6.9
April 1, 2024

To the Exhausted Woman Who was Always the “Good Girl” & Over-Responsible Child.

{*Did you know you can write on Elephant? Here’s how—big changes: How to Write & Make Money or at least Be of Benefit on Elephant. ~ Waylon}

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In a conversation with a new client the other day, I explained that burnout, fatigue, and chronic exhaustion often emerge when our body has finally had enough of us repeatedly neglecting our needs and overriding our boundaries.

This particular client is on the cusp of burnout. A devoted mother, wife, daughter, and women’s coach, she’s been able to keep going for years. Until now. 

It’s not uncommon.

Many of my clients, particularly the ones who’ve been socialised as women and are in the helping professions (therapists, coaches, teachers, nurses, and so on), struggle with this. Their attunement toward others means that they’re great at what they do, but there’s often little leftover for themselves at the end of the day.

I tell them all the same thing: the route back to vibrant health, joy, and creative fulfillment is to focus on cultivating their sovereignty.

How should I know? I’ve been there myself.

I was always the anxious over-responsible child, desperate to please, and devastated when I didn’t. I don’t remember ever feeling like a carefree child. There was always some pressure to perform, and much of it was related to doing well at school and being a “good girl.”

One memory in particular stands out.

My parents, who always meant well, wanted to see if I could win a scholarship to go to the good school in our area. I was told I had to sit an exam but that it didn’t matter if I passed or not.

I didn’t believe them, and I also didn’t feel like I had a choice in the matter either. My eight-year-old body was taut with tension because it knew I wasn’t going to pass the exam. And I didn’t.

The disappointment I felt in letting everyone down condensed into what felt like a heavy iron chain around my chest. That tension staying locked in my body for years, causing me to constantly overwork, over-give, over-deliver, and override my needs for nourishment, love, and safety, all in the attempt to compensate for what I believed were my failings, and maintain relational safety with the people in front of me, even if they didn’t have my best interests at heart.

It wasn’t until I found somatic-based therapy and coaching that I was able to slowly unwind this imprinting from my system and reclaim my sovereignty.

The blueprint of sovereignty slowly came alive in my body, helping me to become the kind of woman who can acknowledge her needs, honour her boundaries, and not take responsibility for everyone and everything in her life.

It was sovereignty that helped me leave a physically abusive relationship.

It was sovereignty that helped me build financial security for myself.

It was sovereignty that helped me build my capacity to discern and say no.

It was sovereignty that helped me learn how to work in a way that energises me, instead of draining me.

What I’ve learned over many years is that sovereignty isn’t a state of mind. It’s a state of body.

This is why, when it comes to healing from the burnout and exhaustion that stems from always putting other people first, working with our nervous systems is crucial. When we learn to work with the wisdom of our bodies, we can not only help our nervous system process unfinished imprints such as guilt and shame, but then re-condition our body to find safety in creating and maintaining the boundaries that we need to in order to thrive,

This is the big disruptive work that sets us free.

~

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