Hey Mom, Who’s Taking Care of You? (Let’s Talk About Emotional Exhaustion) with guest Nancy Colier, LCSW
About this Episode
If we asked you, “who’s taking care of you?” what would your response be? We bet the responses would range from a spit-take to a chuckle, from a frown to actual tears. Nancy Colier, author of The Emotionally Exhausted Woman, Why You’re Feeling Depleted, and How to Get What you Need has asked a number of women this question as she worked on her book and, almost without fail, the women cried—they were desperate for her book and desperate for someone to care for them. We’re sure you can relate—do you have someone who takes care of you?
In her book, Nancy investigates why women have such a hard time with this concept, and how our friends, our partners, and we ourselves have conspired to create a culture in which women are expected to make themselves small, put others first, and ignore our own needs in favor of being easygoing and likeable.
Listen, ladies: if you’ve ever been told you’re hysterical, too much, angry, unlikeable, difficult, or overreacting, this one’s for you. (Isn’t that all of us?) Nancy’s approach to emotional exhaustion was truly revolutionary for us—and we hope it will help you approach your feelings of emotional exhaustion and overwhelm from a new perspective.
About Nancy Colier
A longtime student of Eastern spirituality, Nancy Colier is a psychotherapist, interfaith minister, and the author The Emotionally Exhausted Woman: Why You’re Feeling Depleted and How to Get What You Need (New Harbinger, 2022), as well as numerous other books. She is a thought leader and national speaker on women’s empowerment, wellbeing, and mindful technology, and has been featured on Good Morning America, The New York Times, and countless other media. She is also a regular blogger for Psychology Today. In addition, Nancy spent 25 years as a nationally top-ranked equestrian and serves as a performance consultant to professional athletes and artists.
Connect with Nancy
Buy Nancy’s Book: https://www.amazon.com/Emotionally-Exhausted-Woman-Feeling-Depleted/dp/1648480152
Listen or Subscribe to our Podcast
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Read the transcript for this episode:
Dr. Amy Moore: Hi, and welcome to this episode of Brady Moms brought to you today by LearningRx Brain Training Centers. I’m your host, Dr. Amy Moore, here with my co-host Teri Miller, coming to you as usual from Colorado Springs, Colorado, where it is about to snow! Early November, it’s about that time. So, we’ve got our heat going, and Teri is not even in a sleeveless shirt today. So, we are super excited to bring you a conversation with our guest today, Nancy Colier. A longtime student of Eastern Spirituality, Nancy is a psychotherapist, interfaith minister, and a thought leader. She’s a national speaker on women’s empowerment, wellbeing, and mindful technology, and is a regular blogger for Psychology Today. She’s here to share her wisdom from her book: The Emotionally Exhausted Woman, Why You’re Feeling Depleted, and How to Get What you Need.
Teri Miller: Welcome, Nancy. So glad you’re here. I
Nancy Colier: And I will say, in New York City, it’s 70 today, so we flipped?
Dr. Amy Moore: Wow.
Teri Miller: Oh my goodness.
Dr. Amy Moore: Well, it was 60, it was 65 here yesterday, and so that’s Colorado.
Teri Miller: But that isn’t, that unreasonably warm for where you are?
Nancy Colier: Unreasonably warm. Insanely warm. But we love it. We’ll take the day.
Dr. Amy Moore: Yeah, absolutely.
Teri Miller: Well, hey, before we dig into this topic that I am personally very excited to hear about, and I am going to probably be taking notes and trying not to cry the whole time, I wanna hear about you, your life, how you got to where you are today, and what led you to writing this book.
Nancy Colier: So my journey is as a psychotherapist: I look for trends. I look for things that I’m seeing on a daily basis. And for nearly 30 years as a therapist working primarily with women, I have seen women become more and more and more exhausted over time. And as an interfaith minister, people come to me for spiritual counseling. Same thing there. And in my own life, I have felt deeply emotionally exhausted, as well. And so, whenever something keeps coming to me, I have to write a book about it. I wrote a book about anxiety, which I saw in my clients. I wrote it about getting lost in technology, all these different topics. They come from what I see is a need for help in a particular area. And with women, what I’ve seen is that we have this whole self-care market. You know, we’re running out and getting our mani-pedis and lavender loofas and, and all of this sort of thing, and we’re slathering up and pampering and adding wonderful scents to what is a much deeper, core problem. A problem that has to do with a deep depletion, a deep disconnection from ourselves, a fundamental abandonment of ourselves.
