–Harriet G. Lerner
Women have unique pressures in today’s world. Often, they are not even aware that some of their difficulties can be related to being female, as their symptoms do not seem to be connected to their gender/sex on the surface.
High-achieving and professional women have added burdens. Despite a commonly held attitude that women are no longer a marginalized group, when women are successful, strong-willed, independent, competitive, and achievement oriented—particularly those who work in male-dominated fields, they may find themselves in difficult situations, including being
- Seen as difficult when in positions of power
- Accused of not being feminine enough
- Driven to be perfect and to “do it all” without limits
- Ambivalent about asking for help, having needs, or relying on others
- Afraid to have a voice or to take up too much space
- Criticized for not being good wives, girlfriends, or mothers
- The only woman (or one of the only women) amongst their work peers.
These struggles may lead to increasing self-doubt, the development of a harsh internal critic, depression, anxiety, a debilitating level of high expectations and perfectionism, hiding or downplaying of their abilities and viewpoints, exhaustion and burn-out, or isolation.
Women in my practice often seek treatment for the following concerns:
- Depression, lack of interest or pleasure, or lack of motivation
- Anxiety, excessive worries, or fears
- Adjustment difficulties
- Difficulty expressing anger or dealing with conflict
Relationship and Social Difficulties
- Being overly self-sacrificing and self-betraying
- Feeling punished for being “too aggressive”
- Feeling walked all over for being “too passive”
- Having a pattern of destructive relationships where they lose their sense of self
- Feeling silenced or dismissed
- Feeling objectified
- Experiencing ageism
Career and Educational Issues
- Difficulty navigating between various demanding tasks (e.g., career and parenting)
- Difficulty being taken seriously or moving ahead in their career
- Fearing or sabotaging their success
- Experiencing conflict between their gender role and their cultural role
- Having conflict between various aspects of themselves (e.g., career person versus partner or parent)
- Distinguishing between who they want to be versus society’s expectations of who they should be
My personal experiences as a woman, my extensive clinical work with high-achieving women, and my teaching and community service in discussing women’s issues converge, enabling me to relate to and work compassionately with creative and high-achieving professional women.