Strong Women Are Not That Strong

And I invite you to know why.

Almost a decade ago, in my first year as a Psychology undergraduate student, a colleague of mine said to me, "You are good at picking up the big fights, but you never go for the little ones." It took me a long while to realise what he really wanted to say. Some years later, I had a little glimpse: I was always ready to save others but I would put myself at the very bottom of my "people to save today" list. I could easily move mountains for someone else, but I rarely could engage in something that would lead me to my own happiness. Actually, I would never even think about that detail

In one way or another, I would sabotage myself at the very first opportunity I would get and empower others as quickly as I could. And I kept doing that for all these years. I kept pleasing people, making sure they were happy while disregarding my own emotional needs. That's what my colleague tried to warn me about. He saw that I was not going to question why I was never able to stop putting others first or what was the true meaning behind such action. Right now, I know I was trying to protect me from my own unconscious mind, I didn't want to look deeply into myself and see what was I running from. 

By that time I was not ready to peek not even a little bit of my wounded inner child, the one who still cries at night for comfort and warmth. I have realised that I never paid attention to and I never wanted to even listen to her. She would cry all night long and I simply didn’t know how to deal with her. I didn't know how to make her stop. Thus I locked her inside me, suppressing all her attempts to come out, knowing that she would probably leave everything even messier than it was already.

Later I tried to reach out to her. She refused to see me and she made very clear how mad she was at me. Painfully, I tried to get to know her, feeling though that it was maybe a little too late. I started to talk with her, in order to understand her: how did she feel? What did she need? After many turmoil and years of trying, I reached some answers.

She taught me about how she was hurt and deeply sad for the fact that I kept sabotaging myself on being loved or treated nicely by others. She was mad at me for not accepting love in any form. And she was right. In fact, I never knew how to deal well with receiving love. I never knew what to say when facing a compliment and I had been always telling people to stop saying good things to me. Instead, I would redirect people’s attention to their own good qualities, their own abilities and gifts, because I couldn't stand to be their object of attention and I didn't want to get in touch with my own emotional needs.

I kept showing people a very strong side, with no need to be recognised, loved, or accepted. And still... That little girl inside me wanted exactly all that, desperately. So why did I suppress that little girl's voice? Why did I do that? 

I think women like myself grow up with the false belief that we can't be "too woman" because we don't want to be like our mothers. We grow up with a strong facade so no one can come and say that we are not allowed to be whatever we want. We grow up with an eternal conflict between wanting attention and not wanting to pose as needy. We grow up with the idea that it is better to leave our feelings aside, because usually when we let our feelings run wild we get hurt and squashed. 

We learn that we must not be vulnerable, emotional, or do anything that resembles that little daddy's girl. And probably we don't want to go through the experience of having to prove our worth to our fathers (which through out life are mirrored by our partners) like we probably had to do when we were little. We learnt that we had to compete for a man's attention and the way of doing so was to be exactly the opposite of our mothers. We wanted to win our fathers' love by being their equal, by acting more manly. 

Yes, we may look strong. We are usually the kind of woman who is not scared at all, who is willing to make her point, who is wanting to prove that she can live all by herself and needs no man… Though, that's all bullshit, believe me. Truth is we still have that little girl inside us, who is scared of the idea of not being worthy of a man's love and attention. So instead of acting like our fragile mothers, we decided to hide our true feelings and pretend that we are strong to deal whatever arises in our life by ourselves. 

Nonetheless, women like me are waiting for a shining knight—not to live the perfect Cinderella or Sleeping Beauty story, but to actually learn how to receive a man's love and attention. For that to happen we do need a brave man who is willing to establish a pure connection with us, a soul healing bond in which we can feel comfortable to let that daddy's girl come out, heal and grow up. We do need someone who is not going to tell us that we are too hard to deal with or that we scare them away.

And if you are this woman, please stop pretending. Stop thinking and forcing yourself to believe that you don’t need anyone. There is nothing wrong about needing someone else. In fact, you need that someone else to heal, so stop running away from love—stop running away from your deep wounded self.

Vanessa Dias
Vanessa Dias

I'm a psychologist, currently doing research on mindfulness and prejudice, while living in the Southeast coast of England. My mission is to remind myself and others of our shared humanity - be it through words or images.

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Strong Women Are Not That Strong