And so I’m watching as women are moving more and more towards a way of taking care of themselves that is flawed and not just flawed, but actually exacerbating the problem. So, I felt I had to step into this conversation and point us back to what’s really going on. It’s not just that we’re doing too much. Yes, we are. It’s not just that we don’t say no, it’s why. Why do we live this way? Why does every single woman that I bring this title to—when I was even just forming the book and thinking about it, and I would say “Emotionally Exhausted,” without exception, every single woman said, “oh my God, I have to buy that book. When is it coming out? When are you writing it? What? What’s happening?”
And almost every single woman, I would say, with maybe one exception that I’ve ever asked the question, “who’s taking care of you?” to, starts to cry.
Dr. Amy and Teri: Yeah, yeah.
Nancy Colier: So that just has to raise your, raise your flag there. So that brings us to writing it, and to here.
Dr. Amy Moore: When you said that in your book, that women cry when you say, “who’s taking care of you?” That so resonated with me. I was having a conversation one night with my son and he was saying how his girlfriend was kind of thinking that maybe she needed counseling. And I said, “well, everybody needs counseling. Everybody needs a therapist.” And he goes, “well, who’s your therapist, mom?” So I spend my days taking care of other people, right? But I don’t have a therapist. And so, then it got me thinking, “all right, well who is taking care of my emotional needs?” Like I very, you know, off the cuff said, “well dad, of course,” right? Like, referring to my husband, but really because I needed an answer in that moment.
Nancy Colier: But it’s a great question. It’s a great question he asked you because we put the mirror up, right? Even when we’re talking to dad, your husband there, there is an element that we’ve been so deeply conditioned into, which is “I still have to take care of dad. I still have to take care of my partner when he’s listening for me,” right? So, we need places where it’s just about us. And that in our culture is heresy! You immediately get put in the “selfish, self-indulgent, oh, it’s all about you.” Right? It switches right away to either/or. “Oh, you don’t care about anyone else.”
The minute you say, “I need something just for me,” like a therapist who’s there to listen to us, right? Then you risk the judgment and the label that comes with that. So it was a wonderful question because he made you aware that you don’t actually consider yourself, also, someone who is deserving of full care and full attention.
Dr. Amy Moore: And it was super insightful for a 17-year-old to call me out like that, right?
Nancy Colier: Yeah, yeah, yeah. We love our teenagers because they call a spade a spade. They don’t let us live in that denial and that falsehood, right? “Well, what are you doing for you?” It’s very strange as women, we’re really taught from the moment we can hold up our little heads to be selfless. Disappear. And then we’re valued and we’re loved and we’re cherished. Right? And then we have self-care. But we have self-care for a selfless self. We’ve gone missing, so who are we taking care of? And you know, we have to become more conscious of how rewarded we are for our disappearance.
Teri Miller: That—your book, everything you’re talking about—I mean, I read this, I told Amy, I said it earlier that I felt like you just wrote my story. You wrote my struggles, my fears , my tears. [laughs] And I’m gonna read some things; I’m gonna quote you, okay? Okay. You talk early on in the book, you talk about likeability. The cage of likability, the prison that we live in as women to be liked. And you talk about this herd mentality, that it’s normal. “It’s normal herd mentality that the herd protects us from being eaten. Our need to belong still sits at the heart of everything we do.” Makes sense. And here’s the thing you say, “here’s where it gets tricky: as women, we learn that the best way to belong and thus survive, is to make ourselves pleasing, to be what other people want us to be.” To look like what other people want us to look like, to behave, to speak, to smell, to sound—everything. Everything is about being liked, and it’s a prison. That is an absolute prison.
Nancy Colier: And what’s amazing—absolutely—and I lived in that likability cage like every other woman. I did. And we have this social media system, you know, “do you! You be you!” Right? “Get out there, be fierce.” But we’re doing it from inside a box that’s this big. From a tiny little box, right? Can’t, can’t go in this direction. Can’t go in that direction. Because we’ll be unsafe. We won’t be loved. Right? And. You know, there’s this heartbreaking moment, and it’s not a moment, it’s a little period in a young woman’s life, and we really can track this, thanks to maybe a handful of feminist psychologists like Carol Gilligan and Lynn Brown, but right around 12, 13, 14, young women make this deal. They make a deal that it’s more important to have a relationship than have a self. It’s more important to have relationships than to be related and known. Right? It’s more important that I be liked than I be real. This just never doesn’t break my heart. It never doesn’t break my heart, and I spend a lot of time talking to parents and talking to women in general about “how can we shift that decision?”
