We all know that woman.
Perhaps, you are her.
She carries herself with a certain poise. She drinks decaf Americanos and, on her worst days, still manages to look impeccably dressed. Her day planner is neatly organized. And she keeps track of other people’s schedules too. She devotes herself fully to her career or children, or both, while always seeming to have extra time to show up for friends or family in need.
She takes pride in taking care of herself and providing for herself financially. She knows how to make love to herself well too.
Yet, inside, she yearns to be taken care of.
Inside, she learns to fall a little, to be held, to break down, to be taken care of like how she cares for others and for herself.
The curse of the capable woman is that her capability masks her vulnerability.
And she knows that vulnerability is the cornerstone of human connection.
Stuck in her story of independence, she is capable but alone. Whether she’s single or not, the capable woman always feels a little alone inside—for she’s never able to fully open up about her insecurities.
The story she created doesn’t allow her to.
It might be a story of survival or a story that she wasn’t capable at some point in the past. It might be the other side of codependence. It might be her proving to herself and to the world that she can do it all on her own.
Only when she realizes she has nothing to prove will she be able to let her guard down.
Only when she releases the internalized pressure of her past, telling her she must become all things to all people, that she must constantly prove herself better and worth it.
Only when she resurrects that lost little girl, still brave enough to let herself be taken care of, to cry unabashedly, to be held and supported.
Then will she be able to have her real needs met?
For there is a latent frustration in the capable woman.
To the perceptive friend or partner, there is a quiet rage, detectable and simmering underneath—the rage of doing it right, of being the good, capable person and still coming up short, of knowing that something is missing, something she can’t give herself.
Inside, she feels hatred toward herself at times and as if she’s been lied to. This was not taught to her: how vulnerability can actually manifest what we really want, how, sometimes, the very opposite of capability—our often glossed-over human weakness—lets others in, where we are yearning to be seen.
Often, the capable woman has wounds in her past—times when she let her guard down, when she opened up only to be met with rejection or ridicule.
Underneath every capable woman is a woman of great sensitivity and depth. Like a wounded, proud lioness, she would have covered up those tender places quickly. She would not let others in so soon again.
And, over time, it takes more and more for her to try again. This can happen even in a long-term relationship. In fact, it’s there where the capable woman can find great comfort, for there is less risk and less opportunity to be caught unaware. Often then, the capable woman hides her own power and dims her own light.
To shine would be to risk being seen.
But there is hope for the capable woman. There is always the opportunity for softening. It can start with the hardest words for a capable woman to say—I need help.
It can be help with anything. It doesn’t have to be baring her soul right away. It’s more for her to practice asking for help, and most importantly, to practice receiving support.
She will have to practice like working a new muscle if she is serious about overcoming her tendency to do it all herself.
First, she can practice with herself. She can begin to get honest about those areas where she needs a little assistance, where she is not perfect, where she has covered up all her insecurities with stories of needing to be there for others, of being a rock, of being unshakeable.
Like an archeologist, she’ll have to dig within to find those cracks, and to pause and notice there how, as Leonard Cohen says, “That’s where the light gets in.”