Pervasiveness revelations of sexual harassment and assault have surprised most men, but not women. However, both genders are largely unaware of the damaging impact that objectification of women can cause. It perpetuates a cycle of shame in both men and women. Even if never overtly harassed or assaulted, women experience the destructive effects of sexual objectification, including abuse and violence, eating disorders, body shame, depression, risky sexual behavior, and sexual dysfunction. Men don’t realize how sexual shame also harms them. Sexuality brings abundant opportunities to exaggerate both our vulnerability and shame, to feel pleasure and close, but also to feel unworthy, unacceptable, and unlovable.
Shame and Manhood
Boys must separate from their mothers to establish their masculinity. To accomplish this task, they look to their father. more
Our mother is our first love. She’s our introduction to life and to ourselves. She’s our lifeline to security. We initially learn about ourselves and our world through interactions with her. We naturally long for her physical and emotional sustenance, her touch, her smile, and her protection. Her empathetic reflection of our feelings, wants, and needs informs us who we are and that we have value. A narcissistic mother who cannot empathize damages her children’s healthy psychological development. Like Narcissus in the Greek myth, she sees only a reflection of herself. There is no boundary of separateness between her and her children, whom she cannot see as unique individuals worthy of love. Symptoms of narcissism that make up narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) vary in severity, but they inevitably compromise a narcissist’s ability to parent. more
There are three million cases of domestic violence reported each year. Many more go unreported. Emotional abuse precedes violence, but is rarely discussed. Although both men and women may abuse others, an enormous number of women are subjected to emotional abuse. Unfortunately, many don’t even know it.
Why is Emotional Abuse Hard to Recognize?
Emotional abuse may be hard to recognize, because it can be subtle, and abusers often blame their victims. more
The stress of the holidays triggers sadness and depression for many people. This time of year is especially difficult because there’s an expectation of feeling merry and generous. People compare their emotions to what they assume others are experiencing or what they’re supposed to feel and then think that they alone fall short. They judge themselves and feel like an outsider. There are a host of things that add to stress and difficult emotions during the holidays.
- Finances. Not enough money or the fear of not having enough to buy gifts leads to sadness and guilt. The stress of financial hardship during this economic downturn is often compounded by shame. When you can’t afford to celebrate is can feel devastating.
- Stress. The stress of shopping and planning family dinners when you’re already overworked and tired. more
Each time you affirm your true, authentic self, every cell in your body cheers “Yes!” When you negate yourself, it has negative biological consequences. To build self-esteem and affirm your true self, try this:
Take action to meet your needs.
Express who you really are.
Think good thoughts about yourself.
Take action to do what you really want. more
Power exists in all relationships. Having power means to have a sense of control, to have choices and the ability to influence our environment and others. It’s a natural and healthy instinct to exert our power to get our wants and needs met. When we feel empowered, we can manage our emotions, we believe that we matter and that we can affect outcomes. We have a sense of efficacy in our lives, rather than being at the effect of others and circumstances. Instead of reacting, we can act because we have an internal locus-of-control.
In contrast, many of us may feel powerless and victims of outside forces. We can feel like our destiny is out of our hands. Some of us voluntarily give up our power to others. We may feel uncomfortable with exercising our own power, and believe that we will alienate others. Instead, we might react to others, defer to their wants and need, and have trouble making decisions and initiating independent action. We might feel like we’re being mean or raising our voice when we merely state what we want or don’t like. This impaired sense of power is common among codependents and stems from: more
The idea of self-love and self-nurturing baffles most people, especially codependents, who by and large, received inadequate parenting. The word “nurture” comes from the Latin nutritus, meaning to suckle and nourish. It also means to protect and foster growth. For young children, this usually falls to the mother, however, the father’s role is equally important. Both parents need to nurture children. Healthy parenting helps the grown child be his or her own best mother and father. more
Over three million incidents of domestic violence are reported each year, and that includes men as well as women. Nearly 20 people per minute are physically abused by an intimate partner in the United States. During one year, this equates to more than 10 million women and men. One-third of women and one-fourth of men will have experienced some sort of interpersonal violence, and for one-fourth of women and one-seventh of men, it’s severe. (For more statistics, visit NCADV.org.)
What isn’t talked about, but is serious, is emotional abuse that ranges from withholding to controlling, and includes manipulation and verbal abuse. The number of people affected is astronomical. Emotional abuse is insidious and slowly eats away at your confidence and self-esteem. The effects are long term, and can take even longer to recover from than blatant violence. more
It must be cellular that a woman automatically feels humiliated when her man cheats. Maria has done nothing to be ashamed of. Too often, women feel embarrassed for their husbands’ behavior, whether it’s domestic violence, emotional abuse, drug or alcohol addiction, gambling, or sex addiction, and although it’s fortunate that Arnold took responsibility for his actions, too often, those husbands shift the blame onto their wives. It’s called “blaming the victim.”
Betrayal is a devastating assault upon your ability to trust – trust in yourself, other people, your sense of justice, even God. For some people, the worst part of adultery is the dishonesty – sharing your life with someone whom you discover has been living a lie day in and day out. You start to doubt your own senses, let alone your own attractiveness. Who was he or she, really?