It’s a decision that is unconscious. It’s a decision that they learn from practice—that “all of me is not welcome. So I’ll go away.” Because it’s triage. You know, if we talk about Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, right? After food and water is safety, after safety is belonging, and then there’s self-esteem. Well, it’s a trifecta with “liked.” We get ’em all—our basic needs, so we won’t die. And it just breaks my heart again and again. This deal with the cultural system, in a sense, that in order to take care of myself, I have to abandon myself. What on earth is going on? We have a self-care system that thinks it’s okay that we need a post-it note on our computer to say we matter. That that’s normal. Why is that normal? So, we do self-care. We buy self-care, but we’re not self-caring. And this is what I’m trying to really shift, the whole paradigm there where we step into our own shoes again and redefine safety. Safety is the truth. We’re not responsible for the results of that truth. We’re responsible to show up in the truth. That’s it. And for women, that is one of the hardest things for us to do.
Dr. Amy Moore: So you mentioned that this is systemic, right? That this is culturally bound. I mean, if it’s starting at 13 and 14, how do you defy this cultural behavior? I mean, it’s like, how do you break away from that at the individual level? How do you impact change at the individual level?
Teri Miller: Okay. And so, Amy, I’m gonna make it individual. Okay?
Nancy Colier: Go for it.
Teri Miller: Okay. So, I have a lot of kids.
Nancy Colier: [laughs] A lot of kids.
Dr. Amy Moore: She has nine.
Teri Miller: I have nine kids.
Nancy Colier: You have nine—
Dr. Amy Moore: [laughs] If you could see Nancy’s face right now!!
Nancy Colier: You have nine children? How do you remember their names?
Teri Miller: It’s hard. I know. [laughs] I mix ’em up a lot.
Nancy Colier: I’m trying to remember two!
Teri Miller: No, well, I just spent a lot of years thinking that that was what filled me up inside, and gave me purpose, and that was how I was best, to be barefoot and pregnant. And I didn’t know how to fill myself up with self, and so I filled myself up with babies and I don’t regret any one of them. My goodness [laughs]. I mean, you know, it’s one of those things where, my goodness, I don’t regret it, but would I wish that on someone else? Maybe not. But anyway. So, here’s the thing. I’m gonna just true confession here. My two older daughters. My oldest daughter is a spitfire. She’s adopted. I didn’t get to play into her life as much. We adopted her much later in life. She came into the family much later in life. But my two daughters that I did raise from itty bitty, you know, from birth, one of them is 26, the other one is 22. And I did not help them intentionally fill themselves up with self. I perpetuated the perspective of the likability cage. I was living it, and I actually perpetuated it in them. I actually encouraged them, not realizing it. Okay. So we’re gonna ask you for individual advice, and I’m gonna say, moms, if you’re out there, take note. If you’ve got older ones and you’ve got younger ones, there is self-forgiveness. There is learning to change yourself right now to be a better example, so that even your adult children can begin to change. Cuz I’ve made some big life changes in the last two or three years. And my older daughters are taking notes. Thank God, because I did such a disservice to them. But there’s still time.
So I have a just turned 14-year-old. So now here’s our pointed, make it individual question: all your statements in your book, “the likability cage, the perfect woman, always and forever available, hyper-vigilance to what other people think, dismissing ourselves, what we need is outside of us, staying silent, being invisible, valued only for giving and serving, blaming ourselves for our needs, I’m just selfish.” All of those things you talk about, how can I help my just turned 14-year-old who is crying to me at night with the desire to be liked? How can I help her?
Dr. Amy Moore: And let me just tack onto that. As a counselor, I hear this from teenage girls all the time.
Nancy Colier: Sure. Yeah. So first, can I just back up for a second, Teri, and just offer you a big, empathic, forgiveness hug there in the sense of: we’re not immune to conditioning. I don’t care how conscious we are now, the fact that that’s where you were at that age? Okay. That was the best you had was to believe in the system. No shame there. No blame. You did what you thought would actually make them happier.
Teri Miller: Yeah. I thought I was doing right by them.
Nancy Colier: Absolutely. And we get to awareness when we get to awareness, period. We cannot rush a process that is outside of our control when it appears, right? So, no blame there at all about that. And all we have as human beings; we don’t have perfection. We don’t have 20/20 sight. What we have is the power of, once we wake up, to go back and start doing it differently. Go forward and start doing it differently. Go back and talk about what didn’t work. That’s the human journey. It’s not that we get it right the first time out of the gate. We don’t, none of us do, but that we’re aware enough to own, “I didn’t get it. I was a product of the system.” Right? That’s why it’s so powerful. Cause you’re the norm. I’m the norm. Amy’s the norm. We’re all the norm. Right? Until we’re not, right?
