Read an Excerpt
Chapter Seven - Chapter Title: Decide What You Want In Life
This chapter begins with observations from a women's studies teacher about
the suppression of the wants and needs of women. We end it with seven scenarios
of women putting other people's wants ahead of their own. They did not know that
their wants are just as important as the wants of everyone else.
Grace, a women's studies teacher
It is not uncommon for women to have difficulty articulating an answer to the question what do you want in life. This difficulty results from the fact that most of us have been programmed not to think of ourselves and our individual wants. Such thinking, we were taught, could make us appear selfish and self-centered; therefore, as we grew older, we tried to delete "I want" from our vocabularies. This deletion can produce frustrated people who go through life never getting what they want because they do not know what they want.
There is nothing wrong with having wants. In fact, healthy people have many wants, they can tell you what their wants are, and they are not ashamed of their wants. Healthy people like themselves enough to know that their wants are just as important as other people's wants. If you have not thought about yourself enough to know what your wants are, and if you do not make your wants known, do not be surprised when your wants are not satisfied.
Historically, women have been pleasers and accommodators. We have been conditioned to serve and take care of others. As little girls our toys were baby dolls that cried, needed to be fed, and needed their diapers changed. We were also given presents of miniature brooms, mops, vacuum cleaners, kitchen sinks, stoves, and imitation food. Our "fun" would be for us to pretend we were cooking, cleaning, and taking care of family members.
Women have been so well trained to look out for the emotional and physical needs of others that we often neglect our own feelings and our own welfare. A tragic example of this is the number of women who have been hurt when they did not lock their car doors as a stranger approached them. According to the police reports, they failed to lock their doors, "because I didn't want him to think I did not trust him."
For centuries, we were not allowed to do what we wanted to do for ourselves, and today a subtle message still comes through that tells us our wants are to be set aside so that we can accommodate others in our lives. The self-sacrificing woman has been praised and admired in our society. She gives up her career and helps her husband succeed in his career. She works all day and spends the night doing things for family members that they could have done for themselves. She centers her life on whatever is best for others, and she is rarely concerned with what is best for her. In too many cases, she feels guilty when she even thinks about her own interests.
As a result, women often become angry when they realize they gave everything, and the other person/people in the relationship gave very little. A relationship includes giving as well as taking. And for it to be healthy, there must be compromises. Neither person is to do all the giving. Women must discover their wants and articulate their wants. They must make sure that their wants are accommodated, too.
Consider the following stories from people we met:
Carleton, an automobile mechanic
My sister, Maria, gave up everything when she became involved with Bill. She had a beautiful cat she adored. When he told her people who have cats spend more time with their pets than they do with their significant others, she gave it away. He said her girlfriends talked too much, so she gave up her friends. He said she was too close to her family, so she stopped coming around us.
Because Bill couldn't skate, she stopped ice skating; because he didn't like horses, she stopped going to the riding stable; and because his skin peeled in the sun, she stopped going to the beach. He must have told her that laughter was unbecoming to a lady because I did not hear her laugh during the whole time she was married to him.
Eventually Maria was no longer herself since she had given up everything that
was important to her. She became angry, and she began to hate Bill. In the
divorce proceedings, her words were, "For ten years, I gave up everything for
this man and now I don't have anything in my life that is mine. I must get back
to being me because I do not like this strange person I have
Sometimes women give up things men don't even ask them to give up.
They are so eager to please that they ignore their needs and desires. They don't look out for their own best interests. Instead, they let another person's wants and needs become more important to them than their own.
Nicole, a medical lab technician
My friend, Sharon, was dating a great guy, but she thought she had to please him at all times, regardless of the costs to her. When he wanted her to go with him to the book store (which is open 24/7), he'd say, "I'll pick you up at three o'clock." Instead of her saying, "Four o'clock would be better for me," she would drop whatever she was doing and go, regardless of the inconvenience. When he called to say he was coming to visit her on his day off the following Tuesday, she missed work to spend time with him, even though her supervisor was to evaluate her on that day. During his family reunion, he asked if his two sisters could stay at her apartment. She gave up her bed and slept on an uncomfortable couch, fully aware that sleeping there would aggravate her back problem. She was always putting herself out for him, and he didn't even know she was doing this.
A similar situation can occur when people work different shifts. They need to
talk about their schedules and understand that what might be convenient for one
person might be terribly inconvenient for the other