Women assume many roles throughout their lives – as daughters, sisters, wives, mothers, and grandmothers. Women’s roles have been largely determined by the rules and expectations of culture, religion, and the patriarchy, as well as biology. There should be no judgment associated with being a full-time mom, a single career woman, or even a “beach bum,” for that matter. Both men and women can become identified with their roles. Ask yourself these questions: 1) Are your roles your choice vs. others’ expectations? 2) Are other parts of you being denied? and 3) Have your roles (be they at home and/or work) come to define your personality and thinking, rather than the other way around? more
Self-responsibility both reflects and generates self-esteem. People with high self-esteem feel that they are in charge of their lives. They have a sense of agency and self-efficacy. They take responsibility for their feelings, actions, and lives. It also means that you take responsibility for the consequences of your choices and behaviors, both positive and negative outcomes, rather than blame yourself or others. It requires a desire to review and learn from your mistakes in order to seek solutions and improvement. Read steps you can take to build your self-esteem. more
In working with women for decades, I’ve found that self-esteem is the common denominator of many women’s issues. With better self-esteem, women are more able to find balance, handle stress, and claim their autonomy.
Universally, women are considered inferior to men, and although our culture is changing, most women suffer from impaired self-esteem, even successful women. Self-esteem impacts our relationships with others and our relationship with ourselves. It affects self-care, parenting, boundaries, and communication. Self-esteem determines the way we allow others, including our children, to talk to us, and how we value and communicate our needs, thoughts, and feelings. It underpins personal integrity, our ability to pursue goals, and is crucial to effective parenting. more
People with low self-esteem suffer from lack of self-confidence, even despite greater job and educational opportunities than ever before. Self-confidence is a manifestation of self-esteem and self-worth. It all begins with a sense of “Self.” Without this, it is difficult to be alone, to make decisions, to set boundaries, to identify and accomplish goals, to succeed professionally, and to enjoy healthy, intimate relationships. Poor self-esteem underlies anxiety, depression, addiction, and sexual dysfunction.
Self-esteem varies on a continuum. Fortunately, you can grow your self-esteem and increase your capacity for self-fulfillment. It will enhance your creativity, ambition, physical and emotional health, loving relationships, and resilience in the face of adversity. It is the key to success. more
Last year, a study reported that despite improvement in women’s lives, their happiness relative to men has declined since the ’70s, when the reverse was true. This held true across racial and socio-economic lines in several industrialized countries. Women’s happiness also declines with age. In contrast, men’ happiness has increased and increases with age.
Do you worry that you are depressed? Read more about the symptoms and risks for depression. more
Only one third of women were employed in 1950, compared to 75 percent of adult women under 44 today. The 2001 Census reported that 57 percent of women have full-time employment; another 23 percent worked part-time. Of women with children under 18, about 79 percent of single, and 70 percent of married mothers were employed in either part or full-time positions. Almost 53 percent of new mothers return to work six months after delivery.
Arguably, the cost of living has forced women into the workplace. However, surveys reveal that a majority would prefer to work, even if they didn’t need the income. More than half of older homemakers regret that they hadn’t worked outside the home.
Moreover, even though the majority of American couples are dual-earners, women continue to be mainly responsible for household chores and parenting – regardless of their employment status. Women perform 70 percent of domestic work compared to 30 percent performed by husbands – exclusive of child-care, which falls to the mother. Women end up working an extra week per month. Although this is a common source of marital conflict, most women don’t mind, and consider outside employment to be an expansion of their roles. This may also be true because generally the woman earns less than her spouse, which contribute to emotional and financial dependence and limit her feelings of unfairness and/or ability to insist upon equal sharing of household chores. Women who believed their employment was as important as their husbands’ experienced less work overload and less depression than wives who viewed their work as secondary. more
Caesarian sections in the U.S. hit a record high for the eleventh year in a row – averaging about one-third of births nationally, up from 26 percent in 2002 and 5 percent in 1970. The rate is 36 percent in New York (45 percent at Albany Medical Center) and 39 percent in Florida (50 percent in Miami Dade County).
Some argue the high statistics are due to older, overweight mothers, larger babies, and multiple births, but statistics don’t validate this. Another reason is the risk of malpractice claims prompting doctors to make decisions for non-medical reasons. C-section rates are higher for women who have private medical insurance and deliver in a private hospital, suggesting financial incentives may play a role. Doctors now perform caesarean sections rather than use forceps or deliver a baby in breech position (feet first). Predicting the due date is not an exact science, and doctors worry if a baby is overdue. They’re anxious and they’re making their already anxious patients unnecessarily fearful about nature’s natural process – a vaginal birth. Dr. Alan Fleischman, medical director of the March of Dimes Foundation thinks, “. . . convenience is sometimes part of the decision-making process, and that really shouldn’t be.” (“Trend to C-Section Births Worry Some Doctors,” Matthew C. Stannard, 11/12/08, SFGate.com) more