Selfcare versus Guilt

When I take time for myself I feel guilty. I always feel like I should be doing more work or spending that time with my family. How can I overcome this?

Guilt is a common feeling for women, regardless if they work outside the home or not. As women, we often let guilt control what we do. We become controlled by what we are “supposed” to do, instead of embracing the fact that it’s okay to leave the vacuuming for another day so we can go for a run.

Brené Brown talks about guilt as the sense that I have done something wrong. For many women, the equation looks like this:


chores + work + wifely duties + parenting + etc. = what I should be doing

Therefore . . .

self-care + doing things for myself = the wrong thing to be doing = guilt


But what if the equation looked like this? How might that change the way we exist in the here and now?

chores + work + wifely duties + parenting 
+ self-care + etc. = what I should be doing


Do you see the difference? Self-care needs to be included in what you should be doing. It is not a privilege. It is a necessity. For many women, every time they choose themselves over the laundry, the dishes, the kids, work, or their husbands, they feel guilty. But they should not feel this way.

Choosing yourself is not wrong. The longer you go without taking time for yourself, the more resentment will fester, exhaustion will set in and you will have nothing left to give – to anyone. Guilt has no place in the decision to take care of yourself.

If you struggle with feeling guilty, try these five steps:

1. Give Yourself Permission

The first step in eliminating feelings of guilt for investing in yourself is to give yourself permission. Sounds simple, doesn’t it? It should be, but for many women it is not. We get so caught up in all of our other roles and responsibilities that we lose sight of our own needs and ourselves.

2. Tell Someone Your Needs

Tell your spouse, a friend or a colleague that you are feeling burned out and need some time for yourself, but are finding it difficult to embrace that because of other responsibilities. Ask if he or she will help keep you accountable for making time for your passions. You also might consider asking for help in evaluating where in your schedule you can create boundaries so that you don’t overwork or over-yes yourself.

3. Make the Time

Determine where in your schedule you can make time for yourself. Many women find that fringe hours, which are pockets of time that often go underused or wasted all together are perfect for practicing self-care. Common times that can be leveraged include early mornings, lunch breaks, times of waiting and evenings. Determine where you can capture fringe hours for yourself.

4. Do It

Now comes the hard part. Actually DOING the thing. Getting up early to have some quiet time to read and pray. Journaling while you wait for a meeting to begin. Saying no to an evening work meeting because you made plans to work out. Whatever you choose to do for you, the doing it can be the hardest part – especially if you are usually riddled with guilt for choosing yourself.

However, once we embrace investing in ourselves and begin to practice self-care, the benefits will quickly become apparent. When we recognize that honoring ourselves is critical to living a fulfilling life, we can begin to experience freedom in this practice.

5. Do it again and again and again

The first time you choose yourself over another task, those feelings of guilt may creep in. You might think you made the wrong choice.  But you didn’t. You just need more practice at choosing you.

So do it again and again and again until YOU become part of your lifestyle. Eventually, it will become normal. Your co-workers and family will see a difference. They will see the light of someone who is stewarding their gifts and talents joyfully. Embrace self-care and you will see a powerful, positive impact in every area of your life.

Jessica N. Turner

Jessica N. Turner is an award-winning marketing professional and author of the book The Fringe Hours: Making Time for You. She is also the founder of the popular lifestyle blog The Mom Creative, where she documents her pursuit of cultivating a life well-crafted. Additionally, she is a writer for HuffPost Parents and DaySpring's (in)courage, an advocate for World Vision and a regular speaker at blogging conferences nationwide. She and her husband, Matthew live with their three young children in Nashville, Tennessee.

Join the discussion

Heidi April 8, 2017 at 10:17am

I so badly needed to read this article! I'm a single mom who works as many hours as I possibly can including Saturday mornings and afternoons and still be home just in time to put my kids to bed (later then most kids go) and constantly stressing out and rushing. I have help from my family with my 2 girls while I'm working but feel so guilty asking for them to help so I can have "me" time after they've helped me all week long. My moms exhausted and often feels like she's now raising her grandchildren bc I'm at work more then I'm with my kids and I feel terrible bc I see my kids so little I don't feel like I can leave them so I can have time to myself but it's definitely wearing me down to the point of exhaustion and tears most days. My health is actually becoming a huge concern to me as I'm definitely not taking care of myself. All I want to do is sleep when I have the opportunity. I lay down with my youngest to read and when she's falling asleep at night because sometimes that's the only time I see her and I end up falling asleep myself.

