Does Being GUTSY Activate Being GUILTY?

Gutsy women break barriers. Gutsy women lead the way. Gutsy women speak out when others remain silent.

WaltersAs I research the lives of women leaders who have earned the badge of being a change agent I have been curious about the down side of standing out from the crowd. I call it “the giraffe syndrome”. You know be careful about sticking your neck out, you never know what can happen.

When we step into our power it is not just one big fun parade. So often the down side is not discussed.   And yet, without really taking time to see the whole picture many gutsy women second guess themselves and wonder if the risk has been worth it.

One example is Barbara Walters who was honored at an event at the Paley Center for Media in New York in celebration of International Women’s Day several weeks ago. Accenture hosted the celebration of Walter’s life and her new book “Audition”.

Walters has had an amazing career, and continues to do so daring the aging process to define her.  She continues to be vibrant, curious, and inspiring.

So, it was with great interest that I paid attention to one theme that seemed to circle around and around, the concept of guilt. It is one that most women have an intimate relationship with. It is harder for us to compartmentalize emotions and thus we worry about how our behavior impacts family, friends, community and with the worry comes self-doubt.

There is, as Walters suggested, a tricky balance between work and family. The major aspect of guilt that goes with gutsy is when you have to decide where to put your energies. Too much focus on family and work suffers; the opposite pressure to make work the priority and family suffers.

This is an age old dilemma and Walters put it succinctly when she said “Just do not expect balance.”

So, here is the discussion for the gutsy women standing on the shoulders of the pioneers, like Walters, who paved the way. Here is our home-work assignment: how do we redefine what we do for the care and nurturing of the family as we also redefine the place of career in our lives?

This is a critical question that has yet to be answered. As I research for my book “GUTSY: How Women Leaders Make Change” I am clear that it cannot be more or less of the same. We really need a major paradigm shift in the way we see our place along with our men.

It really is about a new way of partnering. Then we can say goodbye to guilt.

Sylvia Lafair

Sylvia Lafair, PhD, is President of CEO – Creative Energy Options, Inc., a global consulting company focused on optimizing workplace relationships through her exclusive PatternAware™ Leadership Model. Dr. Lafair is the author of Don’t Bring It to Work: Breaking the Family Patterns That Limit Success published by Jossey-Bass. As an executive coach and leadership educator, she has more than 30 years of experience with all levels of management from leading corporate officers of global companies to executives of non-profits and owners of leading family-owned businesses. She is now offering GUTSY Women Weekends, giving women the opportunity to dialogue and clarify next steps.

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  1. P.S. Jones says

    Guilt is such a wasted emotion. Yet, it’s something we’re ingrained to feel about everything. I just don’t think men are taught to feel as guilty about life choices as we are. And I also think that no matter what route you choose, you’ll find a way to feel guilty about it.

    How do I deal? I recognize when I’m feeling guilty and I give myself room to feel that. Then I ask myself, “Is there something I can do about this? Is there something I’m doing that I could be doing better?” And if there’s not, I tell myself to stop trying to make myself feel bad about crap. Does it always work? Nope. It’s not a perfect system. But it’s better than the alternative so it’s working for now.

  2. says

    Will we ever really say goodbye to guilt? I WANT to do well in my career and I WANT to be a good wife and mother. And that means, by default, that when I’m doing one, I’m not doing the other. Being guilty has been a burden, but it’s also had the advantage of making me more present in either situation. When I’m at work, I’m focused on doing my job well and efficiently. When I’m home, I leave the job behind (ok, that’s a lie, but at least I try to) and enjoy my family. I don’t think guilt is necessarily a bad thing. Maybe men would be better if THEY felt some of the guilt more often.

  3. says

    Debra, thanks for the comment. I really believe that if we become more aware of new partnership possibilities with men we can shrink guilt to a minimum. Guilt and stress are bedfellows; so let’s replace guilt with creative energy to help each other find a better balance. It really means rethinking even the purpose of why we work and how we help each other both at home and work. Let’s keep the dialogue going!!

  4. says

    P.S. Hey you give a super example of turning guilt on its heels. Fortunately we now have “emotional technology” to make changes. One that I will be exploring in our GUTSY WOMEN WEEK-END in May concerns the messages from our mothers that have been handed to us on a subconscious level. These are tough to erase, yet it is possible and guilt then no longer stays so potent in our DNA.

  5. Lora Cain says

    It’s hard to say. It depends on the woman. The guilt has been so much that women have to choose which lifestyle they prefer. There’s been some alternatives, like running a home based business so you can be a better mother (being around more often), but it’s not one size fits all.