“The state of a woman’s health is highly influenced by the culture in which she lives, her position within it, her experiences, and her day-to-day thoughts, beliefs and behaviour.” ~ Dr Christiane Northrup, Women’s Bodies, Women’s Wisdom
Ask most women at some point in their life if they recognise these three things and she’ll almost certainly say this is (or was) part of her history:
1) That she strives to keep people happy;
2) That if she doesn’t achieve number 1) she feels like she’s failed;
3) That when she “fails”, she feels guilty and doubles her efforts to achieve number 1).
This is a pattern for most women and in her book “A Woman in her Own Right“, Anne Dickson beautifully describes these feelings of guilt as “The Compassion Trap”.
As women, many of us grow up believing that we have to be all things to all people. We find it hard to say no, difficult to assert our rights to be heard and, more worryingly, in many cases feel we don’t actually have the right.
Times are changing. Women are rising and beginning to wake up to the fact that they can ask for what they want. But it’s a scary time, and it’s often “easy” to stick with what we know, than elicit change. (In fact, the brain is hard-wired to avoid change so that we stay safe. I mean, better the devil you know, right?) And that’s what can keep us trapped in unhealthy coping strategies.
According to the Good Childhood Report 2016, girls are growing more unhappy than boys every year, and some research suggests that women are more likely to suffer with depression, eating disorders, high blood pressure and alcoholism than men. (That’s not to say these things aren’t important in our fellow-kind, but this article focuses on women’s wellness).
As a Women’s Health Practitioner and Advocate, I believe in the potential of every woman to become what she truly wants to be. This includes discovering what she wants (for many of us, we don’t actually know because we’ve been going with the flow to keep other people happy for so long) and then finding her voice. It also includes cherishing the sacred vessel that she lives in – her body – and living well, both physically and mentally. It means recognising that we can embrace our innate feminine qualities like compassion, grace and empathy, without feeling like we have to “do it like a dude” to get results. And, being honest? We all want to be less stressed and more productive, so that the time we spend doing what we enjoy, or with the people we love, actually means something (rather than being exhausted by it).
1) Notice patterns of behaviour, what “traps” you’ve fallen in to, and how many of these are influenced by the teachings of your ancestors. Do you stay quiet when you need to be heard, because in your family “that’s what women do”? I remember one lady telling me that when her brother and father came back from the pub on a Sunday afternoon her mother would tell them to put their feet up, whilst she (as a young girl) and her mother would get on with preparing their Sunday meal. This was despite the women having spent the morning cleaning the house and, during the week, dealing with a number of daily chores. They hadn’t been working any less hard than the men, but the suggestion was that the men’s work was more important.
2) Consider a role model. Recognising a female to look up to can help you define what it is about that person you like and decide what it is you want and where you want to be. Growing up I was a huge fan of Princess Diana, not because of her fashion sense, but because of her commitment to charity work. Today, I probably do as much voluntary work as I do paid (if not, more).
3) Ask for help. If you’re starting to identify that your ways of being have been defined by other people, reach out to someone who can understand and support you through this period of change. Read books by women for women, join a Women’s Circle, and spend time in the company of women who empower each other. You could also look into Rise, my Assertiveness Programme for Women.
In my experience, most women know they have more to do in the world – a purpose – but they try to do it whilst putting everyone else first, and find they fall short of their goal. Then one day, they wake up and realise their own needs haven’t being met for a very long time. It’s no wonder, then, that their health suffers.
Remember, self-care isn’t selfish, it’s necessary. Ask me about Serenity: a monthly evening gathering for women dedicated to rest and relaxation, hidden in the heart of Milton Keynes or subscribe to Women’s Wisdom, weekly positive messages for empathic, awakening women, to motivate and inspire, direct to your inbox.
“Your life purpose is to bring your unique light in to the world.” ~ Jamie McConochie
Copyright Delphi Ellis 2017
Delphi is a Women’s Health Practitioner, Qualified Therapist and Trainer based in the UK. She won’t diagnose (or label) you, or discuss medication (because that’s what your doctor is for) but she can help you rise, and shine. Ask for details.