, but for now I just wanted to share this, really truly knowing there are a lot of other women out there who feel the same even though it is unjustified or at best unnecessary.