So that out of the way, what I would say, with your daughter that’s 14, and then with your clients, Amy, you know, first and foremost is awareness. Because what we lack, when we’re just identified with the culturing, a culturization and the conditioning, we’re lacking awareness of the messages we’re receiving. And this enormous conflict for your 14-year-old of, “God. It’s so hard to wanna be liked and also feel like you can’t say, ‘oh, I really want the taco, not the enchilada.’” And even that could lose you a place in your group. Even that small—like you wear this kind of thing—and it’s a time in life where it can feel really tricky, right, to stay with what you want. Cause it feels like the risks are so big. So, my goodness, if somebody had brought our attention to the struggle, “wow, now I have choices. So, when I go with the group, I know what I’m doing. I’ve got myself and I’m making a conscious choice. I’m empowered.” What happens that we wanna prevent from happening with your daughter and with your clients is that all of this goes on in the dark. So we start making that trade without knowing it, and then sooner or later, the authentic place atrophies. It atrophies. It dries up. It stops whispering to us. It stops shouting to us. And when we go to look for who are we, we have no idea anymore. Cause it’s so long been dismissed that it has no embers left in its fire. So as long as we have awareness, and then we can offer something small, like, “what about if we practiced. Practice telling the truth and let’s text out the reality of: what do you really lose?” Cause we’re so sure we lose everything, we’re gonna lose all the things we care about. So we’re not gonna do that. So let’s play with it a little bit and test the boundaries, right? And then in my own home, I am really modeling as a mom that whatever you bring, it’s welcome. Whatever you bring, there is no place where you can bring a truth. If it’s true, I wanna understand it. I wanna be with it. I wanna see if I can help it. Right? But there isn’t in the home, that sense of “there is this incredible rule for the bond,” right? “There is a way I can be, and the bond is intact and a way that I can’t be.” We cannot have that in our own home. So then actually young women are so incredibly insightful and wise, and they do start to parse, “who are the people I can be real with, and who are the people I can’t?” And that is a great bicycle to be able to ride.
So our job, first and foremost, is to bring awareness to the real struggle they’re in. It’s real. Society wants us a certain way and they’re gonna face judgments and labels and boxes. Listen, I asked for my dressing on the side yesterday for something I didn’t want it on, and I got 35 looks from 35 people. But I’m a grown woman. I can take that, right? The high maintenance, neurotic, anal, controlling, whatever. I don’t care. But when we’re 14, that’s survival. We do care. So, we want them to understand that that is a risk. They’re not making it up. But they’re bigger than that. If they know who they are, that they’re not any of those things, they don’t like the ingredients in the dressing. If they can stay true to what is actually true and their intentions, they’re safe. That’s what our job is, to teach them to stay aligned and on the side of “what’s true for you? Not the crazy story that’s gonna be made of it, the cultural story. Not all the labels and judgments, but what do you know to be true about you?” If we can hold that, we’re always safe.
Teri Miller: Yeah. And this journey is not going to be without a lot of pushback. I would venture to say, in my personal experience, that there’s—
Nancy Colier: Blaming. Blaming of YOU, right?
Teri Miller: Yeah. And calling out all the things you say, in a later chapter when you’re talking about all the things that women are called. “How dare you be so selfish? You’re a control freak. What else are you going to demand? You don’t just have needs, you’re needy. You’re impossible to please. That’s why you’re so unhappy. You’re one of those angry women. Do you have to be so aggressive? There’s too much of you. Are you high maintenance or what?” And so these are the things, okay? So listeners, if you are motivated and you’re like, “I wanna start making these changes. I wanna start knowing how to fill myself up with myself instead of other people’s approval.” There’s gonna be pushback. I have felt it. I’m gonna tell you, from significant other, from your own kids. They’re gonna tell stories about you. They’re gonna laugh about you, get sarcastic, you know? “Oh my gosh. And so her bean burrito had chicken in it, and she went back and she demanded another bean burrito.”
Nancy Colier: You’re gonna be attacked probably.
Teri Miller: Yeah. There’s gonna be pushback, there’s gonna be labels, and dang, it’s gonna be hard to not be angry. To actually get angry. And sort of punch back. But to just be self-assured. “Well, that’s okay. You can say that. My need is to have the bean burrito without chicken in it, so I’m gonna get this bean burrito.”
Nancy Colier: And part of that—I so get that. And I so lived that. And part of what helps us stay in our own shoes there, is our heart has to open to what it feels like to be so misjudged. What it feels like to be so put in a box. What it feels like to be up against this gigantic locomotive train of judgment, that’s so unfair, right? When we really feel that we’re on our own side, and it’s really hard. So I think your point is really a wise one there, which is: expect the war, and particularly when you’re changing a system. “Oh, now look at you. Now you’re all empowered. Oh, look at you. You have a new—” right? And then when you don’t bite the hook, “oh, you’re not gonna bite the hook?” It goes. And it goes and it goes. And you are staying with, “something really profound is happening. I am changing the entire way I live. I am changing my relationship with myself.”
