Badass Professional Women Don’t #5: Feel Guilty

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We have spent the past few weeks talking about how women can unlock their natural talents, set boundaries and ask for what they want. (See previous posts: 7 Things Badass Professional Women Don’t Do, Badass Professional Women Don’t #1: Put Your Head Down and Work Harder, Badass Professional Women Don’t #2: Compare Yourself, Badass Professional Women Don’t #3: Say Yes, and Badass Professional Women Don't #4: Accept the Hand You're Dealt.)

But we haven’t talked about what makes this so hard: GUILT.

I don’t know any woman that isn’t plagued by it, including me.

Most women have been conditioned from a young age to be nice and accommodating.

And that’s ok…to an extent.

But if too many of our decisions and choices are guided by other people’s feelings and perceptions, where do our own needs and desires fit in?

Therein lies the crux of the issue: we truly want to help others, often to the detriment of our own well-being.

So how do you take control of your guilt without turning into a selfish jerk?

First, it’s important to know what you want and set priorities.  These priorities may even include doing things for other people (i.e., picking the kids up from school, making dinner for your husband, etc.).  Once you have a list of your non-negotiables, everything else becomes much clearer. 

Use these priorities as guides to draw boundaries. This is critical to protecting your time and your sanity.  Once you find this alignment between your wants, priorities and what you commit to, it becomes easier to avoid feeling guilty. 

But the guilt may still creep in.

That’s where strong communication comes into play – you need to let people know about your priorities.  People who care about you don’t want to see you burnt out, frazzled and unhappy. 

The thing is, we’re often so busy trying to hold it all together and we don’t want people to see us sweat, so they have no idea that we are feeling overwhelmed, stressed and spread too thin.

You can change that by being direct, but compassionate with friends, family and colleagues.  Let them know how disappointed you are that you can’t say yes to ________ (i.e., working late, a destination wedding, dinner on Thursday night), but that you just don’t have the _______ (i.e., time, money, resources) right now.

Yes, this is scary.  And you may even make some people upset.

But you’ll find that the people who really care about you and want you to succeed will accept this explanation.

As you practice doing this more and more, the guilt really does start to fade. 

Another trick is to think about what you would tell a friend in your position. Would you encourage her to keep taking on more and to feel badly when she had to turn something down?  Probably not.  

Practice being as kind to yourself as you would be to other people you care about.

It also helps if you remember this: self-care ISN’T selfish.  You really will show up as a better employee, mother, daughter, partner and friend if you are taking care of yourself and your needs.  And that’s nothing to feel guilty about.