Tiredness is often a triangle of trouble that includes guilt & fears. Wading through those feelings is no small task. They stick to your soul like gum on the bottom of your shoe & contaminate your belief in yourself. It helps to remember that your feelings are not facts. Thoughtfully consider what is the evidence for your feelings & don’t put so much weight on them as accurate.

EXHAUSTED WOMEN & WHAT TO DO ABOUT IT

Tiredness is often a triangle of trouble that includes guilt & fears. Wading through those feelings is no small task. They stick to your soul like gum on the bottom of your shoe & contaminate your belief in yourself. It helps to remember that your feelings are not facts.

Self-care is certainly something I consistently address, particularly with my women clients. Often they laugh & then admit “I’m the last one I’m taking care of….” as a client said to me, just last week about not having scheduled an appointment. Women don’t take care of themselves & then end up resentful & exhausted.

Self-care from physical activity is clearly shown in research to improve a connection in the brain for improved self esteem & reduced inflammation. So self-care is connected to feeling worthy & being exhausted is all about never feeling good enough.

Guilt can be obligation that is legitimate or resentments that have not been owned or faced. Resentments might be your inner soul squawking at you “ENOUGH”. Most often women who are exhausted don’t recognize the value of recognizing ENOUGH as a valid boundary.

Many women are Perfectionists and in a research study of 2,000 of these maximizers their sense of well being improved when they recognized choices can be ok that are good enough or “satisficient” which is of course a blend of satisfy & sufficient. Perfectionism all by itself is exhausting.

There are messages embedded in the culture that women just aren’t doing enough & must continue to pile on to themselves. There are so many beliefs of what women should be doing & resting is simply not on the schedule. Even social media contributes with posts of success & endless smiles without offering any balance of struggles endured. We are surrounded by pictures of other’s perfect lives & feel we better pedal even faster to keep up.

According to Dr. Kelly McGonigal, brain-imaging studies show our brain’s default state often looks the same as when there is shame, self-judgement & self-criticism. Just think of how exhausting that brain default state is for all of us!

Even the lack of civility in the world, the divisiveness of politics or the weariness from yet another news alert of a mass shooting also contribute to women feeling exhausted. There are just so many contributing factors!

One study in 2022, a collaboration of Berlin Cameron, Eve Rodsky’s Fair Play and Kantar, surveyed over 1,000 employees in the U.S. and U.K. They found a whopping 68% of U.S. women experienced burnout in the previous seven days. Women feel burned out, less driven and less inspired since the pandemic. Only 50% of U.S. men reported the same.

Another study conducted by McKinsey and Lean In agreed that burnout has been rising for women since the pandemic. Their Women In The Workplace 2021 report concluded employees suffering from burnout typically have “an overwhelming exhaustion, feelings of cynicism and detachment from the job, and a sense of ineffectiveness and lack of accomplishment,” according to the researchers.


The evidence is all around us, women are exhausted. Constantly trying to please others can be exhausting as well as unsatisfying.


Our guest today who will help us learn more is Nancy Colier, she is a psychotherapist, author, interfaith minister, and public speaker. A longtime student of Eastern spirituality, she is a thought leader on mindfulness & well-being. Most importantly she is the author of the new book out titled The Emotionally Exhausted Woman Why You’re Feeling Depleted and How to Get What You Need Thank you so much for joining me today!

1. Let’s begin by understanding where do these messages come from, how does the belief system get stuck inside of women that unless they are exhausted they are not doing enough?

Nancy Colier: Such a good question. Where does that get started? Well, I’ll just back up for a second in saying that in deciding to write this book, having been a therapist for almost 30 years & seeing women just day in & day out who were emotionally exhausted, I first started floating the idea of the book around to women. & every single woman that talked about emotional exhaustion with, jumped up & down & said, “Oh my God, when do I buy this book? Where is it?” & I said, “I haven’t written the outline yet. I haven’t.” But they said, “When it comes out, I am first in line.”

So, I knew I was onto something in terms of, this is a chronic condition, & it manifests in many different ways: exhaustion, resentment, guilt, shame, depression, lack of satisfaction, any number of ways. But I will say that one of the questions that I’ve asked clients over the years is who’s taking care of you, really taking care of you? & almost every woman starts to cry because it’s such a heartfelt question. 

& when I ask that question, I mean to include ourselves as well. How are we taking care of ourselves? & I don’t mean that as another should & another to-do list. Are you taking enough walks? Are you getting massages? It’s not meant as another shaming, blaming question. It’s really a curiosity that speaks to what causes this in the first place? 

Which is, as you know, & we all know, as women were trained from a really, really early age to be what? Sweet, nice, generous, kind, selfless, selfless, selfless, right? Don’t make it about you, take care of other people. & that’s why we’re valued. We’re valued for our capacity to take care of other people. So, we get really, really good at it, because ultimately that makes us safe. 

If you go to, I don’t know, Maslow Hierarchy of Needs, right above the physiological needs for a human being, the water, food, sleep is safety. Well, emotional safety comes from being liked. & being liked comes from, I take good care of you. I make sure that your wants & needs are taken care of. & right above safety is belonging. Right above belonging is self-esteem. 

