The Power of Guilt and Imperfection

My dog recently died.  His name was Johnny.  He was the best dog in the entire world and I loved him very much.  He was only three years old when he died.  I could have prevented his death, but I did not.  Instead I did not watch him carefully.  I simply did not pay attention and he managed to sneak into my car.  Outside temperatures were in the 90s Fahrenheit.  I shut the door and left my beloved dog behind in hell.  Only a few hours later I found him dead.  He looked like he slept peacefully, but his body was hot.  He died of heatstroke in the car, alone, waiting for me to take him for a drive.

The Power of Guilt and Imperfection

This is a story of guilt, imperfection and deep pain.  Why do these stories have to happen?  I asked myself the question many times.  The animal lover kills an animal, the caring mom forgets her child in the car, the loving owner drives over the cat in the driveway.  “These are accidents”, someone told me.  “These are excusable mishaps that can happen to every imperfect human.”  But why did this have to happen to me?  I am a capable woman, well organized and in charge of so many things.  Nothing seems to be too much and I love to carry responsibility, especially for the ones that I love so deeply.  Many women can probably relate to my story.  We multi-task, we take on any responsibility that needs to be taken care of, and we even believe we can handle everything well,

Women know that they are needed and they do not want to disappoint anybody.  They want to give their best, all the time and at any price.  They love to be in the role of “we can’t do without you” and they soak up the appreciation and respect accorded them.  It is a wonderful gift to give.  But what happens when things go wrong?  What happens when the outcome of a project or a relationship turns into a disaster or just a disappointment?  Women tend to be very tough on themselves and they hardly forgive themselves for failures or mishaps.  Accidents seem to be unacceptable.  We cannot accept that something went wrong, and when it goes wrong we want to get punished – either by others or by ourselves.

With all those insights, I am wondering how women can follow their call for leadership and responsibility, but at the same time learn to be less hard on themselves when things go wrong.  My take on this is:  Follow your call in life, but expect that “accidents” may happen with a more or less severe outcome.  Of course, try to avoid making mistakes, but when they happen, you will pay for it.  Your pain is your punishment and it is a good thing to lie down and lick the wounds.  Take your time for sorrow and reflection but at some point you must get up again and follow your call:

Be a woman and act like one.

I am trying to follow my own advice.  I am mourning the loss of Johnny, every day, every minute.  Nevertheless I know that I want to move on.  I will take on another responsibility, because that is what I love, but I have learned from my mistakes and I will try to do better the next time.  I got a new puppy.  His name is Rocky and he will fill the gap Johnny left as well as he can.  I will help him to succeed, I will take care of him and I will slowly forgive myself for simply being “imperfect”.

If you want to find encouragement and empowerment, I invite you to read my other blog posts. Be a woman and act like one.

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Reprinted from “Hertha Wolff-Arend | Be a Woman and Act Like One” a blog  written by Hertha Wolff-Arend.  Subscribe at and receive Blog updates by email.

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About Hertha Wolff-Arend

I am a business coach and writer located in Paso Robles, California. I am the author of the book Be a woman and act like one. Succeeding in business and life’’ and I write a blog for women with the same title. I give motivational speeches and offer leadership and personality trainings to women. I also work with business owners and managers to support them in their leadership skills and personal development. As a strategic consultant, I also help companies with their communication and marketing strategy. Born and raised in Germany, I spent most of my adult life in Europe. I have a German university degree in languages and economics and I worked for many years in the advertising industry as one of the few female managing directors in Germany for major international advertising agencies such as Young&Rubicam, TBWA and Bates. My client list consisted of mainly blue chip clients, where I was responsible for their communications strategies and the development and execution of the advertising concepts. Just to name a few clients: Lufthansa, Danone, Kraft Foods, Bosch, Singapore Airlines, Ericsson, Campbells etc. In 2004 I relocated with my husband and son to California. I graduated from New Venture West in San Francisco as a Certified Integral Coach and started my own coaching practice in 2007. I am fluent in German and English and have conversational skills in Spanish. Aside from my dedication to work and family, I am a passionate dressage rider. I am devoted to supporting women in business, with a focus on women in the lower and middle management who are aiming at a career in the higher ranks or who want to develop their own business.
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2 Responses to The Power of Guilt and Imperfection

  1. Mònica F. Fischer says:

    If something like this happens, what do you say as an “outsider” and how to put into words the co-grief, the sorrow you feel and how to caringly comfort in order to take away a little of the pain, hurt, guilt. These last days I’ve been thinking about this and all I say – just be there – listen, be ultimately understanding, try to alieviate -however it corresponds you and the relation to the person- from the heavy guilt and pain burden.
    The river might overflow from the tears cried, do cry these tears because every tear will bring step by step relief. And I would say at some point in time you will make your peace with the occured situation – althought it might appear extremely distant. When you come to this point, you will feel stronger and somehow wiser.
    For me what happened is a one of these terribly unfair strokes of fate. All that counts is that you are capable of gaining back your peace of mind and that you are surrounded by people who truly love you, care for you, support you and with whom you can share your feelings. Then you are in heaven, although right in the situation you definitely feel like being in hell.
    The little bowl of felicity will be waiting there for you, when you’ve gone through all the phases of grief and sorrow.

  2. Marsha Ross says:

    That was an excellent blog, Hertha, it is sometimes so difficult to express such profound sorrow and you were so succinct. Having known Johnny all the time he’s been with you, I can testify to all the care, love, patience and devotion you and your family always share with all creatures who enter your sphere and especially those whom you hold close. And you are so correct when you say that we have such high expectations of ourselves, but we too are, afterall, human and thus imperfect.

    Always your firned,

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