Why guilt and shame can keep women away from peace

There’s a lot of violence in the news these days. We are bombarded with social unrest, gun violence and political problems. Due to inflation in the prices of food, gasoline and the cost of living, anxiety is at an all-time high. Despite the challenges we face, mental health continues to be a growing issue in our communities. It’s easy to become obsessed with survival and forget to take care of our own mental health issues.

Women tend to be on the front lines, putting others before themselves in times of need, protecting and providing for their families, unaware that they are neglecting their own mental health. Clients often tell me that they feel compelled to help others, regardless of the impact it has on their own lives. Shame and guilt often fuel these behaviors.

When women are constantly caring for others, it’s easy for them to complain about stress but find excuses for not prioritizing their own mental health. Depression and anxiety are becoming especially common among African American women due to continued ignorance of their own needs. Sometimes this leads to struggling even with not wanting to fulfill one’s responsibilities, such as keeping up with work, family, spouses, church obligations, and friendships. Why? Because putting their needs first triggers guilt and shame.

In my work with clients struggling with codependent behaviors, I often ask, “What is the price of peace? If you’re disappointing others, sometimes the price of peace feels like the “bad guy.” Maybe peace means setting boundaries and sticking to them even if you lose relationships. Could the price of peace be the will to lose in order to win? Your level of self-esteem determines what you are willing to pay for peace.

They say life is short. Having seen so much pain and suffering in this world, I prioritize loving myself every day. It is important that you are ready to pay the price that peace means to you because, for me, peace is priceless.

Natalie Dennis is a Licensed Professional Counselor in Oklahoma City.

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