Elizabeth Day: 40 things I feel guilty about

  1. I haven’t called my friend back
  2. I accidentally put a bubble-wrap envelope in the recycling bin and someone once told me
    that if you do that, it ruins the entire process.
  3. I have therefore unwittingly contributed to hastening the end of the planet.
  4. I watch too much television…
  5. …but still haven’t read War and Peace.
  6. I really want to go on holiday, but this is a #firstworldproblem and I probably don’t check my privilege enough.
  7. My privilege.
  8. That thing I said one time to a colleague and it bothers me because it sounded rude but I didn’t mean it to, and now it’s too late to rectify.
  9. What I didn’t say to an ex and wish I had. Sometimes I rerun entire conversations in my mind, to assuage guilt at not having expressed myself properly.
  10. I got divorced.

    Dan Kennedy
  11. I don’t see my mother enough.
  12. I don’t often visit museums.
  13. I spend too much on clothes.
  14. I ate too many potatoes at lunch yesterday.
  15. The fact that I feel guilt about this, because I fervently believe women should eat whatever they want and be whatever size they want and that life is about enjoyment, not restriction.
  16. Every single email I’ve left unanswered.
  17. Not having enough hobbies. Going to the cinema is my only one and that barely counts.
  18. Not having taken up indoor rock-climbing, paddle-boarding or learning a language.
  19. The time I drove into a parked car but there weren’t any marks on it so I didn’t leave a note.
  20. Not being grateful enough.
  21. When I challenge myself to list five things I’m grateful for, they are often exactly the same things and I worry that defeats the point.
  22. I don’t do enough exercise…
  23. …but I sometimes punish myself by doing too much and don’t appreciate the value of rest.
  24. I’m writing an entire column about feeling guilty when I should be engaging with an important political issue of the day.
  25. I don’t keep a diary.
  26. I’m not vegan.
  27. I broke up with a toxic friend earlier this year.
  28. Before the break-up, I spent years feeling guilty that I’d done something wrong.
  29. Sometimes, when a peer of mine succeeds, I don’t feel joy. I feel jealous.
  30. I don’t meditate for long enough and am therefore unenlightened.
  31. I don’t do enough around the house. I should be organising my sock drawer in the style of Marie Kondo and retiling the bathroom with a striking mosaic sourced on Etsy and putting flour and icing sugar into Mason jars.
  32. I feel guilty every time I receive a text or a call from an unknown number because my first thought is ‘I have done something wrong.’
  33. At a point in my life when I thought I was sorted, I was in fact far from it. I probably hurt people. It took years of therapy to work that out.
  34. I invest too much money in therapy and not enough in a pension.
  35. I recently forgot that Henry VIII was succeeded by Edward VI even though I have a degree in history.
  36. I’ve miscarried three pregnancies. It doesn’t matter how often I’m told it’s not my fault. I still feel guilt that I couldn’t protect those babies.
  37. I haven’t sent enough thank-you cards.
  38. Often, all I want to do is lie on the sofa watching The Real Housewives.
  39. That I’m too much.
  40. That I’m not enough.

I’m not sure why I feel so guilty all the time but I suspect it’s a peculiarly female condition. It makes me wonder: what could we achieve with all that energy wasted on unnecessary shame? The sock drawer might get organised. I might read War and Peace. Maybe – just maybe – I’d forgive myself. And then, perhaps, we could all allow ourselves to believe in our worth, just as we are.*

*Does not apply to murderers. Your guilt is justified.

This week I’m…


More deeply with Ross J Barr Calm Patches to alleviate stress headaches and tension.


The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills on Hayu. Kathy Hilton is an ICON.


With Il Makiage F*ck I’m Flawless – I did a colour-match test online and they nailed it.