Because part of what I’m addressing in this book is that the end result of this whole patriarchal system is that we end up in this incredibly distorted and unfriendly and suspicious relationship with ourselves. Because whatever could be appearing in us, this truth, becomes a potential enemy. Becomes something that can be judged, becomes something that can get us into danger. So, we’re at war with what’s arising inside ourselves. So, we have to turn towards that and welcome that ourselves. We have to allow that, not judge it, give it a space, empathize with it, validate it, right? And once we can do that, it’s very sad that that’s coming at us, but we’re not inclined to betray it, to turn on ourselves and join the enemy. Does that make some sense?
Teri Miller: Absolutely. It’s so hard. It’s so hard to break the cycles.
Nancy Colier: It is so hard. Can I tell you that I am an off the menu orderer, coming back to the dressing on the side, and I have been doing this work for 10 years with women, specifically this work. And there isn’t one time that my tummy doesn’t clench up, that I don’t internally brace myself for what’s coming at me, when I ask for anything that is inconvenient. Not one time in my life. And years back, you know, I would throw myself under the bus. “Oh, I’m so neurotic. I know, I know.” I have insulted myself in every language around the globe. I have done that. I don’t anymore. It’s like what Mark Twain said, you know, “if you tell the truth, you don’t have to remember anything.” I just say it and then I put a period on the end and I have learned over time. That’s it: “I would like, I’d actually like it not so well done,” period. Not to make you comfortable: “I know I’m so tightly wired.” Every time we do that, what we’re doing is we’re untethering ourselves from the authentic core, our power source, our vitality source. The very source we’re disconnected from, which causes our depletion and our exhaustion. So it’s not just, “oh, you know, it’s my problem.” It’s not just that. It’s death by a thousand omissions. Death by a thousand, “it’s okay”s. Death by leaving a thousand orders of toast covered in butter that we asked for no butter on the plate, and not sending them back. They’re all the same thing I’m just giving very tight examples. Right. But they’re all the severing of our relationship with our own experience.
Dr. Amy Moore: So stop apologizing for what you want.
Teri Miller: That’s what I was gonna say. Yeah.
Nancy Colier: Stop apologizing. Stop apologizing for you. Because that’s what we’re really apologizing for: that I’m not showing up in the packaging that suits your needs. Right? So I’m showing up actually as I am. And I have myself. So if that makes you disappointed or displeased, it’s not that I don’t care. See, people go straight to this idea, “oh, now you’re just this solo entity, you know? Now you’re a man-hater. Now you’re all these things.” None of that is true. What it’s saying is, “I can say that I can be who I am kindly and respectfully, but I am not responsible for your experience of that. I don’t have to manage that, so I don’t have to turn who I am into someone that works for you.” Right? Funny thing is we as women, we’re disappointed and displeased all the time. We manage it, but we have this idea that no one else should have to be in any way disappointed by how we show up, or have to do anything extra. Like write down on the pad, “no butter.” That’s too much of a bother. Right? So it’s, it’s not apologizing for not being exactly who works for you.
Teri Miller: Yeah. And it’s gonna be hard to stop apologizing.
Nancy Colier: It is hard.
Dr. Amy Moore: You say “having needs means I don’t appreciate what I have.” You talk about that in your book. And I have worked on that. You know, “I really need to work on contentment.” Right? And so talk a little bit about that.
Nancy Colier: I was thinking of a friend of mine who was—I think I used her example—taken out to dinner. This lovely, lovely sushi meal, none of which she wanted. It was this incredibly expensive meal. He likes big portions of food. I dunno why we’re, we’re on the restaurant today, today seems to be restaurant day.
Dr. Amy Moore: It’s relatable!
Nancy Colier: And what she wanted was like a big party for her birthday, and they had this tradition that every year they would surprise her, her daughter and her husband, with where they would take her. So they took her, this particular time, to this very fancy place. And her husband was out of a job at the time, so he had no income and it was like $300 a plate for like two tiny pieces of tuna. And so, you know, they’re sitting down and they seat them—it’s during Covid, so they them outside. So, the buses are going by… If I tell you, I mean, she was hilarious when she recounted the story, but she wanted nothing from that. Now it’s her birthday. It’s her birthday. But if she didn’t sit there and smile, and when I asked her, why wouldn’t she say something since it was for her? She said, “well, but if I said something, then I wouldn’t be appreciating all the effort that they did and all that it meant.” That example.
