Talking Bad

Sara Herstich, LCSW in her Huffington Post article, When We Tear One Woman Down, We Tear All Women Down, argues that it’s time to break that “mean girl” stereotype and that instead, women need to support and hold each other up. She says, “When we support and stand up for one another, we break the mold and give ourselves the space to lean into deeper social issues.” This got me thinking about whether or not I support other women.

I sometimes gossip about other women but it usually makes me feel uncomfortable. Putting others down to pull myself up is something I try to avoid. Often, the urge to put others down comes from our insecurities and anxieties.

Gossip Girls

Gossip can create stress

My aversion to talking badly about others began way back in junior high.  I had two friends who would always gossip about the one who wasn’t there. I was a kid who wasn’t sure where she into the world. So, when my friends drew me in with their confidences I felt like I was really a part of something. They were sharing secrets with me! I would then join in and gossip about the friend who was absent.

One day I was putting books into my book bag; I was crouched down and around the corner at the top of a flight of stairs. My two friends were coming up the stairs and they were talking about me. They were complaining that I had been talking about another girl who was new to the school. I felt like I’d been punched in the stomach twice. My friends were gossiping about me. They thought I wasn’t being fair to the new girl. They said I talked badly about her and then turned around and was nice to her face. They thought I was being a “mean girl.” I remember standing up and looking at them as they walked up the steps. They were surprised I was there and stopped talking immediately. We never talked about what they’d said but it stuck with me. I felt bad that I’d treated someone so carelessly. After that incident I remained friends with them through junior high, but I worked hard to stop participating in the gossip.

Let’s Change It Up

Support each other

I haven’t always held my ground about bad-mouthing other women and it’s not something I’m proud of. I find that I can still get sucked into talking about other women, and it always leaves me with a bad taste in my mouth. In this new year, I’ve made the intention to be more real, to be more vocal about my needs and to truly show up in my life. By letting go of the habit of putting others down I’ll be supporting other women and I’ll be showing up for myself.

Let’s make an intention; that instead of feeding off of our own insecurities, we hold each other up. Let’s celebrate community. Let's be kind. Let’s not get dragged into old patterns of behavior. Let’s create new ways to be in the world by supporting each other and looking for our commonalities instead of our differences.

Elizabeth Cush, MA, LGPC is a therapist and the owner of Progression Counseling in Annapolis, Md. She helps busy, overwhelmed men and women manage their anxiety and stress so they can live their lives with more ease, contentment and purpose.

Photos courtesy of Ben White and Cristian Newman or Unsplash.com.

Why Do Women Struggle With Self-Care?

 Part 2 in a Series: Over-Stressed and Overwhelmed —We're Not Taking Care Of Ourselves

Women don't take time for self-care

Recently, two different female clients told me that they couldn’t fit self-care into their schedule. I think everyone struggles with making self-care a priority, but I also believe that many women make caring for others a priority.  Doing so makes them prime targets for burn-out, added stress, anxiety and feeling overwhelmed. Perhaps it’s because I am a woman, or because I talk to female friends about this more frequently than I do with male friends, but it seems to me that women in particular struggle more than men when making self-care a priority.  For me, when life is crazy, self-care is the first thing that drops from my to-do list.

Is it genetics? Societal factors? Where did we learn that we should care for others before we care for ourselves? In my last post, several colleagues offered their thoughts on the importance of self-care. I asked some of them, and some others, about why women seem to struggle more with self-care.

Experts Offer Perspectives

Julie Blamphin, a registered yoga teacher, and owner of Stretch Your Spirit in Annapolis, MD, says, “We live in a culture that sometimes tells us that if we put Self before all others, it means that we’re narcissistic, egocentric, or downright selfish. So many of us women shy away from shining our light fully bright. We instead focus that light upon caring for others.”

When we put the focus on others instead of ourselves we can lose track of who we are, what our priorities are, and can lead us to feel unfulfilled, or living our life for others. Blamphin says that when we neglect our needs, our energy becomes imbalanced. This imbalance shows up in our life as:

  • Insomnia
  • Anger
  • Illness
  • Addiction
  • Pain
  • Resentment
  • A general sense of grumpiness

Agnes Wainman, Ph.D., C. Psych., of London Psychological Services in London, ON, agrees that our culture’s expectations and perceptions can play a role in women’s priorities. She says, “Women are often expected to take care of others and to put their own needs below others. Self-care is often seen as being selfish or indulgent. We often think of self-care as extravagant — like weekends at the spa. We may feel guilty for taking time for ourselves.”

Neglect of emotional needs can lead to anxiety

Laura Reagan, LCSW-C , a Severna Park, MD therapist, and creator/host of the Therapy Chat podcast, agrees that our culture plays a big role in our quest to put others’ needs before our own, but believes that other factors also impact how we care for ourselves. “If we grew up receiving praise for being quiet, nice, responsible and helping around the house, we associate those behaviors with being ‘a good girl.’ If no one attended to our emotional needs we learned to ignore them as well,” she says. “The problem is, if our own emotional needs were neglected by our caregivers in childhood and we continue to ignore our own emotional and physical needs in adulthood by neglecting our own self care, we are re-enacting the neglect we experienced in childhood. This eventually catches up with us, either with our bodies shutting down or having an emotional breakdown — what many people call a ‘midlife crisis’. 

We certainly want to avoid the dissatisfaction, the physical symptoms and the behaviors that accompany self-neglect.  

So how can we make self-care a part of our daily life, without adding to our stress, or our to-do list?

My next post will offer five tips for making self-care easier. In the meantime, if you’d like help reducing stress and making self-care a greater priority in your life, call me for a free 15-minute consultation at 410-340-8469!

Elizabeth Cush, MA, LGPC is an Annapolis counselor who works to help people manage their stress and anxiety. She owns and operates Progression Counseling in Annapolis, MD.

Photos by Benjamin Child and Alex Hockett for Unsplash.com