Patricia August 10, 2015 at 10:49pm

I found this article to be really helpful in many ways. I do try to look after myself, especially as I have a chronic health condition. However, what can I do about my boss texting me regarding work both outside of office hours and on my days off!! These are not urgent texts, they could wait until Monday morning. I know he's just emptying his mind of stuff. But I don't want my head then loaded with work stuff when I should be resting. Texts come first thing in the morning or 9pm at night or anytime really. I'm just fed up with it. Help!! Any useful suggestions??

Tecorajenkins May 21, 2015 at 1:19am

Hello everyone! I am so well aquainted with feelings of guilt, I start to believe it could be conviction from God or the Holy Spirit. For instance, this morning I did my devotional for a set time, and I closed with prayer certain that God was going to guide my day and that I had had a good quiet time with the Lord. Then as I started to leave the place where I had my devotion, I had the feelinga of "uhh-ohh, I can't leave right now, God wants you to stay in here longer" but it was just a weird feeling....its like no real purpose or explantion that I can see.....I guess my question is, how do you tell the difference between convictions and guilt (condemnation?) I'm trying to describe how I feel the best I know how, but it's tough for me. How do I know if it's God telling me to stay longer, me telling myself that I need to stay, or satan making me feel guilty? Thank you in advance! And I thank God for using you! :)

Drilona May 17, 2015 at 9:00pm

More than a comment, I'd have a question. How can I apply this teaching as a christian, because what confuses me is the commandment that says "deny yourself..." Mathew 16:24.
Please help me!

Deirdre April 15, 2015 at 5:36am

Being a mom of a 1.5 y/o, wife, entrepreneur, SAHM, Sunday School teacher, speaker, and Praise and Worship leader....*sigh*.... I struggle a lot with balancing my various roles and self care. This article has encouraged me so much. Thank you!

Jeannie April 13, 2015 at 5:59am

For Cynthia, who asked for gentle opinions above... :-)
Cynthia, only you & Jesus Christ can define your faith walk with Him. So, look for scriptures that discuss a woman's walk of faith. If you are serving Him by loving others daily, and your beauty regimen doesn't interfere with that, and you're not leading men into temptation, then check the scriptures to find what God has in store for your life.
What if He wants you to use your skills to work with disadvantaged women who have been disfigured by violence or fire? What if He wants you to serve those who might need a career wardrobe for job interviews?
Just a few passages below; please look for more!
Proverbs 31 is a stand-by for many women, but is not meant to set the expectation that one woman do everything on the list.
1 Timothy 2:9,10 is good advice.
Then, there are the beauty treatments that swayed a king's heart in the book of Esther.
God is the God of Beauty. Honor Him and you can't go wrong.

Lisa Stratton April 12, 2015 at 5:19pm

I loved this article! I have been practising self care for some years now and Im getting really good at it! Guilt is such a useless emotion. Over a year ago I started a group called the South Coast Cowgirls.We live on the south coast of NSW in Australia. I love horses and being out in the bush experiencing Gods beautiful creation. Many women love horse riding but don't have their own horse. We teamed up with a local horse riding place who hires out horses and they take us riding on a weekly basis in school hours. It is so wonderful, and has blessed many women and it makes us feel amazing! It has blessed my life 10 fold by seeing women of all ages take time out for themselves to have fun and laugh! It helps me be a better wife, mother, sister, daughter, employee, friend etc. If you are down our way, look me up on Facebook and join us for a ride :)

Michelle Flynn April 9, 2015 at 6:59am

My cousin and I spoke about exactly this today - thank you Lord this timing is so you!

Lindsay April 8, 2015 at 3:41pm

I feel l like I was ' forced' in a way this last year to really focus on self care as I struggled with post partum depression after my third babe. Self care and taking time for myself became a necessity each day (and felt so foreign and strange!) simply so I could make it through each day and not break down crying and be able to care for my little ones. It was a humbling process learning to ask for help and learning to take 'me' time for exercise, socializing or even just doing something creative on my own. Now I'm so glad that I HAD to do that as I feel like I now have so much more to give to my family and although it's good to do something simply because it's the right thing to do, it feels wonderful to want to do it again and be joyful in it.

