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.
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.