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Jan
28

Paying the price for being strong

By

So let me come clean from the outset and say that I think women have amazing inner strength. We are the ones who organise the household (yes I know our husbands and partners help but we are the ones who THINK about what needs to be done). We are the ones who sort out all the relationship problems – between our children, between our children and their friends, in our families, maybe even in our husband’s family. We are the ones who contribute at the School Fair, bake cakes for the local charity – oh and by the way we have a paid job which we are doing excellently and would like to be noticed for. So we have built up tremendous inner resources and strength and energy which is good news because we need it!

Now there is something we need to be aware of to make sure we don’t pay the price of being a strong woman.

The first is that because people see you as strong, they see you as coping and might assume you don’t want help. I remember when my daughters were 6 and 3 and I was working hard to set up my business, my mother-in-law was diagnosed with cancer. She and my father-in-law came to live with us for 6 months and she died with us. Although my father-in-law was actually her 24 hour carer, she saw me as the person she would pay attention to. My husband was stressed and also running his business, and I couldn’t explain to my children that she was dying because she never accepted that she was and I couldn’t risk their reaction. Worse – there was I willing to talk to her about dying but I couldn’t because she would only talk about getting better so I had to play it her way (of course). It was an incredibly stressful time. So where were my friends? Where were all the women I had helped when they were stressed? who I had given my time to when they needed support? They were nowhere and I felt incredibly let down.

Much, much later when I spoke to them about this they said things like “but you seemed to be coping so well” and “but we didn’t realise you needed help” and “why didn’t you ask us?”. Now there’s the thing – why DIDN’T I ask for help? It was because I felt I shouldn’t have had to ask. My situation was inherently stressful – surely they could have seen that? And as someone pointed out to me “You know, it was better for people to see you on a kind of pedestal and if YOU hadn’t been able to cope then where would that leave everyone else”.

I learned a very important message – if you don’t tell people you need help then you won’t get it. Of course, the same applies to telling your manager that you want promotion, and telling the family that you want some time to yourself. It’s great to be strong – but it’s a sign of strength to ask for what we need and say how we feel, not a sign of weakness. Don’t pay the price for being strong.

Geraldine

If you want to learn how to maintain inner balance in all that you do, increase your value and visibility at work, and direct your life from a more powerful place, then check out the Reclaim Your Power: Reclaim Your Life audio programme.

http://www.powerfulwoman.net/reclaim.html

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  • Comments

    1. Anastasia Molasioti-Dohms says:

      Hi Geraldine,
      I am fascinated by your thoughts and how greatly you are bringing everything to the point. Your advices are helping me a lot. Referring to the above, I agree, we need to let others know about our needs but I have made the experience that when I sometimes am overloaded trying to cope with everything that a woman normally does and ask for help (for example from my husbund) instead of help I get answers like, “Why do you want to overperform? or “Don’t try to be perfect and make everybody happy”. So, how to deal with such reactions?
      Thanks
      Your fan for ever 🙂
      Anastasia

    2. Geraldine Bown says:

      Hi Aanastasia – great to see you here! There are a couple of issues here. Firstly, regarding household tasks if you are asking for help in doing these then you are admitting that it is YOUR job to do them and you are looking for help. I don’t see household tasks in that way. Have a look at my post on “It’s not your job to run the household – it’s everyone’s job”. So change from asking for help to do YOUR job – to asking EVERYONE to contribute to the household running smoothly – that’s quite different. Share some of the responsibility e.g. if your children don’t put their washing in the laundry basket then it doesn’t get done! That should save time straight away that you normally spend running round collecting the dirty washing!

      Now regarding your husband’s point – I do think there is a case for us, as women, to lower our standards! For instance, if we delegate a job to someone then go in and take over or re-do it after they have done it – then they have no motivation to do it. So we either have to make the standards of the job crystal clear when we delegate it, or accept that not everything that needs doing, needs doing perfectly. We are never going to get perfection from everyone else and it would help if we would stop expecting it from ourselves too.

      You might have to train yourself to get out of the habit of doing all the housework and get used to sitting down with a cup of tea and a book – but it’s really worth it I promise you!

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