Posted in Being Human, Boundaries, Inspiration, women

Strong Intelligent Independent Successful Woman Syndrome

Today’s post is addressing the plight of strong, intelligent, independent, successful women.  Because we are all these things, we often feel very alone and getting others to understand we still need help and support can be a challenge.



A New Diagnosis for the DSM

I am proposing a new diagnosis for the DSM (Diagnostic Statistical Manual).  That new diagnosis is “Strong Intelligent, Independent, Successful Woman Syndrome.”  The symptoms of this syndrome include:

  • Loneliness
  • Anxiety
  • Spontaneous sadness
  • Headaches
  • Neck, shoulder and lower back pain
  • Creaky knees
  • Difficulty getting others to understand you need help

SIISWS is common among women who have worked hard to be successful in a man’s world (in case you are in denial, white, male privilege still reigns supreme in our society), and/or who have crawled out of adversity to make a life for themselves.  These are women who possess inner strength, tenacity, perseverance, courage, intelligence and who have a vision of what they want and who they are called to be and who have worked their butt off to get there.  You know these women.  You might be one of these women.  These women are a force to be reckoned with because they have moved through the challenges life has handed them and have moved through the inner fears, anxieties, and self-doubts that might have paralyzed others.  “We shall overcome,” might be thought of as their common mantra.  These women are strong, independent, intelligent and successful because of their own hard work and because of the inner and outer resources they have found along the way. It isn’t easy being one of these women, however, and this is the cause of the syndrome.

Strong Intelligent Independent Successful Woman Syndrome

SIISW’s are tired.  Tired from always having to be strong.  Tired from the burden of always having to overcome – fears, anxiety, self-doubt, societal structures, beliefs, attitudes, and perceptions that stand as obstacles to their empowerment.  SIISW’s are sore.  Sore from carrying the burden of the tasks they have chosen, from climbing over obstacles, up hills, over and through mountains to accomplish their goals.  Sore from sometimes being the only one in the room up for the challenge.  Sore from carrying what others are not able to carry.  And SIISW’s are lonely.  Lonely because they appear to be confident, self-assured, autonomous and capable.  “You got this,” is what others believe of the SIISW.  SIISW’s are also lonely because, in truth, others are intimidated by them – women who are afraid to harness their own inner strength and men who are threatened by the strength and power of successful women.

Seeking for a Cause

The cause of Strong Intelligent Independent Successful Woman Syndrome is the weaponry that women have to take on in order to become SIISW’s.  SIISW’s need both a sword and a shield.  A sword to cut through fears, inner and outer obstacles, and self-doubt in order to accomplish their tasks.  A shield to protect themselves from the adversities of their past, the criticism and condemnation of others and the volley of sticks and stones hurled toward them as they fight their way to achievement, and the relationships lost because others are either unable to keep up, or become jealous and turn away.  In picking up these weapons, SIISW’s sometimes forget to lay them down, and forgetting to lay them down, neglect the deep vulnerability that drove their quest in the first place.  That is, however, until the vulnerability begins to wake up, seeking to remind the SIISW that they are still human and in need of human companionship, comfort and support.

The Way to a Cure

The cure for Strong Intelligent Independent Successful Woman Syndrome lies both within the woman and her closest friends and companions, but it starts with her.  SIISW’s need to remember they are human.  SIISW’s need to create space in their lives where they can be present to and become comfortable with their vulnerability. They need to acknowledge their fears, their insecurities, the defense mechanisms they’ve developed in order to become a successful woman in a man’s world.  They need to acknowledge their longing, their disappointments, losses and failures and grieve them.  They need to make a home for their loneliness.  They need to acknowledge their needs – especially those they cannot fulfill on their own, or that they just don’t want to accomplish on their own (I use my princess card for these….changing tires, snow blowing my driveway, bagging groceries, etc.)?  And once the SIISW has become comfortable with the vulnerability within, they need to be even more vulnerable and begin to ask others for help.  They need to ask their friends for help, invite their loved ones in as sources of support, seek professional support when these services are needed.  And…..they have to keep asking because quite frankly, those around them don’t really believe they need help, “You got this,” is most likely their first response.

How You Can Help

If you have a SIISW in your life, you can help them overcome Strong Intelligent Independent Successful Woman Syndrome.  First, by recognizing the symptoms and second by offering support.  Step in, even if they have not asked, and offer support.  BE the shoulder they can cry on.  Offer to take one of the burdens off their hands.  And when they say, “no, I got this,” take it off their hands anyway.  Reach out and invite them to join you for something fun.  SIISW’s are really bad at making room for fun… the one who helps them let go of the “work” and simply enjoy life.  Listen to their needs and offer to help them get their needs met.  Rub their overburdened shoulders, knees and feet.  Take the shield and sword from their hands, pulling it from their dead fingers if you need to, and then simply hold them – because after all the work of holding up themselves and the rest of the world, what SIISW’s need most of all… to be held.



Posted in Healing, Inspiration

Recovering from Abuse

In the twenty years that I have been in the ministry of spiritual direction/spiritual counseling, I have journeyed with many men and women who have survived abusive relationships, including being married to a narcissist.  This essay is for you! 




Nobody warns you of the consequences of being married to an abuser.  The price, I have learned, is nothing less than your Soul.  The voice of your inner truth – silenced.  Your hopes and dreams, snuffed out.  All the things that make your heart sing, torn from your grasp and crushed under a steel-toed boot.  No regard for your hopes and dreams, your needs falling on deaf ears. In the home that you share, there is no room for you, your dreams, your needs, your aesthetics. Instead, the abuser somehow takes up ALL THE SPACE.

The abuser doesn’t care about what you want, who you are, what you might need to thrive, let alone survive –   the consideration only of themselves and how you might serve them.  A trophy, housekeeper, business manager, bookkeeper, accountant, cook, parent to their children (so they don’t have to parent), sex toy, all under the guise of “loving support,” with nothing there for you. Your dreams, desires, hopes, needs are unimportant you know, as you are only there to serve them.  But never, not once, is there a word of gratitude or kindness.  Instead, you’re too fat, you’re ugly, frigid and asexual, the house isn’t clean enough, the yard not pretty enough, your clothes aren’t right, your beliefs and dreams are stupid, and how dare you ask for a teenie tiny crumb of anything for yourself and if you dare to ask, you can bet you will be punished.

There really ought to be a diagnosis in the DSM: “survivor of being married to an abuser,” so that there can be some sort of coverage for recovery work and supplemental income while you try to get your life back together – for recovery from these kinds of relationships is akin to trying to survive while walking on the sun.