Around April of last year I ran out of things to purge and organize in our home, so I started looking at the emotional garbage I’ve carrying for a lifetime. Guilt had become a heavy burden.
I then started to recognize it in the countless, virtual conversations with other women, both professional and personal.
Here are the three buckets of guilt that every woman carries with her.
We come from a long line of super women—generations of women who did it all and saw asking for help as a weakness. Thus, becoming mental martyrs.
Many of us are probably just recovering from the holiday version of this guilt. When we take on all the baking, shopping, hosting, wrapping, decorating mental load & tasks, while trying to maintain a tidy home, virtual education and the facade of work-life balance, we are operating from this bucket.
This guilt creeps in when good intentions require more time, energy, or resources than are humanly possible.
What To Do About It: Forgive.
We must forgive the generations of women we have inherited this bucket of guilt from, and refuse to pass it on to our daughters. No woman can do everything. No woman does it alone. No woman can live up to perfection.
This bucket is harder to recognize because it clouds our judgment. It is that feeling when we perceive the response or feelings of someone else, and adjust our initial response accordingly. Most commonly, it occurs when we hesitate to say “no” because we perceive someone else’s disappointment.
This bucket represents an internal war that rages between “should” and “want“. We perceive a negative response on behalf of another, so we “should” ourselves into an obligatory response.
When in reality, the party won’t be ruined if you don’t make an appearance. Your friend, who is probably carrying her own buckets, would understand and accept if you politely declined to put your needs first. Perhaps it would even inspire her to do the same.
What To Do About It: Ignore.
Ignore perceived guilt. You do you, boo.
Self-awareness is the key to this response. This bucket is often so deep and heavy that many of us can’t even remember life before it. Get still, get quiet. Empty your head of “should” and listen to the “want”.
If you struggle to say “no” remember this trick, when you receive an invitation or opportunity that doesn’t feel like a good fit. Go with your gut and “gracefully decline”, but also nominate someone who deserves it. You’ll satisfy your initial reaction, but also open the door for someone else.
We are left with one more bucket, deserved guilt. This one has some merit because more than likely we’ve made a mistake or misspoke. Perhaps it was an off-the-cuff response or reaction but in hindsight, it was regrettable.
As much as we grow and learn, we are still humans growing & learning. We won’t always know what to say or how to act, and we will not always do the right thing initially.
What To Do About: Apologize.
Goodness sakes, woman—don’t beat yourself up! Perhaps it was stupid, but it doesn’t mean you need to carry it forever. Apologize for the misstep. Learn from it and commit to growth.
As Maya Angelou once said, “When you know better, you do better.” We can always do better.
Stacy Cassio spoke to thousands of women virtually in 2021. At the end of each session, she encouraged the audience to connect on what resonated the most deeply. The overwhelming response was “3 Buckets of Guilt.”