Melanie April 8, 2015 at 5:37am

I homeschool 4 amazing children. I do try to get my workout time in because I want to feel good and look good. However, when my grandmother passed away last week I still never stopped. I helped my mother. I took care of what needed to be done. Until a friend offered to take my children for a couple of hours so I could grieve I had not thought of it. It just never occurred to me or my husband to do this. I am so blessed to accept her offer and my husband wishes he would have thought of it first. I will add that I don't fault my husband for not doing that because if I would have mentioned it he would have acted on this right away. I just kept moving and going and so I look just fine. It took an outside perspective to make me stop. I will be forever grateful for her gentle offer to remind me to take care of me. It was a lesson to remember when I bump with life. Melanie - Just ask!
I also want to now be that friend that looks at the friend needing a moment and break and blesses that moment.

liz April 8, 2015 at 4:58am

I have two very young children. My husband and I are really involved in ministry. Lately, I have been feeling guilt. Guilt for choosing my babies over saying yes to another church activity. I'm having a hard time balancing it all. Guilt is what I feel. Heart-wrenching guilt. Thank you for this article.

Cynthia March 29, 2015 at 9:49am

As a Christian woman, but formerly a fashion student and working in the fashion & beauty industry, I struggle with questioning myself when it comes to practicing beauty regimens. I am creative and fashion/design minded, and I also value the idea that a lady makes sure she's presentable before ever leaving the house. I am also, unfortunately, quite insecure and worry too much about what people think of me. So, my point is, I struggle with wondering if my self-care is considered vanity or shallow by other Christians, or my fellow church members, or anyone really. I've had women friends at church support and encourage me by reminding me I am not looking for attention and they don't think I stand out, but I don't know (as the majority of the women at our church are very plain and humble). How can you find the balance of being a wonderfully devoted mother & wife, yet stay true to your womanly - and girly - nature, and even yet still be following God's word? Worldly-speaking, I don't usually feel too guilty getting my nails done, buying cosmetics, or shopping, but most recently as a newly born-again Christian, biblically-speaking, this has been a major concern of mine. Some insight (with respect to my sensitive nature & not being too harsh please!) is really appreciated! Bless you ladies;)

Marietta Taylor March 29, 2015 at 5:14am

I struggle with self-care and the guilt associated with it. I am learning that, like this article pointed out, it is a crucial part of my life equation. Things go bad when I haven't taken time for me. Thanks for this affirmation and reminder.

Francesca Fraser March 29, 2015 at 4:39am

When I received this email, I was on my way to the nail salon for a Mani, pedi. After much agonizing I decided to go ahead and get my nails did. (LOL). But as a stay at home mom of two, I can totally relate to this, I've spent much time trying to convince myself that I don't really need to spend time on myself, and I've carried around much guilt about having done so. I'm still processing that I should not feel guilty for this. Thank God that I do have a Husband who's very encouraging when it comes to helping me to become better. Not just in this area, but in every area in our marriage.
Thank you for sharing this wonderful article. May God continue to bless you as you bless and encourage others.

Francesca Frase .

Justine Cirullo March 29, 2015 at 4:04am

This is so great and so true. Such a wonderful reminder!

Erin March 29, 2015 at 3:39am

It's hard to give myself time to be alone and not do chores...after I have a ME time I would prob still come home to a messy home so I still would feel the need to clean. It's even harder that I have a7 months old son and a husband that hates doing dishes lol

Michelle Lopez March 29, 2015 at 2:38am

I just read your article on Self Care versus Guilt.... It truly has been something that I needed to read.... I have been in this area of thinking like this for awhile. I know that it is easier said then done....but I must do it for myself....It's just that I have always been the one to put others before myself....I am surely but slowly starting to do has not been easy....But with the Lord's strength and help I Will and can get through this ...Thank you for this article....Propel Women it has truly BLESED me today!!! 😉

CristinA March 29, 2015 at 1:04am

I'm a single mom and I work very hard..parenting, work, housekeeping, daughter'sport and driving for all those duties...
I choose to take care of myself taking time for me reading alone, talking to God, relaxing . Also I spent time for me doing karate to flew all the stress and also I go to a chorus in my city. Sing refresh my soul and inspire me also. Those activities that I choose for me helps me to take car of myself. I don't feel guilty to take time for me... I have more energy to accomplish all my responsabilitys as a single mother and as a good employee.

Danielle March 29, 2015 at 1:04am

I just completed being a Moderator for a panel with the topic of Work/Life Balance. And one of the tips offered was turn your to do list, into a today list. And make sure you do something for yourself every day.

Debra Price March 29, 2015 at 12:59am

I so needed this article. I go to the beauty salon every Saturday and while I'm there, I'm on my tablet working or I'm making out a grocery list for when I leave the salon or I'm thinking and planning what I have to do when I leave and go back home. Yard work, dusting, cleaning bathrooms, mopping!! OR because I only live about 10 minutes away from my job and I have keys to the building , I think about going to work for a little while. Thinking I can get ahead for the next week. I So Needed This Article! !!!