Do you know what’s worse than other people not believing you? You not believing yourself. You questioning your own right to feel the way you feel, to experience things the way you experience them, to need what you need. You telling yourself you are imagining how bad or hard it is. Your inner critic working overtime to tell you that you are ‘too much’, ‘too needy’, ‘too sensitive’, ‘too emotional’, or even simply ‘not enough’, ‘not worthy’, ‘not important’. This causes something inside of you to break in two. Your relationship with yourself, your trust in yourself, your capacity to love who you are, to value yourself, to give yourself permission to need and want things, that breaks down.
And then it becomes less and less possible to get your needs met, to ask for help, to look after yourself, to set boundaries, to have healthy relationships, to have a good work-life balance, to be healthy. You feel somehow like you do not deserve these things. If this is how you feel, please know that you are not alone. And, more importantly, that this is not your fault. You did not do anything wrong, my friend. All you did was to exist in a world where this has become your only reasonable response to the damaging narratives and conditions being forced on you by society. Especially as a woman. You are constantly being told how you should be, what you should do, and how you should feel.
You are here to be of service to others. They are more important than you. Don’t be angry. Women aren’t allowed to be angry, it’s not their place. It’s not attractive. Don’t cry, don’t be so emotional. Don’t be so needy. You are so sensitive. Stay small, women don’t take up space. Women who take up space are domineering, bossy, unladylike, unlovable. You aren’t really in pain, you are exaggerating it. Because you are fragile. Because you don’t know what real pain feels like. You are being hysterical.
A good woman is a martyr. A good woman is selfless. So, in order to survive, in order to fit in, to stay safe, to try to make sense of the world, we start to deny our own real experience. The alternative is to question the whole of society, and that feels BIG and scary and out of control, if society is wrong, if our parents are wrong, if the messages we are told are wrong, then suddenly our environment feels completely unstable. And that, especially as children, is too much. So we deny ourselves instead.
WE are the problem. We need to stay quiet, stay small, self-sacrifice, give, give and give. Stop complaining. Deny our own emotional and physical pain. And when we DO ask for help, we are often denied it. So we stop asking. I see you, friend. I see you. Doing your best to survive.
But what if I tell you that there is a better way? What if I tell you that if you start giving yourself permission to feel and to need whatever you truly feel and need, and to trust your body, your gut, your intuition, you can get a grounded, unshakeable sense of self? It.Is.Possible. The trade off is that you have to start seeing how broken a lot of the world is, and a lot of our social systems and contracts are. Which can be scary. But trust me when I say it is much better to believe that social norms & expectations are the problem, not you.
Because then no matter how bad it gets out there, you always have a home in yourself, somewhere safe, somewhere you will be believed and heard, somewhere you can go to find energy and strength and fight back against people who hurt you, who refuse to believe you. An analogy for you… Imagine you are taking care of a child. Maybe you have children of your own to draw to mind, maybe you can picture one. And imagine that child goes out into the world, gets hurt, and shares that pain with people. And those people don’t believe the child. They tell the child to be quiet, to stop complaining, to stop exaggerating. Now the child comes home to you.
You have two choices. One, you choose to accept the world as right. You tell the child that they need to be quiet, stop complaining, stop exaggerating. Two, you choose to accept the child as right. You tell them that they are allowed to feel how they feel, that you believe their pain, that it’s ok to need help. You validate them. The first one will create a child who hides and is full of shame. The second will create a child who is safe in their own skin, who has self-belief, who fights for their needs to be met.
This applies to you too. How you choose to treat yourself when you have been hurt or challenged or undermined or disrespected out in the world, for being who you are, is everything.
If you tell yourself you are allowed to feel how you feel, you believe your own pain, that it’s ok to need and to ask for help. That you are enough. That you are human. That it’s OK to be exactly as emotional, sensitive, confused, joyful, despairing, silly, playful, angry, lost, in pain, in pleasure as you really are. Then you are freeing yourself from chains you didn’t agree to be placed on you.
You are choosing a life of authenticity, and of being able to express yourself. To validate yourself more and need other people’s validation less. To stop running around pleasing others and choose to please yourself. To be able to love people and give to people from a cup that is full of love, resources, space, time and rest that you have given yourself.
It takes time to get there. But you can do it in small steps. The first step is to choose it, to decide you want to start loving yourself, believing yourself, without conditions. To know this may have consequences, costs, and it may mean your life and the people in it change. But that it is worth it, to be able to live with permission to be who you are.
And to have genuine joy, lightness, play, fulfilment. The first step is to choose it. And the second step is to start gently to replace some of the negative self-talk with more positive language.
You deserve the best. And Halcyon Therapy Group is here to help. Book your complimentary consultation today and start living the life you always dreamed of.
Samantha is a leadership coach who helps passionate, mission-driven leaders get out of perpetual burnout and make more of a meaningful impact. She has over a decade’s experience supporting people & organisations to grow into their potential, especially in the non-profit and education sectors. She is dedicated to helping make the world better by challenging injustice in all its forms, and believes the wellbeing of changemakers needs to come first. You can learn more about Samantha at http://www.samantha-hawkins.com/