The notion that a man makes a woman, although absurd, is deeply engrained in the female psyche. It tells women they need a man to nurture and love them, to provide for them, and to protect them from the dangers of the world. What it forgets to tell them is that everything they need to lead rich and fulfilling lives they possess within themselves. They just need to stop looking so desperately in the outside world to find it.
I recently finished reading Anna David’s new memoir, Falling for Me. The book chronicles the author’s journey to meet a man who would define and make her feel complete. In the process, she learns to love and accept herself as a smart, beautiful and successful woman.
What struck me most about the book was Ms. David’s honesty and unflattering insights about her failed attempts to find a man to fix her and her ultimate realization that the relationship she needs to nurture is the one with herself. It’s a tale I see each and every day with many of my female patients, but one that’s seldom told with clarity and wit.
Like my patients’ process in psychotherapy, Ms. David’s journey was neither quick nor direct. It required her to cast aside old and outdated social and cultural beliefs and to stare down and walk though the incredible fear of being alone.
And it’s this profound fear of being alone that keeps us trapped in unhealthy relationships or on an insatiable hunt for someone to make us feel happy and whole. Although both men and women suffer from this fear, I’ve found that even in this day and age, women suffer a whole lot more from it.
What can you do to focus on yourself instead of what’s not around you? The following five simple steps will start you on this process:
- Keep a gratitude list next to your bed: Each morning before you get up, quickly jot down five things for which you are grateful. They don’t need to be profound. They can be as simple as your bed or morning coffee.
- Once a week, commit to doing something nice for yourself. Take a long bath or get your nails done. Again, think simply. Life is complicated enough. Self-care should be easy!
- Develop an affirmation that you will repeat when your mind starts spiraling downwards. The one that I use in my life is: “I am enough.”
- Visualize the woman you want to be: Create a vision board. Take a stiff piece of paper and paste on it images of strong women who you admire. Hang it in a place where you can see it daily.
- Find another woman who you can talk and relate to. The mind that creates a problem needs another one to solve it! There’s incredible power and healing in human connections.
Above all else, remember that life is to be lived creatively and expansively. There are many roads that lead to love and fulfillment – but they must start with the love, understanding and acceptance of yourself.