In addition to a tough skin, strong women have cultivated a capacity for compassion and empathy for others as a result of going through some really difficult times in our lives. However, it tends to be our capacity for compassion and empathy that leads to us being treated poorly and ending up hurt by the people in our lives. Here’s where we’re going wrong:
We try to empathize even though that person is hurting us.
We know what it’s like to go through a bad turn in life, so we try to see where other people are coming from, even when the result of their pain and struggle is their issues taken out on us. Most of us have gone wrong in the past by excusing the behavior for too long. At some point, the nastiness has to end. They might be hurting but it doesn’t give them the right to hurt us too.
We tell ourselves to push through it.
We think because we have thick skin, we can take other people’s crap. We try to convince ourselves that it’s only temporary or that they don’t mean what they’re doing so it’s okay. Wrong. There’s no excuse for treating people poorly, no matter how bad life gets. When we start rationalizing people’s behavior, that’s usually a sign that it’s time to get out.
We neglect our own emotional needs.
Having emotional strength doesn’t mean that we don’t also have basic emotional needs. We need to treat ourselves with love, compassion, and understanding, and when we’re so wrapped up in another person’s drama that we give all of that away to someone else and reserve none for ourselves, we set ourselves up for a serious deficit.
We hang on because we don’t want anyone to go through hard times alone.
Since it’s likely happened to us on more than one occasion, we tend to ensure we never abandon someone when they’re in the thick of hard times. The problem is, we tend to still stick around even when we’re no longer wanted or needed. As a result, we get burned because we get taken advantage of by people who only know how to take and never actually give a little in return.
Sometimes we blur the line between empathizing and bearing the burden.
There’s a fine line between being truly empathetic and then bearing someone else’s burdens. For example, it’s one thing to lend a frequent and patient ear, but it’s another to make decisions for someone else. Learning to step back and let people decide how to take care of their lives in tough situations keeps us from getting burned by people because they can’t blame us for a particular result. However, it’s a lot easier said than done.
We try to run damage control before they even ask for help.
We’re doers and fixers. When we see something broken, we have an urge to put it back together again. In some ways, this is a good thing. We’re not afraid to take on a challenge and find ways to make something work. In other ways, being a fixer often leads to unrealistic expectations and puts us on the hook for someone else’s life—meaning we’re to blame when something doesn’t work out.
Our relationships lose all semblance of balance.
While balance isn’t always possible, relationships should never be completely uneven, especially not for long periods of time. Even though experiencing hard times with a significant other or best friend is inevitable, it doesn’t have to fall disproportionately on one person to keep the relationship going. Both people should feed the relationship and bear responsibility for it.
It’s hard not to feel accountable for other people’s pain.
We’re not responsible for another person’s pain unless we’re the source of it. Learning this helps us separate ourselves from toxic people and relationships but it’s not always easy. We can show kindness and empathy to someone without being held accountable for whatever horrible thing that has happened to them. We don’t have to harbor guilt for living my life while someone else is hurting as long as we didn’t actually cause it.
We feel like less of a lover or friend if we take a step back from someone else’s issues.
Pretty much all emotionally strong women have felt this and it sucks. We’re so used to being the strong ones, the ones who can handle anything, that when we do decide we can’t or don’t want to deal with someone, we feel like terrible friends/partners. Of course, this isn’t true. Other people’s drama is just that sometimes: other people’s. Sometimes stepping away is smart, not selfish.
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