Why Do I Feel So Damn Guilty All the Time?

Enough already.

Woman in shopping cart with mixed feelings emojis
(Image credit: Getty Images / Katja Cho)

Sometimes it feels like we ladies can't escape the constant headache of guilt–for missing a friend's birthday dinner, for not working hard enough, for working too hard, for drinking one too many martinis on a Wednesday night (oops). 

And the thing is, it's not in your head. "Women are subjected to a lot more cultural messaging (i.e. advertising) that is perfectionist in nature than men are, especially when it comes to body image," psychotherapist Dr. Joe Burgo reasons. Okay, so this is nothing new. But Dr. Burgo thinks that advertising is even more insidious than we thought, suggesting it preys on our insecurities until we internalize its message as a personal standard.

Kristen Wiig

(Image credit: Marie Claire)

Moreover, while women tend to internalize criticism and hold themselves more responsible for mistakes, men tend to deflect criticism and to make more excuses. Hence, when we're harsh on someone at work, we can stay up all night worrying about it, and it seems like our male colleagues don't give a slip-up a second thought.  

"The kind of guilt we're talking about is not very useful," adds Dr. Burgo. There's no evolutionary need for beating yourself up because you haven't been to the gym in a month–instead, it's just demoralizing.  

"The way out is to take a hard look at your own internalized values, your own ideals, your own perfectionism," explains Dr. Burgo. "Ask yourself about how you look at other women and how you look at yourself. Don't let your ideals originate outside of yourself."  

Noted. But I won't beat myself up if I'm not perfect at it right away.

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Rosa Heyman

As Cosmopolitan’s deputy editor, Rosa Heyman oversees a team of whip-smart editors and hilarious writers who bring you some of the best investigations on the internet, from dissecting the latest Kardashian drama to uncovering the link between white supremacy and misogyny. She currently manages the news and social teams and develops the strategy for how the brand best distributes content. You can usually find Rosa glued to her phone workshopping a cheeky caption for Cosmo’s Instagram account.