Three Questions About Balancing the Needs of Self and Others: Suggestions for Women

April 1, 2008 at 2:20 pm  •  Posted in Healthy Lifestyles by  •  0 Comments

By Sherry Katz, MSW, LCSW


Sherry Katz, LCSW has practiced social work for 27 years, and currently practices family therapy in Ridgewood, NJ. She has both a broad range of social work, clinical, and consulting experience in various older adult settings, as well as advanced clinical training in couples and family therapy. If you have questions or an interest in Ms. Katz’s work, contact her directly at or in her office, 201.445.4770.

Q. “Is thinking about myself selfish?”

Most women were raised to pay much more attention to others than themselves; “be nice, let so and so go first, don’t take the biggest piece, don’t you want to give aunt Whoever a kiss good-bye, education for girls is not as important as it is for boys, a good wife takes care of her home, sit like a lady.

As girls, most women were never asked their reason for not wanting to “be nice”; maybe the day before, the very person toward whom “niceness” was expected, had hurt the feelings of our theoretical person. And what’s so bad about taking the biggest piece? And maybe aunt Whoever is scary or mean, academic learning is exhilarating, not all people, which include women, like managing or cleaning their homes, and why does anyone care how I sit?

Everyone develops life habits and their own internal logic based on the messages we received during our early days. If the culture contained messages such as, “be a woman”, meaning to stand up for what’s right, follow your dreams, don’t let disappointment get in your way, pick yourself up and carry on”, then most likely, most women, would not have the enormous difficulty most of us do, in deciphering who we truly are and what we truly want from life and others.

How therapists help is to encourage open mindedness in their patients, to examine carefully what and how the principles of their lives are defined based on inner identity or conformity to standards set by others, which for some women’s sensitivity, can lead to depression, anxiety or disease.

Q. “How can I begin to change to a more genuinely self-focused approach to my life?”

Start by stating the facts and being willing to continue dialogue with whoever wants to know more about you. If you feel angry that someone has ignored you for several months, instead of not addressing your hurt feelings, when that person finally does call, tell whomever it is, how you felt. Be willing to keep opening the descriptions of your inner mood. We each have a right to say what’s on our mind and relationships improve the more others know about who we are.

Q. Won’t people start to get angry and drift away from me if I say that I’m angry?’

Some people may have that response, but how happy have you been with a relationship in which it is necessary for you to stifle your true mood and feelings in order for the relationship to survive? Picture how you might feel if the other person with whom you have a relationship, could accept that you have ups and downs, sometimes feel you could use emotional support, want to be alone or together based on your unique individual tastes.

Talk therapy is a way to experiment with new ways of relating; therapists are trained to relate with the patient’s best interest as primary; the patient has safety and freedom to practice new modalities of relating.

To find a social worker in your area who can help you with issues like these, please click here.

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