Hey there, fellow strong, independent woman.
You know, we’re pretty awesome! Our strength and independence, in combination with our woman-ness, is a force to be reckoned with.
But many of us also struggle with the flip side of this. It can limit us and block us off from joy and being honest with ourselves. Not the strength and independence themselves, of course, but the beliefs we hold about what we have to do to qualify for those labels.
I recently had the realization that I want a proper relationship. You know—being together as a couple. For the first time in my life, this is what I want!
Well, actually, that’s a lie.
I think I’ve always wanted it. Or at least, I’ve wanted it for a while now, but I could never admit it to myself.
See, I suffer from Strong Independent Woman Syndrome (SIWS).
I love love. I love sex. I love passion. I love intimacy. I love affection. And I feel starved without these things. Yet I also have a perception that to want these things as much as I do—to feel that I need them—is, well, needy. And heaven forbid I be needy!
My SIWS fear says that if I’m a needy woman, people won’t want to be with me. I won’t get any. Men will run a mile, and women will look down on me.
So I turn away from my need, deny it, cover it, bury it. It grows stronger and hungrier, until the quiet hidden flame becomes a house fire, burning down the facade of “it’s fine” and “this is enough.” So instead of a delicious, roaring open hearth warming my home, the fire burns down the rest of my life too, until I’m forced to admit that there’s a problem, because I keep getting sick or can’t focus on my work or am too consumed by my feelings.
SIWS doesn’t help in striving for our career goals, either. I have a creative career, as well as my consultancy/tutoring career. These things take up lots of my most precious resources: time and energy. I’ve been advised to ask for help and be honest about what I want and need from many wise sources.
I’m gradually learning to delegate and create mutually beneficial partnerships in my work life in order to take the weight of the world off my shoulders—but it never occurred to me to do the same in the context of my love life.
Where work and love meet, there are more insecurities to be found with SIWS. Everyone else is busy, too. If I tried to have a proper relationship, I’d be impinging on someone else’s time and energy. SIWS says, “If I ask for more, I’ll be rejected.”
Maybe, like me, in your interactions with lovers—and in the rest of your life—you seem anything but held back. I am lavish with praise, affection, expression of love and lust and connection. I voice my gratitude for people’s presence in my life, my appreciation, my desire.
Yet, I wonder now if I have been holding something back? The truth of what I really want and need? And is that why I have been feeling so unfulfilled and unmet?
This is how it goes:
Oh, this is nice! You are nice. You are sexy. Let’s have sex. Lots of it. Mmm. I love you!
But, of course, I need my time. I need my space. I need to do my work. I need to write. I need to practice.
And, of course, you need your space too. I would never want to ask too much of you; I don’t want to be annoying, heavens no. I don’t need you. I don’t need you. I don’t need you.
But, can you come over tonight? What about tomorrow? Wednesday? Thursday? Are you thinking of me? I’m thinking of you. But I don’t need you. Honestly, I don’t.
Oh God, I am falling apart completely. I need you here now.
Not the most attractive state of being.
In all our striving to be strong and independent, we are building walls around what we really need and want, ignoring these sacred desires which are trying to move us to the place we need to be. We forget that there is strength in softness. That which does not bend breaks.
So, finally, carefully, hesitantly, I am admitting it to myself, and to life. I’m letting go of my Strong Independent Woman Syndrome and just letting myself be strong and independent… and wanting. Needing.
I need community and people and laughter.
I need understanding and affection and touch.
I need passion and desire and spontaneity.
I need time, and I need to feel cherished and supported.
I’m ready to need. Are you with me?
Editor: Michelle Margaret
Image: elephant journal archive; Pierre Willemin/Flickr