I am the kind of person who will say sorry upon bumping into a pole. I will also follow up an assertion of my opinion with a “sorry” if someone disagrees with me even slightly. My frequent use of the word “sorry” comes from a deeply rooted fear of being an inconvenience to anyone or imposing myself where I feel like I don’t belong. In other words, it comes from guilt.
A few years ago, I came across Joan Didion’s essay “On Self-Respect,” which changed my relationship with guilt. In her piece, Didion writes, “Character – the willingness to accept responsibility for one’s own life – is the source from which self-respect springs.” Reading her words forced me to realize that feeling guilty about the things that made me myself was not only self-defeating, but also self-denying.
I am not alone. Countless women express feelings of shame over not meeting up with social expectations when it comes to their careers, looks, relationships, opinions – the list goes on and on. Guilt is a toxic emotion, and much less forgiving than remorse or acceptance. While it’s pervasive, you can tame it with self-awareness. From wearing makeup to saying no, here is a list of things that should never make women feel guilty.