Well, if I’m taking care of people & I’m liked, it’s a trifecta, right? It’s a trifecta. I’m safe. But what happens along the way, & it’s no one’s fault, it’s just so early on that we’ll survive. If we are good caretakers, we’ll survive. Then what ends up happening, though, is we make this link, Rhoda, which is that the best way to take care of myself is to abandon myself. So, I’ve got to not know who I really am. Because if I’m in touch with who I really am, it might not go so well for me. It might get in the way of me being likable. It might get in the way of me being somebody who’s included & who gets to have self-esteem & his value. 

So, then I build this personality—I call it the Likability Cage—where everything that I’m presenting pretty much is to serve this end of ‘may you like me,; not who am I, but may you like me. & so we get so that we can know what absolutely everybody needs, but we don’t know what we need. We know what everybody else wants us, but we don’t know what we want. & it’s a self-perpetuating system because we get rewarded for being what other people want. But the more we’re rewarded, the farther away from ourselves we grow. 

& this link between safety & being likable is where the initial problem begins, & we have to unlearn that. So in this sort of capitalistic system, we pamper that, right? We slather moisturizer on that, or we drizzle it with hemp seeds. That’s not the answer to what the problem is. We have to get back to this self, this authentic, powerful source that was abandoned all these years ago, usually in our tweens when we made that link. It’s better to have a relationship than have a self. & we have to get back there & reconnect with what is our real vitality. 

So that’s why I get all these women in my office who have gotten to a place in life where they have great careers, they have great families, they have great lots of things. But one woman put it to me so beautifully. She said, “I want a bolder & more authentic life.” & looking at her, you’d say, this is about as bold & authentic a life externally as one could have. But then she said the real juiciest thing, which was, “I want that bolder & more authentic life, even if it comes at the expense of my being so reliably likable.” So that’s where I make the link to that abandonment of true self as to why we’re really fundamentally depleted. 

Rhoda: Absolutely. I completely agree with you. I really appreciate how you put that whole picture together. I think you’re absolutely right. I always explain to every client that every journey of change begins with increased awareness. What can you add to persuade my audience that this is indeed an important first step on the path of learning about yourself? 

Nancy Colier: Well, it is so interesting, right, in our culture, how awareness is mansy pansy. It’s not an action step. What are the actionable things here, Nancy? I’m asked all the time, as someone who goes around the country giving workshop, where are the steps? & in fact, over years, I have learned to sedate the workshop leader or the people at the workshop centers with steps, because we like that. 

But nothing is possible, as you know, without awareness. Nothing. Because awareness is the kryptonite to continuing on these habitual hamster wheels that we do, where we blame ourselves for everything wrong in the world. We live in this codependent fashion, where if someone is not okay, we caused it for sure, & we’re responsible for fixing it. So that codependent way of living keeps us from being able to build this blank space where there would have been a self. 

Or for example if we live from ‘should’ not ‘want.’ We’re constantly living from should, right? That’s another habit. We don’t know what’s in the want but we’re not even attuned. We don’t even hear that still small voice anymore. In the book, I give very actionable steps, but nothing can happen if we’re not aware of where we are selling ourselves out. Every time we don’t say something, every time we massage, manufacture, debark, sweeten our truth so it works for the other person we’re still perceived well, they don’t get hurt. 

What we’re doing is it’s like death by a thousand omission. It’s throwing ourselves under the bus to get in return, “oh” some sort of “I’m liked & now I’m safe.” But that’s not our vitality, that’s not where we live. If we can’t catch where we are doing this to ourselves & how we’re relating to ourselves as suspicious sort of looking for our unwanted parts to get rid of. Then nothing can happen, nothing can change if we can’t see the way we’re doing it. So, it’s like compassion.

Compassion & awareness are the building blocks of change. If we don’t care about the self that this has all happened to, that’s come to believe these beliefs that our safety is in trading out our truth & our safety is in living on the fumes of how other people perceive us, but not in how we experience ourselves. If we don’t see that & care about that, it’s us that this has happened to, then we will not set out on this path of change. It won’t happen. 

Rhoda: That’s right. Yeah. I completely agree. I do. The pursuit of perfectionism is certainly another contributing factor to women being exhausted. What insights can you offer us on perfectionism? 

Nancy Colier: Well, perfectionism is, again, part of the same system that I’m describing. Where we see ourselves…We don’t see ourselves, the whole miracle & catastrophe that we all are as welcome. Like Rumi’s Guest House. Welcome all your parts. What we see is & self-care. The industry of self-care promotes this because self-care is really code for self-improvement, is really what it is. 

But if we continue this relationship with ourselves where there are parts of us that are welcome & parts of us that aren’t, you know, don’t be angry. Don’t be high maintenance. Don’t be neurotic. Don’t be overly emotional. Don’t be, don’t be, don’t be a diva. Don’t be emasculating. Don’t be…

We live our lives trying not to be all of these things we’re not supposed to be so we’re not included, so we’re not dismissed. If that is still our relationship with our own self, then we’re at war with ourselves. How on earth can we have access to our truth, our vitality, our power source? So, perfectionism is just a part of that idea. That there’s some better version of us getting rid of these unwanted parts as determined by our system. 

