Strong Independent Woman Syndrome.

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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 friendship and companionship and love.

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?



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Editor: Michelle Margaret

Image: Nicholas Green/Unsplash

Sex is the best thing in the world if it's mutual.

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Becca Tilley

Becca Tilley is a singer, musician, poet, model, and artist. She is new to yoga and mindfulness, but it feels like coming home. She is always either in a violent whirlwind or at complete peace. Read more of her words and listen to her music.

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Karishma V.P Feb 14, 2019 9:29pm

Yes to all of this!

anonymous Dec 13, 2015 9:04pm

I love all these articles with their differing perspectives. It shows that what works for one person or couple would be disaster for another. The one thing I hate is the overthinking that goes on when a woman tries to figure out where she stands with a guy. Here’s my take: if you don’t know where you stand; if you don’t know you don’t have to play games, then you are not with a REAL man. End of story. I tell you I love you, I love you. I won’t play games because I don’t want you to either. Why would I think you are needy because you need human interaction? If we both commit to giving each other genuine, honest love – we can be independent and together at the same time. If you respect that, and me, you’ll never have to overthink your place in your man’s life again.

anonymous Nov 29, 2015 1:04am

This article is personally written for me. Love it!

anonymous Oct 20, 2015 5:01pm

You inspired me today!

anonymous Jul 4, 2015 12:16pm

I needed this! Thank you for putting into words what my soul has been feeling.

anonymous Jun 23, 2015 6:36am

Thank you for writing this. It’s exactly how I feel. I never felt it was good to need someone so I’ve always tried not to, but that doesn’t suppress the need to give love and receive it. That is still very needed, and always will be.

anonymous Jun 11, 2015 10:10am

Strong independent women have really Ruined us good single men looking for a relationship today.

    anonymous Jun 23, 2015 7:31am

    My friend, if you are “ruined”, that is no one’s doing but your own..!

    A true strong, independent woman doesn’t shy away from connection with others, as this article tells, if you bothered to read it.
    If you’re having trouble finding women who want to connect with you, you might want to look inward for the reason to blame, not outward.

anonymous Jun 2, 2015 10:16pm

Me too. I took care of my husband for ten years before he passed away. I did clean took care of the kids and my husband. Made all the decisions mowed and shoveled snow
Hauled in wood to heat the house. Ect. Im am an outdoorgirl. I now have time to do things i couldnt do before. Xc ski kayak pistol and bow shoot. Hike. Ect. The guys dont do anything except sit around. They are afraid of me they say. I dont get it. How do you get "soft?"

    anonymous Jul 19, 2015 9:28am

    Cultivate your feminine self.

anonymous May 17, 2015 7:38am

I love this. I am so both. But how do you balance? How do you get soft? How do you allow yourself to be vulnerable and receive? That’s what I struggle with.

anonymous May 17, 2015 6:46am

I, too, feel like this was written for me! I’m always afraid that if I ask for anything I’ll be rejected, and usually have been rejected. I never want to be perceived as needy!

    anonymous May 17, 2015 9:38pm

    Hi Kristina. It's amazing how when you can relax into the truth of your desires, and have compassion for yourself about what you really want and need, when you start speaking confidently about what you desire… not demanding, not whining, but speaking with your quiet certainty… you get rejected a lot less!

    A lot easier said than done of course! But constant practice makes slow and certain progress. 🙂

anonymous May 3, 2015 11:25am

Disappointed in elephant journal for publishing this article. Is it really necessary to come up with a pathologizing term for being strong, and independent, and a woman? A syndrome?? A better written and conceived article would have avoided doing this, recognizing that women (and men) can be strong, independent and have needs that involve other people (or even be “needy”), without resorting to the tired, unhelpful cliche and rhetorical meme of associating an inability of *a woman* to acknowledge needing others with the first two traits (being strong and independent). Let’s avoid posing strength as a sickness and neediness as its symptom, and put an end to (even inadvertently) propagating the idea that being a strong, independent woman is some sort of disorder, please.

    anonymous May 17, 2015 9:34pm

    Hi Margo. I can definitely see your point and why you would see the "pathologising" of this as an issue. But if you read carefully, you can see that the "syndrome" I am describing is not the strength & independence itself. I am referring to the condition which afflicts women (and people) like me who are so wrapped up in the idea or "image" of being Strong and Independent, that they forget that they can also be vulnerable, and ask for help, and be open to the feeling of desire and need to have support in our lives.

    I don't believe anywhere in the article I posed strength as a sickness or neediness as its symptom. I am merely describing that I (and others) have strength and neediness within us, and that they can coexist peacefully without needing to be seen as weaknesses or negative traits, if we simply accept and respect them, don't try to hide or suppress them, and have compassion for ourselves.

