It’s common for women to abandon their needs in order to satisfy the needs of their family. It’s an easy trap to fall into - one that I deeply relate to because I struggle with it myself, as does pretty much every woman I know.
What we should look like, act like, and even feel like are all messages we are given from the time we enter this Earth. At the heart of it is usually a fear of not being enough as we are or of losing something we hold sacred: the love and acceptance of those we care about most. When we feel we haven’t lived up to who our families want or need us to be, it can shake our very sense of who we believe we are at our core.
Of course, when we do this, we are giving away our power - to our families who don’t want it and didn’t ask for it.
Here are five ways you may be unwittingly giving away your own power:
Not feeling entitled to your own desires unless you can justify how it benefits someone else.
Women have a tendency to feel that their desires are illegitimate. There seems to be an underlying belief that having more means others will have less.
I struggle with this thinking constantly when it comes to the resource of time. I am acutely aware that it is a finite resource and so I tell myself that it would be wrong to take more than the bare minimum necessary when I could be spending it with my family. Hence, things like exercise get put on the back burner unless I remind myself that it will make me a healthier and stronger (not to mention more pleasant) wife and mother.
Resenting your spouse for taking time for himself while you feel guilty for taking time for yourself.
Ahem...I may also have some experience in this area as well. My husband has no problem taking time to do the things he needs or even wants to do. For a long time after we had our first child, I struggled with expecting him to give up things that were important to him because that’s what I felt pressure to do myself.
Feeling like a burden or needing to prove that you’re worthy.
It is not uncommon, especially as a women, to grow up in a home where you are given the message that your value exists only to the degree that you are a contributing member of the family. If you prefer to do something by yourself, you are seen as “selfish”.
This mindset can carry with you into your roles as wife and mother and cause you to feel that if you need to recharge your batteries, your spouse and children require lengthy explanations and justifications.
Buying into a cultural message that being maternal means being devoted, caring, and unconflicted at all times.
This image doesn’t allow time and space to discover your authentic self. What women miss when they succumb to the pressure to fit a model of perfection is the opportunity to create growth. And when we’re not growing, we’re not much use to anyone.
Attempting to derive all meaning and purpose in your life from your spouse and/or children.
Frankly, your family shouldn’t have to bear the burden of being your sole reason for existing. While your family may be the most important thing in your life, they can’t be fully responsible for your sense of joy and fulfillment. That responsibility is yours alone because as much as you love each other, you are still individuals.
So how do you take back your power?
Be aware of the problem. Ask yourself what the consequences of putting everyone else’s needs before your own are. Are you feeling resentful of those you love most? Angry for no discernible reason? Exhausted all the time? How able are you to be your most authentic self when you’re feeling this way?
Use the list above to take an inventory of the ways you do this in your own life.
Realize that the only one who can change your circumstances is yourself. Make a decision that putting yourself first on a regular basis is in fact the most loving thing you can do, not only for your family, but also for yourself. It will allow you to be your most authentic self, which is really what they need most.
Take action. This is the hardest to do. It means not only identifying your needs, but taking regular steps to make sure they’re met. For me, this means doing an elaborate self-care routine when I first wake up that includes meditation, journaling, reading and yoga. Taking care of my needs first makes me the best version of myself for everyone else.
The pressure on women to put everyone else before themselves is enormous. For some, fundamental aspects of who they authentically are get completely lost in the quest to live up to an impossible ideal. It’s so crucial to take care of your physical, emotional, and spiritual well-being, even if it means letting go of that idealized, yet unattainable version of yourself.
After all, it’s what we want our children to do in their lives, so it makes sense that we do it in ours. That’s fair, isn’t it?
Have you found yourself in one of the traps I described in this post? Do you need help finding a way to overcome those feelings? I would love to work with you! Give me a call at 973-769-2401 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org to schedule a free phone consultation!