"Women and guilt" is a book title, and it has opened my eyes towards women’s vulnerability and their deepest feelings of guilt throughout history.
The author, Liliana Mizrahi, is an Argentinean and Jewish writer who, in an attempt to create new possibilities of women’s acceptance within her religion, makes a subjective and profound criticism about different spheres of guilt in women, from its oldest conception.
More than a book review, I want to share some insights that have made me reflect in my own experience regarding guilt.
“Women have a smaller error margin than men, and so the consequences are much more serious”
Surely, like me, other women have experienced it. On many occasions, I have found that my omissions or mistakes at work or at home, are much more punishable than those committed by my male colleagues. Immediately a sense of injustice jumps in me, which makes me question ‘why can he be wrong, and I can’t? Mistakes throughout life’s learning process are common to all human beings, men and women, and instead of being something that should be punished, it should be seen as an opportunity to grow, learn and evolve.
“Guilt is not a natural feeling”: the most effective instrument to neutralize us as autonomous subjects
Guilt is a feeling generated from the combination of negative emotions and social learning. That is, we learn to feel guilty. It’s used as a control or adaptation mechanism learned from when we’re children and we do something wrong, or we stop doing something we “should” do. Then, when in life we act in a way that isn’t accepted socially or culturally, we’re discriminated against, punished or excluded, making us feel guilty. How many times in my life have I felt bad for not belonging, for not fitting in or for not doing what was expected of me?
“Guilt doesn’t allow us to believe in ourselves”
Liliana Mizrahi says that guilt is installed within the “I can’t”, “I shouldn’t”, “I have no right”, “I don’t have time”, “I have no capacity”, “I’m a girl”, “I’m great”, “I’m ugly “,” I’m poor “,” I’m dumb “,” my children “,” my husband “,” my parents “,” not now “,” the economic situation “… and I agree with her. How many times a day don’t we hear these “socially accepted” justifications for not being and not doing? Maybe we should think a lot more about the reasons why we decided to do what we do and be who we are. How much guilt do we take on us, without even realizing it?
“Our physical, mental and emotional health depends on the elaboration, integration and overcoming of our faults and/or those imposed on us from the outside. Balance and harmony to which we aspire “
We spend our lives looking for a balance, but at the same time, we spend it pleasing others, being outside ourselves and judging us according to the others’ acceptance. There are people who get sick with guilt. Our victim society limits us to seeing more free and conscious possibilities of action in which, instead of blaming us, we could take responsibility for what we say, feel, think and do; assuming the consequences that this brings. How would we transform our social, family and work environment if we acted from the responsibility and coherence of life, rather than from guilt? Would we be a healthier society?
“Guilt confuses and paralyzes us. In many opportunities, women are inhibited to fight for our rights, or defend our ideas, perceptions, and feelings. “
Have you ever felt guilty for wanting a higher position, a better salary, more dignified living conditions? Does it generate blame to suddenly say what you think or not doing something that the other expects? This is something that happens to us very commonly. At least it has happened to me and I can detect that the problem isn’t wanting it or not … it’s not doing it. Then we paralyze, inhibit and let go of opportunities. How many women have renounced their highest dreams and ideals for fear of feeling guilty?
These deep reflections around the issue of guilt can help us understand a little more the complexity of women’s roles in today’s society, which break with the oldest traditions, the most closed stereotypes and the deepest feelings that sometimes we ourselves can understand.
About the author:
Cristina Menchaca holds a Pedagogy Degree from ‘Universidad Panamericana’ Mexico, has a Specialty in Educational Pedagogy from the National University of Córdoba in Argentina, and has developed as a Leadership Coach and an Educational Coach with the ‘Growth Coaching International’ methodology, which is based on helping people achieve their goals.
She’s been a facilitator, workshops manager, and lecturer on various topics for more than 10 years. Currently, she’s an Educational Consultant at Dalia Empower and collaborates in other private initiatives promoting innovative environments and with a human approach.