I’ve had the opportunity to work with a lot of women in my private practice over the years. I’m worked with them individually, in couple’s therapy, family therapy, and currently in a women’s group. They come to me as Mothers, daughters, girlfriends, wives, etc. Some of the women who come to see me for counseling are flourishing in most of the areas in their lives, and they merely want my guidance in helping them to tweak a few things so that they can improve the quality of their lives that much more. Other women who come to see me, however, are barely holding on, leading lives of quiet desperation. Still others feel as though they are drowning in their lives, and they feel their will to keep on keeping on wilting under the weight of work, family, and relationship pressures.
The issues that some women face often mirror the very kinds of issues that some men face. Some women, however, struggle with female issues that are gender-specific and contrast sharply with those issues that generally affect men. For example, some women who have come in to see me have always wanted to be a Mother, and yet they are struggling with fertility issues. Other women have actually been able to give birth to a child, and yet they are subsequently experiencing post-partum depression. Some women who have come in to see me are experiencing menopause or other age-related hormonal imbalances that are affecting their moods and their outlook on life. Still, other women who come in to see me struggle with body-image issues, and these issues are often manifested in the form of eating disorders such as anorexia, bulimia, etc.
Women, like men, are also prone to having low self-esteem, anxiety, and depression. Whereas men often cope with their depression by raging, abusing alcohol and drugs, and acting out, women tend to turn their feelings inwards. In turn, they are prone to experiencing feelings of sadness, guilt, shame, helplessness, and powerlessness. Rather than allow themselves an opportunity to feel justifiable anger at someone who has hurt them, women tend to blame themselves for the problems that present themselves in their relationships. When women direct their anger inwards, they begin to hate themselves, and they begin to question their lovability and worth.
I believe that one of the reasons that women tend to direct their anger inwards is because women are often taught from an early age to be “good girls. Good girls have been taught that if they don’t have something nice to say to someone, then they shouldn’t say anything at all. Good girls have also been taught to deny and repress their anger, for they’ve been told that their anger is ugly, irrational, and un-feminine. Moreover, they’ve been taught to deny and repress their sexuality, their intelligence, their humor, their power, and ultimately, their authentic selves. Through socialization, they’ve come to believe that good girls diminish themselves and their accomplishments. They are to make themselves invisible, and they are to dutifully step aside in support of the strong men in their lives. If they stand behind life’s curtains as their man takes center stage, they can revel in the antiquated notion that “behind every successful man is a good woman.”
Unfortunately, when women give away the stage to men, and when they give away their authentic voice to accommodate everyone else in their lives, they are often left feeling disconnected from who they really are. Their true self has fragmented into a thousand separate pieces, and in turn they feel broken and/or empty. The foundation of who they really are has crumbled beneath their feet. In turn, they feel ungrounded, stuck, and they lack self-belief. They have become strangers to themselves, and subsequently they struggle to trust themselves as well as others.
With the aforementioned in mind, I make every effort in my work with women to help them re-discover who they truly are. They are encouraged, for example, to take off their “good girl” masks, to experience their own anger, and to stand up for themselves. They are also encouraged to love their own bodies, to value their own minds, and to trust their own judgment. When they do so, they begin to reclaim the pieces of their authentic selves that they gave away a long time ago. In turn, they come to feel safe, seen, and heard in the world. They feel whole and empowered, and they can finally love and accept themselves fully and unconditionally as they truly are.
You may find more information about this topic today or in the near future on the self-help articles page.