They will learn how to say no
They will learn to take time for themselves
They will recognize the signs of taking on too much
Women are traditionally known for their nurturing ability “the mother complex.” Of course not all women will fall into this category. However, many psychologists agree that women are hard-wired into being nurturers, they bear children and they also protect and care for them. Children are demanding, husbands are demanding, and women step up to the challenge.
Nevertheless, there comes a point that women get tired and burnout. They not only provide for their families; they extend their help to the community at large, as soccer moms, brownie leaders, charity organizers and the list goes on.
Women are socialized as young girls to please and that means that as adults they often put their needs behind those of everyone else. Little girls are taught to be good girls. The psychological impact remains as the girls grew up. Women often lack the ability to say “no.”
The women’s liberation movement of the 1960s and 1970s did a lot to change the face of womanhood from housewife and mother to working woman and superwoman. Though the movement did a lot to enhance women’s self esteem and show them they could be a lot more independent, it also led women to take on more and more responsibility. Some women took on more responsibility than they could handle and still were incapable of saying no.
What the women’s liberation movement did do for us was to get women to respect their bodies to make choices about whom they would have sexual relationships with and they also were instrumental in getting important laws enacted against rape and marital spousal abuse.
The Cultural Revolution however, did not teach women to say no to the allocation of our free time. They did not necessarily teach us to make time for ourselves to do just what we want to do, when we want to do it. Women took on more and more responsibility with less and less time for themselves. In fact, many of the leaders campaigned and lectured and work themselves to the bone without taking a break for themselves.
Note: this is a general statement and does not apply to all women, especially the younger generation who live in very different times with different social norms. However, it does affect women of the baby boomer generation more deeply. Boys and men have been socialized differently and therefore have more ease with the ability to say no.
Women have difficulty because of their nurturing nature and they often feel guilty when they do have to say no. Somehow to be a good girl translated into you had to be serving other people’s needs, and to say no meant you were bad. Psychiatrist, Nanette Gartrell, along with many personality theory psychologists maintain that a woman should never be ashamed at her inability to say no, but should learn ways to say no, when saying yes is overwhelming her and adding unneeded stress to her life.
Women show different ways of expressing their inability to say no.
Some mothers equate saying no to their children as being a bad mother even when the child is spoiled rotten, taking a tantrum, mouthing off, acting out, or wanting something that is just not good or healthy for them; still the mothers have trouble disciplining at saying no.
Some women have problems saying no to their friends. Lisa was a woman who could not say a to her friends. Tony would borrow money from her and never pay it back. Many times Lisa could not afford to lend him the money, but she did anyhow.
Noreen was also his friend and he would wake her up in the middle of the night to come and drive him home from a club because he was too drunk to drive home on his own. Noreen, who had to get up early in the morning for work, would get out of bed to do this for him even when she really didn’t want to.
Peggy was a seasoned volunteer who spent so much time away from home that she was neglecting her own family. Her husband threatened to divorce her and take the kids with him before she finally realized that she was hardly ever home. It wasn’t that Peggy didn’t love her husband or kids, it was just that everyday she was needed to do something or other for one of her many charities and other volunteer work that she simply lost focus in the things that meant most to her. Of course when they asked for her services, she just couldn’t say no.
Often time when women do what they love to do and that is to help people, they do lose focus and they do not realize the amount of time spent on serving others and not serving their own needs.
Women continue to do these things because they are good little girls and they do what they are told, they do what people ask of them and they neglect their own mental and physical health in the process.
How to know when you are doing too much
If you are a person who has trouble saying no, watch out for these signs and if you experience at least two or three of them, you will need to slow down and take a few moments for yourself. You also need to sometimes say no. Here are some warning signs:
You are always feeling tired
You are always stressed
You never seem to have a moment’s rest
You find yourself going out, but wishing you had the evening to yourself to take a hot bath, watch TV or just have a good time with your family
Your house is a disaster
When you are at home you don’t even want to get out of bed
You never seem to have the time to do the things you want like gardening, painting, reading a good book, or even taking the dog out for a walk.
You feel guilty when somebody asks something from you and deep down inside you know your really don’t want to do it
You don’t want to do something for somebody, but you do it anyhow
You feel like a failure when you can’t do everything that people ask you to do for them
You feeling like there is no you, you feel as if you are losing yourself or that you are an empty vessel just serving the needs of others
You feel like the world would suddenly cease to exist if you were not there to fix things and set them right
You feel if you didn’t do these things for others nobody would love you, recognize you or respect you
You feel like nobody really cares about your needs, they only care about their own.
These are telltale signs that you are burning out and you need to cut back on your activities. If no one else will consider your needs you need to consider them yourself. You need to take charge of your life and do the things you want to do and not what others demand of you
It does not mean you have to stop everything as helping others is a very important part of who your are. However, balance is a very important part of being healthy. In order to help others you have to first help yourself.
If you are wondering how to stop automatically saying yes to everything asked of you. Before you give any answer, ask for some time to think about it first, and then consider these points
How much work it will be for you?
Does your schedule permit it?
Does it interfere with family or other obligations? Is this is something you actually want to do?
If all these things are considered and you still want to do it then you can say yes
Another approach to breaking the habit of always saying yes would be to offer a suggestion of how this person or organization can find another solution such as asking another person to help them out. Sometimes family, friends, and organizations ask the same person over and over for help without even looking at the possibility that someone else may do the job or favor at hand.
Your life will not go down the toilet if you suddenly help out less often. The earth will not open and you suddenly are sent right to well you know where. Your family and friends will still love you. The volunteer associations will begin to accept your boundaries and or limitations and they will respect you for it and you will begin to feel better are yourself.