I can’t count the number of conversations I have had in the past few weeks with women who are stuck in situations in which they feel frustrated, unfulfilled, disappointed, unappreciated, disrespected, confused, unhappy, etc., because they are afraid to say NO.
It has looked something like this:
The woman with a PhD who lives with a neglectful partner and is having an affair with another emotionally unavailable man, but is afraid to leave both because she feels guilty.
The woman running her own successful business who is disrespected by an employee she is afraid to fire.
The woman who is overwhelmed by the job she doesn’t like, but stays because it impresses her dad.
The woman who says yes to her depressed, unemployed 50-year old brother even though he drains her energy and brings her down.
The woman who constantly reaches out to her emotionally abusive alcoholic sister and tries to help her despite no appreciation and frequent criticism.
The woman who lives with the husband addicted to computer games who never lifts a finger to help her.
I honestly could go on and on.
These woman are loving people. They are gentle, kind, sensitive, intuitive, and empathic. They have been trained well by a society and culture that programs women to put others needs first—often at their own expense.
As a result, they are draining their life force, drowning in overwhelm and wondering why they feel so bad when they are trying to be so good. They are often tearful, fatigued, mildly depressed and chronically anxious.
This is subconscious cultural and familial programming that runs so deep it almost seems like it is in the DNA. When I gently probe into why they are maintaining these self-sacrificing behaviors I often hear, “I don’t know.”
It is as if they feel they have no other choice. Yet, something is telling them their life is not working the way they expected.
Does this go back to the days of the witch hunts, (and before), when powerful women were persecuted and literally put to death? It wouldn’t surprise me since the fear I see in these women seems irrational, almost as if they believe their ultimate survival depends on taking care of others to their own self-detriment.
It can take deep work to undo the subconscious programs that cause us to self-sabotage and deny our own desires and potential.
However, what is the alternative? More depletion, fatigue, insomnia, chronic anxiety, and lost dreams…
What starts to happen when a woman learns to claim her own voice and say NO?
I won’t sugar coat it. Sometimes people get angry and push back. They don’t like the new behavior. They may feel threatened. It often doesn’t serve their needs and they are not going to congratulate you on your new found empowerment.
When you start to say NO, you are often changing the subconscious “contract” that has been running the relationship. This is called growth and healing. It can be scary and feel uncomfortable.
Stick with it.
On the other side of growth and healing lies a life of authenticity and freedom. A life in which you get to know yourself. You get to explore your desires, interests, talents, skills, hobbies and put yourself on the map.
You get to attract loving people into your life who take care of themselves and want to encourage and support you to do the same.
You get to express your feelings and be heard and respected. And, you get to leave the toxic relationship, job, or other life situation if it doesn’t feel good and know that you can take care of yourself with the genuine support of others.
We are living in a time in history in which the truth is coming to the surface like never before. Inauthenticity is being called out and uncovered. This is happening on a global, national and personal level. Hiding simply won’t work anymore. The heat is being turned up. We must grow or—perhaps perish as a culture and as individuals.
What do you need to heal? Where do you need to step up and say NO? How much longer can you avoid the truth before you get sick, depressed and chronically depleted?
Take a step. Say NO. Growth and healing happens one small step at a time…