For the past 35 years I’ve had a front-row seat to the trials, tribulations, and traumas of women’s lives.
In the 1980s I worked in a shelter for survivors of domestic abuse. When I was in grad school I interned at a non-profit agency that served women from South Asia who were victims of domestic violence and human trafficking.
Until a couple of years ago, my work focused almost exclusively on supporting women who had experienced chronic betrayal. Helping guide them through the shock, disorientation, and trauma phase into healing, reclaiming their power, and thriving.
Women are strong, capable, and resilient.
As difficult as it is to face and heal from abuse and trauma, these unfortunate events are not what hold women back from having what they want, and creating the life they know (or faintly glimpse) they’re meant to live.
As is often the case, the enemy is within.
If I had to choose the ONE thing that holds women back from creating what they want in their lives, it would not be what happened to them in the past, how another person treated them, or the traumas they endured in childhood or in their adult lives.
The reason women don’t have what they want is because they believe that happiness, peace, and a sense of enough-ness can only come to them from another person.
They believe that in order for them to feel loved and worthy, they must be loved and proved worthy through the actions of other people.
And the worst part is that most women don’t know they are living under this belief, which is a lie.
If someone asked you right now if you depend on another person — or people — for your happiness, peace, or sense of enough-ness, you would probably say you don’t.
But your actions may tell another story.
There are three common signs that a woman depends on other people (or a specific person) for her happiness, peace, or worthiness:
You believe that other people’s behavior is a reflection on you.
For example, your spouse has an affair, or leaves you. Or your best friend stops inviting you to lunch or altogether cuts off communication with you.
Your automatic go-to belief is that these events have something to do with you.
- He had an affair because you gained weight or because you weren’t adventuresome enough.
- He left you because you think his new girlfriend is more attractive than you are.
- Your friend doesn’t invite you to lunch anymore because you’re a stay-at-home Mom and your friend just got promoted to a new, high-powered position and is leaving you behind.
In each of these cases you, in essence, take responsibility for the other person’s behavior. You also assume power that you don’t have. You feel worse than you have to because you believe you’re responsible for another person’s choices that brought you pain.
This distorted thinking and misplaced responsibility causes you to search outside yourself for the peace and happiness you seek.
You perceive yourself as defective or not good enough due to the actions of others. In other words, if you could only get them to see you a certain way, then you would not be hurt.
When a person has an affair or leaves a relationship, their decision is completely about them, even if they place the blame on you.
If this is difficult to understand or completely accept, can you imagine telling your sister, best friend, or another woman that the reason her spouse had an affair was because of her appearance, or because the other woman is more attractive?
And even if they say that what they did is your fault, what they’re telling you is that you have the power to cause them to act in a certain way. This reinforces the belief that what you want — happiness, love, worthiness — comes from others.
If it was true that you have this power, then anyone can “cause” another person to do, or not do, exactly what they would like them to do.
If we had this kind of power, we would rule the world!!
The second sign that you depend on other people (or a specific person) for your happiness, peace, or worthiness is when:
You’re pre-occupied (or maybe even obsessed) about getting another person to behave in the way you believe they should.
Maybe your spouse doesn’t take good care of his health, or he has a chronic mental health issue or addiction, and you believe that he needs to eat better, go to the doctor, or get a therapist.
So you try in various ways to get him to do what you think he should do. Sometimes your efforts get results, but they’re often short-lived. Why?
Because you didn’t really have an understanding or agreement with your spouse. He probably went along with the agenda you laid out for him to please you, to avoid conflict, or to simply get you off his back at least for awhile.
The problem with believing you know what another person should do to feel better or to improve their life is that you’ve forgotten that adults have a right to behave exactly how they want to behave — even when it’s unhealthy, neglectful, or harmful!
Of course, it can be loving to express concern and to have standards in a relationship. And it’s perfectly within your rights to make requests for what you need to feel safe in a relationship. But when the intent is rooted in control, the behavior is not loving, nor is it self-care.
We have to ask ourselves why we’re so invested in the other person being different from who they are.
Why are we so uncomfortable with letting go, and allowing (even though they don’t need our permission) those we love most to be who they are?
We may tell ourselves it’s because we’re concerned, or we care. But the intensity of our efforts often reveals there is something deeper happening.
Because of our habit of seeking happiness, peace, and worthiness from other people, we rely too heavily on trying to get others to do what we think they ought to do so that we can feel better.
