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how to feel strong as a woman

(17 Posts)
olguis Sun 07-Dec-14 19:48:32

Hi all,

I am not sure this is the right section of the forum but it seem to get some traction, so will post here.

I have quite an abstract question and plea for resources - books, websites, anything. The thing is I am fed up of feeling weak and powerless. I feel like a small child, full of fear.

There are objective reasons for it - I am alone in a foreign country with a child, working full time and being his only carer, etc. Of course, it is very hard, also not having family around, not having your home - renting, being most often very tired (demanding work), and having to do everything by myself.

But: I have a very good job, I am successful in my career and my son is a joy (he also 10, so much easier than before). To people outside I appear as a very strong person.

And this is what I want to feel inside. But instead, I am doing all this, like a little frog pedalling doggy style, to survive; often I feel I am just surviving. I also think my parents and society trained me to feel weak and powerless as a woman. Despite the fact that they always supported me in studies, etc, there were things that were always marked as too difficult for a girl: to walk 20 km as a 12 year old, etc. My mother especially felt very weak when my dad left on a rare business trip, she would often get ill, things will break in the house and we'll be waiting for him. I often panic when something goes wrong in the house - I wish I could feel more hands on! But obviously there are many layers in this, more than just handywork.

I have divorced my husband, and now I feel like an orphan. I really want to stop feeling this. How do I do this?

NorthLDNgal Sun 07-Dec-14 19:58:47

Do you have any time in your day to go to a yoga class or something like that? I've had a rough time lately and am finding the yoga helps me a lot - just to focus your mind and body away from stressful thoughts and feelings. Maybe you could get someone to look after your DS one or two nights a week so you can have some time to yourself although I understand that can be hard with a busy job.

Fingeronthebutton Sun 07-Dec-14 20:18:03

You say you are living in a foreign country. Do you mean that you are in the uk ? Or do you mean that you are in another country. Might help if we knew which. I'm assuming your in this country, yes?

HumblePieMonster Sun 07-Dec-14 20:34:20

I feel like a small child, full of fear
Might be 'anxiety', which is an illness and even recognised as a disability, according to my former employer. See your GP.

Confidence and strength come from an accumulation of small successes. Make a list of all the things you've achieved - the divorce is one. Local authorities provide classes in skills relating to fixing things in the house - look online or ask at your local library for lifelong learning prospectus.

I'm not saying there is a miracle cure. But on good days scared people can feel they are making progress.

MeganBacon Sun 07-Dec-14 22:07:44

I think you should be massively proud of yourself for raising a child alone and having a career, in a foreign country too. I think you need to take the time to congratulate yourself on this much more. Perhaps if you have carry so much responsibility yourself, you have become accustomed to worrying about things far in advance so you can mitigate "disasters" in good time? This is good on one hand, but on the other hand teaches you to focus on the negative. Sorry this isn't more helpful but I think your lifestyle (mine was similar, and I grew into a worrier) may be undermining your self-worth because clearly you are coping wonderfully with the many demands of life, and you need to believe that in your heart as well as just seeing that it's true but not actually feeling it.

CogitOIOIO Sun 07-Dec-14 22:29:14

Agree 100% about taking a critical step back occasionally & counting your achievements. Very easy to get bogged down in day to day stuff and believe - wrongly - that everyone can do what you do and that it's therefore nothing special.

If there is a difference between men and women IME (controversial sweeping generalisation alert....) it's that men oversell themselves and exaggerate their achievements to themselves and others, whereas women tend to do the opposite. If society has contributed to this I think it's in the persistent idea that women should be 'modest'.

trackrBird Mon 08-Dec-14 00:16:31

You're very self-reliant, and you're seeking resources to become even more self-reliant. This is all good.

But I'd also like to suggest trying to build more friendship and support into your life.

You speak of having to do everything by yourself. This can sap your strength sometimes, IMO. So can you brainstorm some ideas for connecting with other adults, or reaching out for help?

A few thoughts to start with: how about a work mentor or life coach, to help you build confidence. A therapist if you need more intense work. Going to a yoga class, as suggested upthread. Exchanging babysitting favours or play dates with other parents. Finding a handy person, or ask a friend to recommend one.

In other words, connecting with others to enjoy their company, and to pool resources with others so that you feel a) that you have some backup, however small, and b) you have some feedback from others, which will help build your self confidence.

olguis Mon 08-Dec-14 16:35:32

Thank you all a lot! The foreign country is the UK for me, I am not British. Al thoughts are very valuable.

I started yoga in August, and it is wonderful. I am now trying to do a little every day, it helps a lot. And I think I do appreciate my achievements, I can really see what I've done.

And yes, absolutely, I think things through far ahead, which is just the way I think, evaluating better ways and always planning. Yes, agree, it can raise anxiety and sometimes paralyse because some situations are not solvable because they're in the future and you're not the only one in them (and you can't act for other people).

How do you recognise clinical anxiety? I don't have panic attacks or insomnia or depression. I am healthy. And therapy is expensive - always a choice on what to spend on, some educational things for DS or talking to a therapist about your parents :0 smile

A good idea about local courses - haven't thought about that! Maybe also someone could recommend a book? Some feminist reading?