So she sat there and they got something like a $600 bill. They went to the diner after, I think. But the point was none of it had to do with her. None of it was what she wanted, but she would’ve been the Debbie Downer who would be saying, “oh, but I don’t see all that you tried to make me happy. You thought I wanted this. It all came from love,” but she needed to take care of their feeling appreciated more than she needed, even on that day, to get what she wanted. And we do that in thousand different ways every single day that we have this, again, it’s completely dualistic, polarized way of thinking. If I deeply appreciate and love you and love that you wanted to make me happy AND—not but—and this is not actually what makes me happy, that no one will be able to tolerate that. That their own ego fragility will be so weak that they will be insulted by that and that that’s gonna trump everything. And that’s heartbreaking, too, for me because their lived experience is that we need to take care of that person feeling appreciated more than we need to be honest and say, “I so love you and appreciate AND I don’t want this.”
Not allowed. She later told her daughter and her husband how that had impacted her, and their first response was to be angry and to be, “oh, here she goes. She doesn’t appreciate anything, and nothing is enough.” They went there and then she stayed with it and said, “but that was my very fear. That’s why I didn’t,” and they then were able to receive it and actually hear. The sadness, the great sadness that she was in the bathroom actually weeping on her birthday at this incredible restaurant. Because even there, with the two people that loved her most in the world, it wasn’t safe to be honest about what she wanted, which was none of this.
So we do that every which way. Another client of mine, you know, she, she was given some presents from her girlfriend, and the present had nothing to do with her. You know, nothing whatsoever. It was like a generic present. And it was like she went online.
Teri Miller: The candle. The candlestick! [laughs]
Nancy Colier: yes, the candle, the candlestick. And, and I think of that, she said to me, of course, privately, “you know, one day I would love to receive something that actually feeds me, that actually feels like I’m known.” But never in a million years would she share that. What are these relationships we are calling love? Where our job is to take care of how the other is experienced by us. And how we’re perceived as grateful or not grateful or impossible. These are not real relationships, and this is what I wanna change. And it starts by our taking the risk and being willing to get hit with that painful judgment. And staying in it. Staying in it.
Teri Miller: And being okay with walking that out, being okay with that being—the story where the husband and the daughter understood? That is beautiful. That’s wonderful. But it may not end that way.
Dr. Amy Moore: Well, and that’s what I was gonna ask about actually. Like, what happens and—let me just throw this out there—I can’t relate to any of this. I honestly, like, I can’t relate to feeling small or I was raised by a super strong woman and my husband has always appreciated my independence, and so this phenomenon is not oppressing me personally, but I see it all the time. I see it all the time in friends and clients. And so what happens, though, when you have a woman who wants to change, right? Who wants to take hold of their life, stand up for their needs, live their truth, and their spouse pushes back? What happens?
Nancy Colier: Right. Great question. So, one thing I wanna say though, and this is where it’s a little tricky, A large percentage of the women who I work with, who are finding their own shoes and coming home to themselves. They present as tremendously powerful. That’s what’s so paradoxical. Because—it’s really interesting—they’ve found a way to make it all work. They found a way to make everybody see them in a certain light and they’re happy. It’s not that they’re not happy, right? But there’s something broken in the system, which is even that powerhouse, even all that has found a way to take a form that is acceptable, that works. So, there’s still an inauthenticity in the women that seem most empowered, right? Not all. But it is, I think, an illusion to imagine that the woman who benefits from this presents as sort of beaten down and small. Very often they don’t. They’re just so good at making everyone else okay. And they usually get to my office when they’re bone tired from becoming what’s needed and doing it so powerfully and so well, and they realize they have no idea what they need and they haven’t spent any time really deeply inquiring, you know what feeds them? but they become these powerhouse versions and everyone loves them and they’re experts and everything, and they’re this and they’re that. But there’s something missing about, “but what’s for me? What’s really for me?” So, just to point to that, and then in terms of your question about when it’s not acceptable, when the spouse says, “I don’t want this,” well, that’s a moment, isn’t it? Because that is a very personal choice. Do we get back in the cage? Or once we’ve realized that the likability cage opens from the inside, can we get back in the cage? Can we get back into a relationship where the rules of the bond are, “I can’t show up fully?” Sometimes we can’t. Sometimes we can’t. And Teri, you’re smiling, but sometimes we can renegotiate that. What’s important more than anything is not the relationship with the partner. What’s important is that we are on our own side now, and so we’re not shaming and blaming ourselves for the parts of us that have been labeled unwanted.
Once we’re that person, we’re so fundamentally changed that we can’t say what we’ll do. Right? Because that person might also say, “oh, you don’t like that part of me,” right? “I’m gonna go hang out with friends that do,” and be completely fine with that. But we’re talking about moving from codependence the independence. So once we have ourselves, and we’re not gonna throw ourselves under the bus for parts of us that we don’t choose, we’re not to blame for, that’s just what we’re made of, then we have of choices of how we wanna be with the people in our lives. Does that make sense? It’s not a make or break.
