If you are an ambitious woman who feels unfulfilled in your personal or work life, you are not alone: as a life coach, I help many women who feel unfulfilled in all aspects of life, including personal relationships and careers.
Despite their ambitions, these women feel something’s holding them back – and what I’ve found is that very often, the driving cause is that women are not putting their own needs first – aka being selfish enough.
If this resonates with you, then here are three steps you can take to identify causes and start to resolve those challenges. Use them to chart your own course towards “selfishness” – in the most empowered sense of the word.
1. Identify the sources of your unfulfillment
Many women who feel unfulfilled are uncertain as to why or what they’re doing to contribute to that feeling – that’s why they seek life coaching!
Identifying your own source of your dissatisfaction can take time, and is a highly personal exploration of values, negative thoughts, and behavioral patterns.
That said, in my practice there are three common sources I’ve observed that may apply to you, too: perfectionism, guilt, and settling for less.
Here are ways in which these commonly play out – see if any apply to your life as causes of unfulfillment:
- You feel like your efforts and accomplishments are never good enough, and you feel a lurking sense that things can always be better.
- You get hung up on making ‘the right decision’ and are unable to move forward because of the pressure you put on yourself.
- You’re hard on yourself: if you make one mistake, you berate yourself like “ugh I’m so stupid!” or “why did I do that!” and are disappointed in yourself.
- You can’t remember the last time you felt satisfied with your work, or seldom give yourself credit or reward yourself for good performance.
- You feel that the high standards you hold yourself to are unattainable and that causes stress and unhappiness.
- You feel like putting your needs first makes you a bad person – whether that’s at work, or in your personal relationships.
- You may feel unable to strike the balance you strive for – between work and life, friends and partner, fitness and sleep, etc. – and feel guilty about missing out on one element, or prioritizing the "wrong" one.
Settling for less
- Your romantic relationship isn’t filling your needs, but you still feel stuck in it – you see it as your job to change them or make excuses for your partner, and/or you’re worried you won’t find anyone better.
- You feel dissatisfied at work, but don’t feel worthy of asking for more, whether that’s responsibility, flexibility, vacation, promotion, or raise. You feel scared to speak up and express your desires, and as a result, you settle for less.
When these issues are the driving forces in a woman’s life, they create the perfect self-defeating storm. We’ll work together to replace them with healthier life approaches using the steps outlined below.
2. Develop skills to rewire thought & behavioral patterns
After you've spent some time thinking about what patterns and stressors are recurring in your life, it's time to develop skills that will help you healthily deal with them in the moment.
In my practice, I help clients work through these through with the following trifecta:
Learn to set boundaries
By setting strict boundaries in their personal and professional lives, my clients are able to foster healthier relationships – with others, and themselves.
Here's a few ways you can learn to set boundaries:
- Giving yourself permission to set boundaries in the first place, such as saying "no" to an event invite purely because you'd rather stay in (not needing an excuse)
- Develop self-awareness – for example, having a clear self-understanding of what is and isn’t allowed in your relationships
- Learning to handle confrontation in a healthy way to enact these boundaries
Defeat automatic negative thoughts (ANTS)
These “ANTS” are where your mind goes, automatically, when faced with a perceived challenge. Examples of ANTs include:
- Fortune telling: Having an automatically pessimistic reaction to outcomes. An example is telling yourself a thought like “That person won’t like me, because I’m not cool enough. I shouldn’t even bother introducing myself.”
- All-or-nothing thinking: Also called "black and white" thinking, this is a type of see-saw thinking that goes to extremes. You might think you're a total failure because you made a mistake in your professional life, or that a friend is mad at you – or even a bad friend – because they forgot to respond to a text message.
- Thinking with your feelings: You believe your negative thoughts to be true, rather than filtering them for more objective realities. As a result, your negative perceptions shape your perception of an event or interaction.
- Comparisons: Always thinking others are doing a better job than you are, whether it’s your coworkers on a performance or your friends in their love lives. This makes it difficult to celebrate their accomplishments and hard to see your own successes in an objective (rather than a comparative) light.
Work on self-compassion
We’ll work on self-compassion exercises, which include:
- Learning how to comfort yourself (rather than belittle yourself) in moments of extreme stress
- Practicing forgiveness for your own mistakes, to ease the weight of perfectionism
- Being mindful of each moment, rather than viewing them through a self-critical lens
3. Embrace your new “selfish” mindset and exercise it
By this point, you've identified your sources of stress, and learned skills you can implement to respond more healthily to said stressors.
While those two steps require serious legwork, the final step is often the toughest: Activating those skills in the real world.
Be patient with yourself, and remember that not every situation is a battle – but rather, an opportunity to grow.
Journaling can be a helpful exercise in becoming more mindful of your automatic reactions and thought patterns. For example, when you feel stressed stressed, take a moment to ask yourself:
- What triggered the negative thought?
- What are you telling yourself in that moment?
- What compassionate words can you tell yourself for self-comfort?
As your newfound skills become second nature, you'll notice yourself taking active steps to move towards achieving fulfillment and pride in yourself!
Patience is key for personal progress
It's important to remember that no one's process to empowerment is linear or clear-cut! Life is messy by nature, and no amount of life coaching can change that.
But what it can change is how we roll with the punches – and using that adaptability to get us from where we are today, to where we want to be tomorrow.