Why women always feel so guilty… And how to let that go

As a woman, I have often felt guilty throughout my life. The causes have been varied, and sometimes there has been
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As a woman, I have often felt guilty throughout my life. The causes have been varied, and sometimes there has been no reason whatsoever. I know that many other women experience guilt, so let’s talk about letting those feelings go.

When I was younger, I often felt guilty about not being a good daughter. My mother suffered from poor health, and I never wanted to cause her extra stress. As a result, she often persuaded me into choices I wouldn’t have made otherwise. Then I’d feel guilty for not being stronger in myself!

As a newlywed, I felt guilty for not being a good enough housewife. I chose to continue working at the local chemist after I got married, and sometimes my shifts would conflict with duties at home. This left me juggling my life at home, with my responsibilities at work.

The guilt I felt when I was a young woman though, paled in comparison after having children. Raising kids is tough, and I often agonised over little decisions. Should I let my teenage daughter travel with friends, even without adult supervision? Should I let my son earn his motorbike licence? Should I have lost my temper so quickly? How could I swear less around the kids?

As an individual person today, I still experience guilt. If I’m not focused on some sort of task, I feel guilty for being “lazy” or “indulgent” and have trouble relaxing. I worry about my ageing parents, friends coping with divorce and my husband’s health.

Guilt is the emotion that keeps women like me awake each night, making ‘To Do’ lists in our heads and fretting over that second helping of cake. Have we done enough exercise this week? How will we afford those family gifts? We are not alone though, and guilt is an emotion that can eventually be let go.

Psychologist Dr Margo Orum says that guilt often arises from a desire to be ‘perfect’ or well-liked. However, the emotion is not actually constructive for us as individual people.

“(Guilt) can be an automatic response for many women, who value caring for others as a good thing… to jump to attend to others’ needs first and not give their own needs equal or comparable importance”.

“Guilt is not a good motivator. It’s a human emotion that gives you a sense that you don’t like what you are doing or feeling or thinking”.

Dr Orum suggests treating guilt in ourselves, the same way we would approach self-defeating behaviours in a child.

“It’s better to make a decision that you are going to do something about it and not let the situation happen again, than to stay stuck in paralysing guilt”.

“We need to give ourselves respect and equal treatment, just as if we are an adult or parent, looking after our own inner child”, Dr Orum adds.

I have slowly learnt that if the bathroom doesn’t get cleaned, it will be there tomorrow. If my children make silly choices, well they’re adults now and all I can do is provide guidance. A second piece of cake hasn’t really killed anyone, either.

These are lessons I will continue to discover, but in the meantime, I encourage other women to let go of their guilt. Life is too short to feel negative, and chances are you’re already a very accomplished, kind and generous person.

Do you often experience unnecessary guilt ? How do you let go of negative emotions?


  1. I have never felt guilty about the choices I have made in my life. Mainly because I have always put everyone else first. No more now is for me.

    • I’d like to think I have put people first too but it’s come back to bite me on occasion. Then quilt and anxiety sets in. And good for you Debbie ‘it’s you time’ 😊

    • Same here Debbie. Have always taken a back seat. Have tried to be a good daughter, good sibling, good wife, good mother, good grandparent and I honestly have no guilt about this. Given them all what I can…loving care and helped financially.
      Worry for me is a different matter, although I am trying to stop it since I have no control over family arguments and who speaks to whom. Time to move on!

    • Christa Caldecott I know what you mean about fighting family. I stay neutral as best as I can.

    • I tried this Debbie but still ended up with the blame. My son is on his third marriage and has just accused me of giving his ex wife his new address which I definitely did not do. We think his son gave it to her, or she went through his phone and found it. My husband thinks that she has written him a nasty letter and, in the process, has told him that she got his address from me (since she hates both him for leaving her, and me because I’m his mother). She knows that this would infuriate him. Alas our son chooses to believe her, or his current wife does. Have pleaded my innocence but to no avail. Ended up in Emergency not long ago through anxiety. Have to stop worrying now as I have nothing to feel guilty about since I didn’t do it. Sorry for the epistle. I feel much better now.