Anytime you treat another adult like they don’t know what they’re doing or don’t know what’s best for them, you are signaling to them that they’re incapable — maybe even incompetent.
Based on my own personal experience in a 3+ decade marriage, and working with hundreds of women, what I know for sure is that if you really want to know who a person is, they must be completely free to be who they are.
This may sound terrifying if you’re in the habit of trying to manage your partner. But if you truly want to know them, they must be free to be who they are.
If it turns out that you don’t like the person they are, you are free to make another choice about who you want to be in relationship with.
Another sign that you depend on others for your happiness, peace, or worthiness is that:
You look to your partner or other people to do for you what you could do for yourself.
I once worked with a woman who told me in vivid detail one day in a private session what she wanted for her upcoming birthday. She had a plan for what she wanted for breakfast, and how she would like that to happen. She also had some ideas about how she wanted to spend the day with her husband and their children.
It sounded so relaxing and fun I even got excited about it!
Because several of the activities she described relied on her husband’s participation I asked her, “Do you want to tell your husband how you’d like your birthday to go?”
She said, “No, absolutely not! We’ve been married for a long time. He should know this is what I would like for my birthday.”
Can you see how she is setting herself up for disappointment and unhappiness?
She had the power to tell her husband what she wanted, or to make a request of him, but she didn’t want to. In fact, she thought she shouldn’t have to.
In the instant she decided that she was not willing to ask him for what she wanted, she (unconsciously) decided that getting him to read her mind and then give her what she wanted was more important to her than having the birthday experience she wanted.
When I think about this conversation, and the many similar conversations I’ve had with women over decades, I feel sad. And frustrated.
Do you relate to depending on others for your happiness? Most women — if they’re honest with themselves — do.
So, what’s the solution?
If you want to begin challenging and dismantling these old (mostly unconscious) beliefs and habits, the first step is to become curious.
For example, ask yourself if it’s true that you aren’t good enough because your best friend didn’t invite you to a trip she took with her sisters. Can you allow even a tiny glimmer of possibility to creep in that her decision had nothing to do with you, and everything to do with her?
Or if you’re in the habit of thinking that other people should read your mind, know what you want, and give it to you, can you bring some curiosity to your expectations?
You can ask yourself, “If the tables were turned, how would I feel if someone expected me to read their mind, and then got angry with me because I didn’t do what they wanted me to do?”
If you’re a recovering control enthusiast (like me) and you often think you know what people should do, or you think they should do a certain thing because they “owe” you, ask yourself, ”Is it true? Do I really know what’s best for another person?”
And if you want to go even deeper, ask yourself how it impacts your relationships when you treat someone as though they can’t run their life, or when you send a message that they don’t know what they’re doing?
These relationship dynamics create disconnection and often cause the other person to want distance from us. It makes sense.
One of the things you’ll notice when you begin questioning your supposed role in other people’s actions, or looking more deeply at your expectations or quiet demands of other people, is that it’s extremely self-centered.
Seeing this is a painful wake-up call, but the ultimate outcome is that you’ll be clearer about what is your responsibility and what is another person’s. This will give you great freedom.
What drives distorted beliefs and the compulsion to control is the misunderstanding that you must rely on others for love and approval.
When you challenge your habitual ways of behaving and the unconscious beliefs that support them, you’ll begin bringing your focus back to yourself as your primary source for creating happiness, peace, and a sense of enough-ness. After all, it’s YOUR responsibility!
You will also experience more peace, knowing that other people’s choices and actions don’t say anything about who you are.
And you’ll create more connection and intimacy as you relinquish control over what you didn’t have control over anyway — respecting others’ rights to live their life, and to make their own choices.
In my next post I’ll share more about how women block receiving what they want. I’ll show you how you can experience more happiness and peace now without being dependent on another person to give them to you.
What landed for you about what you just read? I’d love to hear in the comments below.💙
©️ Victoria Priya (2023)
I want to support you to Return to the authentic truth of who you are, Reclaim what is yours, and Receive everything that is meant for you. So that you can Regenerate your life, your relationships, community, and the world.
Imagine you, filled up
Get Free Self-Care Ideas
30 practical & delicious ideas to start building your self-care practice today.
It is so important that you feel good. It’s good for you, your loved ones, and the world.
©2022-2023 Victoria Priya | All Rights Reserved