Teri Miller: I liked what rang true for me or what I felt was super, super relevant was that maybe, it’s not about the relationship. If you’re making that change, you’re coming out of that cage, and there’s people around you that will not accept that. Who will continue to label you as, “control freak, too much, demanding.” All those things. I think what you’re saying is, if you’re gonna stay in that relationship, then just make it not about the relationship, make it about relationship with self. And so those two people can coexist together, but my most important relationship now is my relationship with self. Is accepting that I’m not too much, I’m not a control freak when I have a need. I’m not demanding when I don’t have to agree with everything somebody else says. That I’m okay.
Nancy Colier: Exactly. You’ve got the hang of this system. That sometimes we also get to the place where we’re just not interested in being that character in their movie. Right? So, we understand that they need us to be that “controlling, hysterical,” whatever it is that is your character. And we’re just, we’re not interested in stepping into that role anymore. So that may mean we leave, or that may mean we stay, but it’s, it’s like Teflon. It’s like, “oh, oh, that, oh, you’re needing me to be that, and I know that that’s not controlling, that actually upsets my stomach.” Or “I know that that’s not hysterical. That’s actually me having a response.” Or, “oh, I know that I’m angry about that, because that thing is wrong. Not that. Angry woman who’s bitter and all of these other things because the thing I’m angry about is actually needing to change.” Whatever is being on our side, we’re there. So then you, you run out your movie, you write your narrative. It’s sad, because we don’t wanna be seen negatively by those we love, ever. Of course, we’re human. But it doesn’t define our self experience.
Teri Miller: Yeah. So good.
Dr. Amy Moore: And so then that speaks to: back to the culture, back to the narratives that have created the beliefs of the spouse who is not supportive, right? Who has this view of their wife as small and subservient and whatever it is, whatever labels. It’s almost like the male’s narrative needs to be rewritten, because where did you get that message in the first place? That, that’s the definition of a woman.
Nancy Colier: Well, this is co-created, right? The pushback on this is, “oh, you must be a manhater. You’re anti-men.” This is co-created, and it only helps men, as well, to evolve their version of women to include a much more expansive presentation. If women are gonna evolve, men also need to evolve in wanting also to be in relationship with real people. So, to seek to understand the woman, rather than to throw her in a box. Right? I have incredible faith in men that ultimately men want that, too. I really do believe that. I don’t think we can evolve alone in this, and it will only serve our relationships to expand the parameters of what they can contain.
So, I see this second pushback, which means that we’re rejecting other genders. It’s nothing to do with that. This all has to be co-created, a new system which welcomes the full incarnation of a woman as well, and that she, first and foremost, like Teri, you’re saying, welcomes her own full presentation. There’s a lot of pushback too, about interdependence, right? You know, “Nancy, you’re creating independent women. But you know, with, with climate change and with the state of the world, don’t we need to be thinking about interdependence? Aren’t you pushing us? It’s enough with independence.” To me, that is another code for “get back in the box.”
Teri Miller: Oh my goodness. Right.
Nancy Colier: Right? We have to be a me before we can be a we. We have been so conditioned to take care of the collective. We’re really good at that, and we’re neurologically wired to be more empathic, to have neurochemicals that actually have parts of our brain focused on crying and, you know, all sorts of things I won’t go into that are proved in an MRI Machine. So this whole storyline of, “oh, you know enough with independence,” we haven’t gotten the independence yet and we don’t have to worry about the empathic collective piece. We got that. So not to fall for that and feel guilty about, you know, the state of the world and how would you care about yourself? It’s, it’s plan B to keep us, you know, in the lane.
Dr. Amy Moore: So, Teri, I know you have another question, but let me read a word from our sponsor and then you can ask that question before we wrap up. Sound good?
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Teri Miller: And we’re back with Nancy Colier. And I just wanted to kind of wrap this up the way your book wraps up. I think it is so unbelievably profound. A couple of phrases that were really, really impacting to me that I’m just gonna highlight, because they meant a lot to me. The first one that you’re focusing on, you kind of you end up with in your book is “Healing the ‘It’s My Fault’ Default.” And we talked about that just a little bit briefly. Like Amy talked about, stop apologizing for self; to stop apologizing for ordering that dressing on the side. I love it. Make the statement, put a period on the end. I love it. Instead of, “I’m sorry. I know it’s a hassle.” All the things that we do as women.
Dr. Amy Moore: Well wait, I wanna stop there. So, talk a little bit about why—so that is our default, automatically? Like we’ve just been conditioned to say, “it’s my fault”?
