We’ve all heard about the historical legacy of women not making as much money as men for the same jobs—a pattern that (not) surprisingly still exists today. Part of the reason is that women are afraid to ask for raises or more money and are apologetic about it when they do; whereas, men make no bones about asking for more money and believing they deserve it. When a man marches into his boss’s office, his attitude toward his own worth is likely to be much stronger than a woman’s in the same situation.
Let’s be clear: these are not inherent differences between men and women. They are differences based on the very different messages we get as we grow up, the ways we are socialized to be in the world. For some people, this is a no-brainer, and others just don’t see it. I see it every day in the women I speak to and there are three key ways it shows up over and over.
Women go to People Pleaser University, they specialize in Caretaking 101, and they graduate with a diploma in “Not Enough”. Even the most powerful feminists are not immune to this unwritten curriculum. Let’s break down how this unacknowledged “education” shows up around money and sex.
People Pleaser University
Women are taught to people please in order to get their needs met, rather than to meet their needs on their own. This, by definition, makes women dependent on others for their well-being, money, fulfillment and happiness. And many women live their whole lives looking to other people to take care of them, to buy them what they want, to make sure they have a roof over their heads, to pay the bills, to take them on vacations and out to dinner, and to pay child support so they can manage the kiddos.
Women are not socialized that they can make the money they really want to make, that they can be the “breadwinner” in their family, or that it’s okay to want money of their own. In fact, women are often taught that it’s not okay to make more money than their male partners, so when they are making more, they feel guilty, can’t own it, can’t feel good about and often will sabotage it so he can stay on top in the finance department (because of course, men have been socialized that that’s their job!)
This leaves women with a false choice: try to make some money, but not too much money, or just please your financial backers so they won’t take your allowance away. What kind of dynamics do you think this creates for women in their sexual lives? A woman who has guilt about making/wanting money is going to have guilt sexually as well. She’ll go on pleasing her partner, and possibly resenting it, while her needs never get met.
Women are socialized to take care of others rather than themselves. Some people don’t feel like a woman is living her true calling if she chooses NOT to be a mother or to mother everyone around her. I have consciously chosen not to have children and I’ve had people question this and tell me I’ll change my mind many times. Wild! Like I can’t make a sound decision around this that’s right for me?
Women are so expected to care for everyone else, to manage the house and the kitchen and to raise the children, that when a woman refuses to, she is called into question. How could she? Who does she think she is? What mother does that? Mothers are blamed for everything under the sun—certainly everything that goes wrong with the kids, because they are supposed to be there. It’s become accepted that men often won’t be. So it’s her job to take up the slack and do double-time (once again, for less or no pay).
What this looks like is women apologizing all the time, trying to make sure they aren’t taking up too much space intended for others, and ultimately getting angry inside that their needs don’t get met while they take care of everyone else. This can turn into alcoholism, checking out, overspending, not asking for what they want, an unhappy sex life where their needs are not seen or met and it’s all about their partner, and so on. That unattended or unacknowledged anger can seep out in so many ways in your life.
Women were not put on earth to make sure everyone else is happy and cared for. Women, just like everybody else are the architects of their own destiny and often, that means putting their needs first, making the decisions that are right for them, regardless of what anyone else thinks, and taking their lives into their own hands. I’ve seen many women do this after a divorce (myself included) and it’s incredible what a woman can do when she is free to design her own life and takes that very seriously. Women can, of course, choose to do this in a marriage, but if her partner is not used to her claiming her own desire and wellbeing, there will, no doubt, be an adjustment period.
Diploma in “Not Enough”
After a lifetime of being schooled at People Pleaser University and majoring in Caretaking 101, women will walk away with a diploma in “Not Enough” if they do not change course. Women tend to internalize the idea that they are “not enough” when they’ve never been taught to have their own needs, wants, boundaries and desires. They don’t have enough of what it takes, they don’t deserve it, they’ll never “have enough” money, they’ll never “be enough” sexually, their body will never be “good enough”, they were never a “good enough” mother, and so on.
The “not enough” virus is rampant—women’s unacknowledged education has left us with the short end of the stick and until women decide that indeed, we are enough and we deserve more, we will continue to have this insidious virus running through our minds, actions, and lives—and we’ll live exactly like that: without enough. This is a deep wound in our self-worth that will make it virtually impossible to live the life of our dreams. Until you heal this wound, it will run your life.
So it’s up to you to decide that you’re going to end this relationship to yourself and build one that’s healthier. You came by it honestly, but you’ve got to take responsibility and change it. If you woke up each day believing you are enough, believing you deserve all the good things you desire, believing you can have/make more money and that you can have a fulfilling sexual life, how would that change your life? How would that change how you show up in the world? For the people in your life? And of course, for yourself? What would that do to your self-worth?
You have a right to create your own life and to have what you really want. I hope you start to go after it today. It’s time.