I’m Guilty

April 2, 2009 § 5 Comments

Get ready for a slightly nonsensical and very therapeutic rant.

High school students are under a lot of pressure. But that’s not why I feel guilty almost all the time.

My mom works really hard. She works, providing for me and all, and she is a mom. I respect her, and women like her, so much because I know the shit she has to put up with on a daily basis. We all know the kind of guilt society places on women, particularly working mothers. My mom gets guilt from our family for not staying home, she gets guilt from the people she works with for leaving work early on parent-teacher conference night. If she works, which most of us need to do, she’s a bad mom, but if she doesn’t…well, that’s not really an option for her. It’s a pretty pervasive lose-lose situation.

Sometimes I feel so stressed that it feels like my body is breaking. A big part of this stress is because of the guilt I constantly feel. I feel guilty if I’m not doing my homework. I feel guilty if I’m running late to a rehearsal. I feel guilty if I don’t go visit my grandmother one Sunday. Almost every girl I know has expressed similar feelings to me. Of course, there are plenty of guys that are also constantly juggling three thousand things. It’s just that lately I’ve become really aware of how big a factor guilt is in running my life. What am I so guilty about?

There is constant pressure to be flawless. But what does that even mean? Sorry if this sounds like a whiny self-pity session, but it’s true, and it’s true for all of us. There are these unattainable standards that all women are expected to live up to, that just don’t make sense. I’m supposed to be smart, but not too smart or else boys won’t like me. I’m supposed to be pretty, but not too pretty, or else girls won’t like me. I’m supposed to be innocent, but naughty.

We’re faced with these unattainable standards and expectations to be flawless everyday. Obviously no one can live up to them, and yet the way they’re presented, it seems like you’re the only one who can’t. So many of the girls in the movies and on t.v. seem to fit this definition of what we’re all supposed to be. No wonder I, along with so many young women, constantly feel guilty.

§ 5 Responses to I’m Guilty

  • mirandanyc says:

    Word. This is great.

  • shira says:

    This is excellent. I, a perpetual over-achiever people-pleaser am faced with so much of the guilt that was written about. The funny thing is that I put a whole lotta that guilt on myself. Not to mention that guilt, when you’re a socially aware high school lady, is just as easily placed for not making the latest Prop. 8 protest as for not studying for the SATs. Guilt can be a great motivation though it can also be a nagging perfectionism that preys on those who want their all. And now, alas, I feel guilty for feeling guilty. Such is life.

  • J. says:

    Hmm. That’s interesting. I used to feel the same way and it caused me A LOT of anxiety. But eventually I got over it. I find this post especially pertinent because women are attending college in larger numbers than men presumably because college is the “key” to economic upward mobility, but even for all of women’s education we’re still not getting paid equal wages. It’s pretty amazing, when you think about it, and basically throws “college = upward mobility” in the toilet. Though I did love going to college for many other reasons, not least of which were the (relative) open-mindedness and social activism.

    I notice this, too, in my parents, who seem to have higher expectations of me than of my brother, and put up with SO much more crap from him than me. I tell them simply that I want to take a break from *graduate school* and shit hits the fan. My brother gets an underage drinking violation and … sigh, oh well. That’s what boys do. Perhaps these “expectations” also contribute to women’s higher incidences of depression; I certainly feel like they did in my own case.

  • A 20-year-old NYC college student named Liz Funk just released a book about this very phenomenon. It’s called Supergirls Speak Out and I reviewed it here.

    Might be an interesting resource for you.

  • dragonmage06 says:

    That is definitely a part of it. And the guilt of feeling like you’re not “normal” because you don’t match what you think “normal” is. I also have a hard time struggling with that whole “perfection” thing. Thanks for writing this.

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