Mind Power – Self-Love
Hands up to all the women who feel like they need to save everyone! Newsflash: Superheroes only exist in movies. Instead of trying to fix the world’s problems, let’s help you prioritise yourself for a change
Often on the quest to being great mothers, supportive partners and having thriving careers, many women find themselves unable to say no to all the things that need their attention. This often leads to burnout, exhaustion and feeling uninspired. In fact, a 2015 study released by Pharma Dynamics, a company that specialises in the treatment of mental health, found that South African women were on the brink of a breakdown. The research, which looked at 900 working women between the ages of 25 to 55, found that 38% of working moms felt they were stretched beyond breaking point.
Women hold up half the sky. Often however, it seems that women are doing a lot more than their share. Societal conditioning and cultural expectations are part of the reason.
“Women are conditioned to be people-pleasers. From the time we are small girls, women are socialised to fit in. We have been conditioned to live like that for years,” says Thandi Vellem a neuro-linguistic programming certified life coach.
The notion has been further
popularised by thought leaders such as writer and television mogul Shonda Rhimes in her renowned book, The Year of Yes and minister Greg Cootsona’s literary offering, Say Yes to No. While it might be life changing to open yourself up to new experiences by agreeing to try new things, being overly agreeable and saying yes to everything can have its downside.
Psychologist Warren Thompson explains that weak boundaries can lead to other people’s needs coming before your own, which “can lead to feelings of losing control over your life. We only have so much energy to give so it should be used wisely and on things that are important to us”. A woman stating her boundaries and taking charge in work or other situations may be labelled as controlling; where a man in the same position would be said to be showing leadership, Thompson explains.
Having weak boundaries can also make you vulnerable to being illtreated, open to abuse and being violated. Vellem says: “This is because you haven’t said to people, ‘hey this is how far you can go’, or ‘this is how you speak to me’.” It also means that you are not living up to your fullest potential because you’re constantly trying to please others, Vellem adds.
TAKING ON A LOT
Thompson says the idea that women need to be docile leads to them secondguessing choices and boundaries they place in their lives; not because of selfdoubt but rather the doubt caused from others’ perceptions and reactions.
It’s this intense desire to please that often leads women carrying an overwhelming burden in their households, friendship groups and even at work. While boundaries are necessary in ensuring that our own needs are met, and we are happy and healthy enough to meet the needs of others in our lives, women tend to adapt and reduce their own needs to ensure everyone around them is happy, Thompson says. A study done by the Human Sciences Research Council to determine how much women are taking on, found that women are doing a lot more than
their male counterparts. The study, titled Shouldering The Burden: Gender attitudes towards balancing work
and family, found that South African women carry a dual burden of working fulltime and taking care of the home.
At least 55% of all employed women always or usually cared for sick family members compared with 11% of employed men. Furthermore, employed South African women with a partner spent on average six more hours a week on household work than their male counterparts.
A more disheartening finding by the researchers in the study is the fact that “Eight out of every 10 employed South African women with a partner reported they either always or usually prepared the household meals, compared to less than one in 10 employed men.” Given these statistics, it’s not surprising that women are fatigued and overwhelmed.
HOW TO CULTIVATE STRONG BOUNDARIES
Instead of feeling angry that people are trampling all over you — from friends to your boss — setting limits on how you want to be treated can help you overcome that frustration. By setting strong boundaries, you’ll be able to articulate your worth and dictate how you expect to be treated by people. “Boundaries help us prioritise what is important by protecting these things in our life. Should we have no boundaries, there is no way to ensure what we want happens, and so one can never move forward and achieve in life as everyone else comes first,” Thompson continues. Here are tips on how to do that:
1. Let go of guilt. Setting boundaries, particularly with family members, can be challenging because we feel as though we owe them our loyalty. Vellem says the first way to do this with friends and loved ones, is going back to them and apologising to them for letting them feel as though they can take advantage of you. Then explain to them, in a calm manner, what it is you can give to them and how.
“It does not have to be acrimonious,” she says.
2. Get to know yourself. Boundarysetting runs parallel with knowing yourself, and accepting who you are, Vellem says. She adds that women dilly-dally around setting boundaries because they don’t know enough about themselves.
She suggests embarking on a selfdiscovery journey – read books, attend seminars, or see a life coach.
3. Setting boundaries in the family. Time is a great one that family uses up and imposes themselves on. It is important for you to let go of the guilt and the feeling that you owe them. Set time aside for connecting with them, as it is important, but allocate that where it fits in your calendar each month, Thompson suggests.
4. Setting boundaries in a relationship. Romcoms make us believe that we must give everything to our romantic relationships, but this leads to exhaustion.
Thompson says communication is key. If something is always making you upset, it is important to discuss in a healthy way.