5 Things Women Do to Keep Ourselves Down

1. Value others’ opinions above our own

I had a friend who I depended on for years, but who was actually making me miserable.  I was living in a constant state of discord because the person she was telling me I was and who I believed myself to be were completely different.  And I believed her!  I chose to believe what she thought about me over the 30+ years of intimate knowledge and experience I had of myself!   

Saying that rationally makes it sound ludicrous that I would do such a thing.  But this is what we do!  Women who keep themselves down choose to believe and value others’ opinions more than our own. 

In the workplace, we might back down too quickly after an idea we present is disregarded. 

In our relationships, we might defer to our partner’s opinions instead of holding-fast to our own. 

Women are not the weaker sex.  Their opinions are not second-rate.  And no one—male or female—should ever allow someone else’s opinion of them to supersede his or her own!

This Also Looks Like:

  • Dressing or Presenting ourselves a certain way

If we choose to stifle our raucous laugh, change our clothes into something more “conservative, less flamboyant”, deny sharing our interest in an eccentric hobby, or simply pretend to be someone we’re not we are automatically de-valuing our opinions of ourselves, and by default, reinforcing the idea that others’ opinions of us are more important than our own. 

Your opinions are just as valid as the next person’s. I know some women who would benefit from standing in front of mirror and repeating this 10x a day!

How to Rise Above this Habit:

  • Like Yourself

Let your Nerd Flag fly.  Let your overly-competitive-self kick someone else’s butt on a first date.  Be yourself, and everyone you come across can take it or leave it.  Your mental health is worth more than the opinion of someone who will be nothing more than a blip in the story of your life. 

Believe in the worth of your opinions. If someone who is supposed to be in any type of “supportive” relationship with you is consistently disregarding your opinions–most particularly, how you see yourself–don’t be afraid to speak up and ask them why they are doing that? It might be simple ignorance of their actions. Or it might unearth a greater that needs to be resolved.

Either way, defending your opinions, being confident in who you are and what you like will help insulate you from those who would be more than happy to help you keep yourself down.

2. Attach your self-worth to someone else

Women keep themselves down by believing that our inherent self-worth is somehow “incomplete” without being attached to someone else.

We are not defined by who we are (or aren’t) connected to.  Yes, we can be wife, mother, daughter, girlfriend, sister, but those are relationships that contribute to our individuality, not who we are

When we attach our self-worth to someone else, what happens when that person is taken away?  Are we now somehow worth less

Oh, don’t get me wrong.  When we lose someone we care about there is loss.  There is pain and heartache and sorrow, but has our worth diminished because of their absence?  Absolutely not. 

In fact, those things: loss, heartache, pain can make us a better person: more capable of empathy and compassion; more aware of the human experience, and able to help others through their human experience.  We become more capable of lifting someone else who is keeping themselves down.        

This Also Looks Like:

  • Thinking, “I am nobody without…”

It devastates me to work with young women who feel their worth is determined by whether or not they have a boyfriend.  Or to believe in the misconception that everyone else has a boyfriend, therefore “what’s wrong with me”?

Why is this so “devastating” to me?  Because time and time again, girls who believe their worth is connected to a boy will sell themselves for infinitely less than their worth.  This lack of self-worth is a breeding ground for abuse.

The CDC reports that “23% of females who experienced abuse by an intimate partner first experienced it between the ages of 11 and 17”.  11 and 17!

Girls, your self-worth belongs only to yourselfDon’t surrender it to somebody else. 

How to Rise Above this Habit:

You Are Enough
  1. Believe, with your whole-heart, that you are enough. 
  2. Adjust your perspective on relationships.  Relationships don’t fill some kind of hole that’s inside us.  We were not created “incomplete”.  Relationships strengthen who we already are…by ourselves.  And if they don’t, get rid of them.    
  3. Understand who YOU are.  This provides protection when someone tries to control you and make you fit their mold. 

3. Don’t know when to walk away

For a lot of women, it’s in our natural genetic makeup to nurture.  And so, we nurture friendships, romantic relationships, jobs, basically anything we can get our hands on.  We pour ourselves into all of these things, until we see them as an extension of our very selves, instead of what they really are—they’re own unique entity, separate from ourselves and our inherent worth. 

Maybe that’s why it’s so hard for us to let go and know when to walk away: because we’ve poured our heart and soul into something, we also believe we’ve attached our worth to it! 

When we refuse to move on, we keep ourselves down by subliminally saying, “this is as much as I am worth”

We stay in jobs too long, relationships too long, cities too long.  We forget that the good we attain from those things is connected to us, and therefore, will follow us wherever we go

Something doesn’t necessarily have to be bad, either, to walk away from it.  But, if our growth has stunted, our dreams and priorities have changed, or our potential is restricted, move on! 

This Also Looks Like:

Our inability to walk away might arise from fear:

  1. What if your boyfriend was finally about to become the man you need him to be?  Then after all the work you put into him, he becomes the perfect person for someone else?
  2. What if you fire the employee who isn’t pulling his weight, and you are suddenly perceived as a “bad boss”? 
  3. What if this is the best you’re ever going to get?

In his book, The Art of Endings, Henry Cloud, Ph.D. compares “necessary endings” to pruning a rose bush.  He states that pruning is a great metaphor for the endings we face in our lives. 

He gives 3 reasons a gardener might prune his roses:

  1. The bush produces more buds than it can sustain, and some good ones have to go so the best can have the resources of the bush.
  2. There are some branches and buds that are sick and not going to get well.
  3. There are some that are already dead and are taking up valuable space.