    It was never about "pathologising" anything; but this "syndrome" I was experiencing (the suppression and self-denial) was sure causing me to feel un-well. Hence the use of the medical-ish term. I hope this clears it up a bit for you.

      anonymous Nov 29, 2015 5:06am

      I agree Tilley, I don't feel like this "pathologises" SIW. It hit a nerve with me because it clearly lists all the things I want, but because I can't admit that I "need" anything I am not getting my needs met…. It was a lightbulb moment for me. I am strong and independent but I need all the things listed and I feel better admitting that to myself.

anonymous Dec 29, 2014 9:11am

This is absolutely wonderful! It is exactly how I am feeling… I just did not have a name for it. Letting go!

    anonymous May 17, 2015 9:42pm

    Letting go is awesome Yami! 🙂

anonymous Nov 27, 2014 11:55am


I am the happiest to be with a Strong Independent Woman.

I had a relationship with one (two actually), and these were very giving, we exchanged a lot of energy. Then I had one relationship with a young woman who was not like that, and I felt like, grow up.

So all is perfect with a Strong Independent Woman. However, do pay attention to really be open with your heart and emotion, and really choose openheartedly.

For instance with women whose parents are divorced, materially or in their hearts, I see them living in a "constricted heart state" that effectively keeps from doing what I mentioned above, even if they intellectually think that's what they're doing, and that takes them away from the relationship.


anonymous Nov 21, 2014 5:21pm

I feel like your wrote this for me…My thoughts, feelings, and experiences EXACTLY!!!

    anonymous May 17, 2015 9:42pm

    <3 Glad to hear it resonated Sommer. I hope you're going well on your path to having compassion for yourself an honesty about your desires!

      anonymous Dec 15, 2015 5:30pm

      Me too. I have been told so often that wanting a romantic relationship is not conscious or that I need to be this or that before I can love…like I have to be superwoman before I can date a man…I often get called needy and men feel i am suffocating and insecure but it really comes from a fear of caring for someone and having that be a risk factor in my independence self security and success if I “give in” i feel less. If i cant do everything alone i feel less and if i have an human emotions that i feel will make my partner feel pressured..well i freak out and i run or better yet i blame the other person and make them run..i am very emotional but also have become very ashamed about sharing “relationship” feelings and since I have all these hang ups about fearing being an obligation or looking insecure…i end up looking like a stage 5 clinger bc my expectations of myself and therefore the other person become so high. If someone isn’t “treating me right” I am have way to Guam emotionally before I realize that maybe I am just afraid of caring and being viewed as less than perfect by someone I care for.

anonymous Nov 2, 2014 5:55pm

Read Chuck Spezzano on independence girls, it's. a sad strategy

anonymous Jul 14, 2014 3:58am

Interesting post. My former partner is very much like this and although we got physical very quickly (and the relationship seemed centred around sex) we never really got to know each other. It seems strange but spoken communication seemed to be a real problem. The physical side of our relationship was amazing and very passionate but we never got close enough to really know each other at the deepest level. We have a child together so we're connected for life although this wasn't planned (by me) and there have been some disputes and drama about it. Neither one of us have a steady partner. Me because I find it hard to trust and give so much and my partner because she claims to be independent so carries on meeting people a on a casual basis. I used to think that I liked independent women but I've had such a roller-coaster experience with my former partner that I'm not so sure now. I don't like women who are a pushover but what could be worse is a woman who is independent, at least that's if they're all cold and so strong that they don't need a man. Most (good) men don't really need a women either except for sex and perhaps companionship.
I've been concentrating on self development as the break up was hard on me. My former partner seemed totally unaffected by it! I've got to the point where I'm fairly ok with with life and apart from a few casual encounters I've put off getting involved with women because I've been busy on my quest of becoming a better version of myself. However, I'm fairly interested in having someone around but in what capacity, I don't know yet. I'm turned on by strong women but the type that actually knows what she wants and actually has room and wants a man in her life. If she's just independent, well, she can just get on and be independent, like an island, and no man (or woman) is an island.

    anonymous Dec 29, 2014 3:03pm

    Phil…I am reading a book (for women) called Having Sex, Wanting Intimacy. She has a term called Sexintimacy…which basically means that a woman thinks that she has to have sex quickly in a hookup or relationship to foster a connection. But this strategy does not work and the hookup does not lead to a relationship or the relationship does not become fulfilling.

anonymous Mar 20, 2014 10:12am

It's beautiful.

Kathryn Melcher May 30, 2018 5:30pm

Exactly! But then how do we make that shift? Ask for what we need and want (or demand) without becoming ‘needy’? Be that person to voice our desires or expectations, without losing our independence?

Kalinda Sims May 14, 2017 12:15am

that's me.

Andrea Fuentealba Feb 6, 2017 2:09am

Totally with you ! ...only I'll change "need" to "deserve" and will wait with confidence and gratitude. Big hugs

Manishi Bajaj Nov 10, 2016 7:54am

This hits home so hard.

Natalie M Phillips Giles Nov 10, 2016 5:16am

OMG... Nailed It!!!

Karen Hall Taylor Sep 2, 2016 1:11am

It's like your words have spilled forth from my heart and through the tip of your pen. Words that I've heard whispered in the deep recesses of my soul, but have been afraid to verbalize. Guess it's time to do some soul searching!

Katie Mack Aug 16, 2016 2:33pm

This explains perfectly how I'm feeling and is exactly what I need to hear right now. Thank you for these articulate words on emotions that feel so un-articulate

Helen Dowty Aug 16, 2016 2:10pm