Nancy Colier: We’ve been conditioned to take the blame for anyone else’s discomfort. Any situation where there’s something wrong. Any situation where someone is not okay. We are conditioned from the time we’re born, that we’re valued and we’re loved—if it’s our responsibility to fix it. and therefore we are to blame for it. It keeps us also with a sense of control, because if we’re to blame, we can control it. We don’t really, in those moments where we are taking the blame and fixing it, we’re a little disconnected from empathy because we’re not actually understanding what’s going on. We’re just in such a rush to fix it, cause it’s our responsibility. But it’s a conditioning that is so deep in us that if something is wrong it’s because of us. I hate to say it, it’s a kind of awful negative narcissism, in the sense of we’re the center of the universe. We’re the one to blame at the center of the universe. So, you know, a client walked to her husband yesterday, she shared with me, you know, he walks in the door after a long day of work and he has the day off, and she’s starving, and she’s been on the train for an hour coming home and there’s nothing on the stove. And her first thought is, “oh my God, was I not that nice to him this morning?” You know, “and then when his friend came over on Saturday, that joke I made, did I emasculate him?” First thought out of her mind: “how did I cause this?”
So we have to learn, and we do this in all sorts of ways. We, we do this by becoming aware of how much we take the blame immediately and then set out to fix it. Then she says nothing, but starts rubbing his shoulders, counteracting the stories she’s making up in her head. You know, the narrative. She goes into correcting her own narrative. But we have to recognize that we’ve been trained that our job on Earth, as I said in the beginning, is to take care of other people’s needs. So when that doesn’t happen, we failed. That’s the natural link. What did we do wrong? We did something wrong to cause this person to not be okay. So, we become aware of it. Then we have to start to insert new thoughts into the storyline. Like, “it’s possible that someone has their own reason for not being okay. That’s not about us. Right? “Maybe I didn’t cause this problem and maybe I can’t cure it,” right? We start to just raise the idea that something else could be true and then we start practicing. So we start seeking to understand, “hey, did you have a bad day?” But not to blame, not from a place of, “I did this. What did I do?” But, “what’s going on?” You know, um, we might even say, “gosh, I’m starving. I was hoping that you would have something on the stove. But it seems like you’re not okay.” But coming from that place that we’re trying on, again, we’re faking it until we believe it, that what’s ailing them is not about us.
And when we really get the hang of that, then all our energy is freed up. It’s like we’ve unplugged the plug because things can be wrong, and we can care about it. It’s not a recipe for being these sort of bulls in China shops. It’s quite the opposite. It’s, “I can listen. I can empathize, because I’m not assuming I did this to you,” right? “It’s not about me.” Now, again, codependence to independence. We’re actually listening from a place, heaven forbid, that’s separate. We’re listening without blame. So that shift. Wow. Wow. You know, I remember I had a child who was about five at the time, and it was at a birthday party and it was chaos. Complete chaos. And you would think, oh, I’m responsible and I could just watch it and sort of, let it be because I wasn’t to blame for this. This is five-year-olds being five-year-olds, but I didn’t have to be to blame for it. Now I can have, with my husband, can have a really big problem and be upset about something and I can really listen, because I didn’t do anything wrong to create it. It changes your entire experience of other people in other situations. And that’s from conditioning That is pure on conditioning.
Dr. Amy Moore: So, we are out of time. In fact, we’ve run overtime. This has been such a great conversation. But we do need to wrap up. But we would love to have you back, so that we can talk some more. Nancy actually has five books, not just this book. And so there’ so much wisdom that we can glean from another conversation with Nancy Colier. So thank you so much for spending this hour with us today, Nancy. It’s been a great benefit to us. To our listeners.
Nancy Colier: My pleasure, and I hope it can help. I hope that it can help. I really do. And Teri, I really appreciate you sharing your personal journey a little bit during our conversation today, because you are walking the walk and I really appreciate your change. It really touches me to see—this is the work in action. That your life changes, and who you are changes. And it’s a beautiful thing and we need it more and more and more for us women.
Teri Miller: Thank you.
Dr. Amy Moore: So listeners, if you would like more information about Nancy and her work, her website is nancycolier.com. You can connect with her on Twitter @ncolier or on LinkedIn, and we will put all of those links and handles in the show notes including a link, on how to purchase her book, The Emotionally Exhausted Woman.
So, thank you so much for listening today. If you liked our show, we would love it if you would leave us a five-star rating or review on Apple Podcasts. If you would rather watch us, we are on YouTube and you could find us on social media @thebrainymoms. So look, until next time, we know that you’re busy moms. And we’re busy moms, so we’re out.
Teri Miller: See ya.