& if we could just do that, we wouldn’t be depleted, we wouldn’t be exhausted, we wouldn’t be unhappy. We would be completely satisfied & what everyone wants us to be. But that’s not the truth. So, what we’re shifting—& the book is hopefully a path there, but it’s a shift to our safety & our ground & our power is in standing in the truth, which includes imperfection. It includes both/&, it includes the whole enchilada that it is to be a woman & not looking at those parts that society has deemed as difficult or inconvenient or what have you, as having to be done away with in order to become a version of self that then can be safer. 

So that’s the real issue here, is that we’re still in a relationship with ourselves that imagines a better version of us that will make everything okay. 

Rhoda: Yeah, I think that fantasy. Why do women lose touch with their own wants & needs? It’s a pattern I see over & over again. Why is it so pervasive? 

Nancy Colier: So, it comes back to what we’ve been talking about, which is we are early, early trained that our job here on Earth is to serve other people’s needs. & there’s this big myth that accompanies it. I was at dinner with a friend of mine the other day & he’s got three kids & she was running around & ordering for them & so on. & I’ve known this woman 20 years & I’ve never seen her order a meal. Never. So, having just written the book, I thought I would brave it & ask her, “Hey, why do you never order a meal? You order for your kids & so on, but you never order a meal?” & she said, “Oh, I just get so much pleasure from seeing their needs met that I don’t need anything.” 

& I thought, isn’t that it that there’s this giant mythology that we as women are supposed to get our needs met by serving everyone else’s needs? This is like an insane concept. & then if we say, but we also need for us as a separate human being, then we’re accused of being selfish. & then we get into this ‘but’ mentality, which is, well, if you take care of your needs separate from other people, then you can’t take care of other people. It’s both/&. Both can go on at once. But just even starting to teach women that you have needs that are not about how they will benefit others, they’re not about how it will serve your identity & make you likable & the perception of you will be improved, they’re actually between you & you. 

That is, for many women, a blank face. What do I want separate from my roles? I don’t know. No one’s ever asked ask me that question, & I’ve never asked myself that question. That’s not in relation to other people. So, this is from the very early beginning that we exist & are valued & are wanted & have purpose, & we matter. Because of how other people perceive us & because of what we can offer other people. 

So, you know, there’s a big push right now. You probably hear about it too, as somebody who goes on a lot of media, I hear pushback on, “Come on, Nancy, you’re talking about independence. Isn’t it a time in the planet & so one where we should be talking about interdependence.” & I’m all for interdependence, & I think that’s wonderful. & here we are again with there can’t be independence & interdependence. 

& I often say to people, women have no problem with interdependence. We’re really good at the empathic piece. The problem is we don’t know what we need. We don’t know how to take care of & care about a self that we don’t know. So even neurologically, we’re wired to take care of other people. We have all these different neurological chemicals & other genders that plug us into the needs, starting from a crying baby. We hear it differently in our frontal cortex. We screen out other things differently. 

So, we’ve got the inter part, the collective covered. What we need to do is become a ‘me’ before we become—we are already a ‘we.’ We need to become a ‘me’ again. 

Rhoda: So how can they begin to explore their own wants & needs? What are your suggestions for exploring that? 

Nancy Colier: So, I talk about this in the book where I talk about how do you start listening to a place that hasn’t been heard in so long? & sometimes it’s really again, coming back to awareness. Every time you’re in a choice or you’re about to do something, you just add in the question, should or want? Is it a should or is it a want? & pause. & then the next round, you stay a little bit patient, & then you’re going to probably be met with some more shoulds that are wearing costumes of wants. So they’re really shoulds, but they look like wants to stay. 

& then sometimes we just don’t hear anything. & that’s beautiful because that’s a beginning, you say, I don’t know. I don’t know what I want for me. Even those two words are…Recently, I met a woman who was given $10,000 for an award. But the stipulation of the award was that she spend it on her. She gave the money back. She gave the money back because it was from her school. & she said, “Well, let me spend it on the kids. & they said, “No, you can’t do that. That’s the deal.” She gave the money back to the school. 

So you start inviting this question of what do I want from me? & then you just be patient. So it starts to be a part of how you walk, how you live, how you shower, how you eat. It’s there; very simple wants. You take a want walk. I don’t know where I’m going to go. Let me follow want. Or maybe this afternoon I give myself for hours where if I want to read a book & not exercise, I follow that. 

Because, again, Rhoda, we build all of these narratives, too. If I go with want, it’s indulgent. If I go with want, it’s irresponsible. If I go with want, it’s for children. Or it’ll leave me nowhere good. We’ve got all these ideas about want, but we never really just invited in like an animal from the side of the forest, you know? Let me listen. I turned away from you so long ago. 

Learn more by listening to the entire episode on the player above, just play the teal triangle.

Want to learn more about Nancy? Go to her website: https://nancycolier.com

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