I think I try to build networks and I do have some support - it's just when you're working a lot it's not very easy to pay back and I can't keep asking people without offering back. Then, when you take a mother working full time and a mother working part time, it's hard for the former to pay pack to the latter... I try doing it though.

Thank you for all the support! I walked away when my ex became abusive and this is an achievement in itself, but I also realise how I used to choose men which were "more important than me" and then relied oon this perceived superiority to feel protected (by something better, stronger). I don't want to be in such a relationship therefore I also need to learn not to rely on "something better or stronger..."

Ladyfoxglove Mon 08-Dec-14 16:56:00

Learn from and take advice from other powerful women. Read books by women you admire. Follow other strong women on Twitter for example. See how they live their lives, day to day.

Exercise. It's often forgotten that one of the main benefits of a strong body is the resulting strong mind that accompanies the physical changes. If you already run, add weights to your workout or some kind of body combat.

Quite often, it's only fear of the unknown which is holding you back and making you afraid.

Finally, don't be afraid to ask for help. Whereabouts are you OP?

dirtybadger Mon 08-Dec-14 16:56:22

I definitely recommend some feminist reading. I am not sure what to suggest- go over to the feminist section and ask? I read a lot but mostly around the sciences (i.e. Feminist approaches in science- social construction of sex, gender and sexuality). Try "Delusions of Gender" for a pretty easy read re the social construction of gender.

I recently read the Vagina Monologues and found it surprisingly empowering. I didn't really need the book to tell me vagina rocked but I strangely got a lot from reading about other women's hardship (sexual assault, etc). It made me upset and angry. But then the anger left me (ish) and I was left with "fuck you, this is shit, I'm gonna stop apologising for being a woman". You can read it in a day or two easy.

If you're interested in any other books along the lines of what I said (the bit in the brackets) pm me and I can send you a lengthy list! smile

plumduffer Mon 08-Dec-14 19:01:03

This self-administered questionnaire might help you decide if what you are feeling may potentially be clinical anxiety (and/or you may wish to discuss these issues further with your GP):

www.patient.co.uk/doctor/generalised-anxiety-disorder-assessment-gad-7

I wonder if you might have a touch of imposter syndrome? - because even if you don't feel it, you obviously have a great deal of strength and competence.

Finally - and I saw it mentioned on here over the weekend, in another thread - there is a great book called "Reinventing Your Life", by Jeffrey E. Young. How you described your childhood experiences reminded me very much of some of the cases in this book.

Hth, there is a lot of good advice here already, I think.

olguis Mon 08-Dec-14 21:44:21

This is helpful! I've pm-ed you dirtybadger

plumduffer - ordered the book - I only have mild anxiety according to this tool! Good in itself!

I enjoyed reading Nancy McWilliams Psychoanalytic Diagnosis: Understanding Personality Structure in the Clinical Process - it is actually for psychoanalysts but was really interesting and helped me understand the behaviour of myself and my own much more in terms of the type of personality! I would actually enjoy something quite heavy. Thank you all.

olguis Mon 08-Dec-14 21:50:58

I meant the behaviour of my ex and my own! I made it sound like I have a split personality disorder now!

Am looking into impostor syndrome. Maybe I have a mild version of that. Though I do know I am doing well, it is just that I am fearful about financial stability, my son's future given he has support of only one person, my parents getting old in another country, etc etc. Since the house was burglared, I am often sensitive to being the only adult in the house it is so easy to break in. I am actually afraid of the future, I guess. I am afraid I won't manage, that I'll get ill, that I won't be able to give DS what I'd like to. This is all trivial, isn't it? I guess all people with children and a mortgage worry about these things...

Yankeepoodle Mon 08-Dec-14 22:19:26

Poor you. Fear is the most corrosive and stifling of all our emotions. It holds us prisoner like none of the others. Anger waxes and wanes but fear just sits on your shoulder sucking all the joy out of life.

If you're interested in self-understanding, I'd suggest Beyond Fear by Dorothy Rowe. She's a key figure in the anti-psychiatry movement and a very, very wise woman.

Good luck OP; you are already a brave and capable woman who just needs a little help to see it.

CheddarGorgeous Mon 08-Dec-14 22:22:29

I do weight lifting grin I can deadlift 1.5 times my body weight. Independent living requires physical strength so I started going to strength and conditioning classes.

CheddarGorgeous Mon 08-Dec-14 22:26:37

Also, I have a dog. Much happier in the house with him about.

olguis Tue 09-Dec-14 09:50:43

yankeepoodle thanks, anti-phychiatry is interesting, and Rowe looks very good. I agree with her already judging by what wikipedia says! You seem to have very good references - any other you could give me?

cheddargorgeous I was thinking along the same lines! I was thinking of maybe going to krav maga or some other self-defence classes - I guess if you are more self-assured physically, it will translate into your mental structures too?!
Even having stronger arms and shoulders (my weakest parts) should give some more stability...

A dog is more difficult as I do go back to my home country from time to time, but I'd love a dog

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