    • Christa Caldecott So sorry Christa. Sometimes it helps to tell someone. Try not to worry (I know it is hard).

    • Talk about fighting family’s, haven’t seen or heard from my sister in nearly 12 years. And we live in the same city! 😔

    • Debbie Ward That could be a blessing in disguise. I don’t know where my brother is or if he is even alive. Sometimes I think about it and it makes me sad. He has his demons and if staying away from me helps him then I am fine with that.

    • Yes it is sad Debbie, I try not to think about it very often and life goes on. 😊 hope your brother gets in touch with you even just to let you know where he is.

    • Thank you Debbie and Debbie. It’s good to share, but very sad for all of us. I was so close to my son too and find it had to believe he would sever all contact with all of us.

  2. what a depressing day in here haven’t we got anything happy to talk about?

    • So agree with you David, I much prefer articles we can have a bit of fun with or give us a lift, reading negative, depressing, or serious articles all the time just puts us oldies in a negative mood, & there’s enough of us cranky old farts around😂😅

    • I agree Lyn, I started the day out feeling happy but after awhile in here I am starting to feel depressed

    • Chin up David. Grab a beer or a wine. I’m just having a glass of white to cheer me up. Hubby has gone to the cricket. 🍷🍷🍺

    • Well that was short lived. Just poured a drink when grandson number 1 turned up asking if he could borrow my iron and ironing board to iron his best pants and four shirts. Then he said “can you show me what to do?” Of course I ended up doing the lot for him, but next time he says he will do it!! Back to the wine now that he’s gone.

  3. Oh dear I suppose we all have guilts in our lives. Maybe we should take a leaf out of grandchildrens books and do what is good for us. That might be a step up.

  4. It is hard to say no but people learn from thei mistakes i have learnt i cant always make life better for others help when asked and often keep negative thoughts to myself not voice them

  5. Well I’m probably not going to make much difference but I’ve never been one to harbour guilt. Happy to admit if I’m wrong, but probably would do it all again if I could. Don’t feel guilty girls, there’s always another mistake on the horizon, have fun making it and if necessary correct it as best you can. Don’t feel guilty for living.

  6. Had to think about this, but I came to realise we were most likely trained to do it from an early age, and probably so were our mothers and their mothers before them, not necessarily with deliberate or malicious intent. If you were not taught to think this way so do not have the guilt feelings associated others suffer from, well, lucky you. But I have certainly had to deal with it and still have little battles with myself when wanting to do something for self rather than others.

  7. I have learned that, on the whole, I am happiest when I am busy and am surrounded by happy, positive people who love me. I will do anything for the people I love. Others may believe I do too much for my family and friends, but I know otherwise. Occasionally I might feel sorry for myself, so I treat myself to something I want. My belief is that if you are not happy with your life, you will not be any good for others, and you are the only one who can change things 🌸

  8. I used to feel guilty about things, but not anymore. I am my own person and do things that make me happy. If someone gets up set that’s their problem. If I make some happy then that pleases me.
    Unfortunately I see this guilt feeling coming through in a close relative. She caters to her husbands every whim putting it down to him being a good bloke and “at least he doesn’t abuse me and isn’t a drunk”…
    He has spent most of their savings and now wants her to sell her house that she bought prior to meeting him. He will waste that money also on buying things. But I can’t speak to her about it as she defends him and will take his side in everything. Even when she knows he is wrong. It’s very hard.

  9. Not wanting to detract from the impact this has on women which is debilitating for some but this is an issue for us males also. As much as many may say I have had a successful life, I have suffered this anxiety since childhood and believe me it gets worse as one gets older. Professional help can be of great assistance in coming to terms with this demon.

    • Agree !! That is the problem we forget about what our partners are feeling !! Certainly I was brought up to believe that the father or husband was the bread winner and never even realized that my father or husband had issuses about guilt or failings .bit sad really !!

  10. yawn …. more stereotypical claptrap. As if men do not feel guilty most of the time in a relationship.. This simplistic stuff is really at grade 3 primary school level of critical discussion!

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