Then outlines the comparison to our own lives:

  1. Over time, you gather more activities, relationships, work, interests, etc., than you can really feed with the best of your time and energy. You have to realize that you cannot go deep with everything and figure out which ones you are going to invest in.
  2. Face it: There are people with whom you have tried everything to get them to “get it,” or work issues where you have also tried everything, and there is no reason to keep throwing good money after bad.
  3. There are people, places, and things which have been dead to us for a long time, and it is past time to let them go.

(Read more at “What it Takes to Walk Away”)

How to Rise Above this Habit:

Adjust your perspective.  Endings are not a failure; they are a natural part of the course of life. 

Walking away isn’t giving up.  Quite the opposite; it’s recognizing your worth and deciding to provide yourself with something better. 

Also, most importantly, when you do walk away, WALK. AWAY.  Don’t be like Lot’s wife, who walked down the road, only to turn and stare longingly back.  Put your heart in your commitment to move forward, or you’ll just be stuck living in the past. 

4. Live in the Past

We get fired.  Relationships end.  Ambitions fail.  Such is life.  Time spent second-guessing, “What if I had only…” is nothing but wasted time. 

“Regret is an appalling waste of energy; you can’t build on it; it’s only good for wallowing in.”  

Katherine Mansfield

What happens if we’re driving a car and turn around to look in the backseat?  What about track stars who look over their shoulders to see where their competitors are or dancers who take their focus off their spot when they’re turning? 

When our focus is taken off what lies in front of us, we stumble.  Sometimes, we may even get hurt. 

As long as you are dwelling on past mistakes, regret, guilt, perceived wrong doings, etc. that is where you have committed yourself to live.  Your future is empty until you let go of the past.

This Also Looks Like:

  • Holding on to what people have said

I have been called so many things over 40 years, I couldn’t possibly remember them all!  Nor would I choose to write them down in such a family-friendly forum!   But, I do still remember one thing someone said about me way back in 7th grade. 

This girl had written all about me (think “Mean Girls” Burn Book-style) in a spiral notebook, and then left it in the bathroom for everyone (including me) to see.  The focus of her attack were my eyes—my “bug eyes”, as she so cleverly said. 

I’ll be honest: it was jarring.  My eyes were actually a feature I had only ever received compliments on before this point.  And I am very sorry to report that I became instantly, crushingly insecure about them. 

Much later I discovered that this girl attacked me like that because she saw me as a threat.  She was competing with me for attention and pushing me down to lift herself.  And my 12-year-old, insecure self couldn’t see it. 

I didn’t actually hold onto that particular insult for very long, but I have held onto other things through my life for far too long.

How to Rise Above this Habit:

They say, “Hindsight is 20/20”, but the greater irony is that we can only see clearly about the Past when we are looking forward. 

Leave the Past where it is.  Embrace the lessons you have learned from it—good and bad—and commit to move forward every day. 

5. Compete with other Women

Why?  Just, why?  Seriously, this one kills me. 

I am proud to be a member of one of the oldest and largest international organizations of women, the Relief Society of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  I cannot be in good standing with this organization and harbor a competitive spirit with other women.  It is my responsibility to lift, praise, succor, cheer and encourage all women.  

Why do we feel the need to compete with other women?  Surely it must be taught to us starting at a very young age, because we do it all the time.  Can we look at what another woman’s hair, nails, clothes and appreciate them without comparing them to our own? 

Do we do this because we feel threatened?  Are we worried there is only X amount of love and attention to be had in the world, and if someone else is getting it, there won’t be any left for us? 

You want love and attention?  Good.  You should have it!  But allow me to let you in on a little secret…confidence is attractive.  Constantly comparing ourselves with other women diminishes that confidence.

Stop comparing.  Every moment of every day is not filled with what is presented on Instagram.  Every other woman’s house isn’t immaculately clean and decorated.  Everyone else doesn’t take one exotic vacation after another, or have perfectly behaved, coiffed, and successful children. 

Our lives are all messy and imperfect. 

“Never compare your worst to somebody else’s best.”

Joy D. Jones

This Also Looks Like:

  • Well-hidden (or not so well-hidden) Insecurity

The truth is, when we tear down another woman, yes, we do damage to them, yes, we can cause them emotional harm, but the longer-lasting harm is to ourselves. 

This is because our need to put others down comes from an insecurity: a hole in our own identity.  When we lash out at another woman, we aren’t resolving that insecurity, we’re attempting to hide our insecurities, all while hoping they will resolve themselves. 

Ladies, don’t be afraid to admit you have problems, (because we all do,) ask for help, and fix them.    

How to Rise Above this Habit:

Make a conscious effort to build other women up.  Start by looking for things to compliment in others.  Then, do it with increased sincerity by not comparing whatever you complimented to your own.  In other words, don’t compliment a woman’s hair because you hate your own.  Appreciate it because you understand how it feels to be recognized for something you worked hard on. 

5 Things Women Do to Keep Ourselves Down, fix another woman's crown

By all means, do not relegate yourself to what women externally present to the world.  Use your intimate knowledge of what it means to be a woman, the insecurities we all share, to build another up. 

  • “Your child has lovely manners.  What an amazing thing to teach your children!”
  • “Your presentation was very well put together.  That must have taken you a lot of time outside of work.”

In short, use the sisterhood we share to be another woman’s greatest advocate, not their competitor.   


5 Things Women do to Keep Themselves Down:

  1. Value others’ opinions above Your own
  2. Attach your self-worth to someone else
  3. Don’t know when to walk away
  4. Live in the Past
  5. Compete with other Women

How to Rise Above these Habits:

  1. Like Yourself
  2. Believe with all your heart that you are enough
  3. Understand that endings are a natural part of life
  4. Leave the past where it belongs
  5. Be other women’s advocate, not their competition

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