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The challenge of creating a healthy balance between our personal and professional life takes its toll on us, mentally, physically, and emotionally. Sometimes just getting out of bed in the morning feels like a heroic task. Particularly in our high-speed and achievement-oriented workplace, it's very easy to lose contact with ourselves - our sense of purpose, play, and passion.

We no longer know who we are. We have lost our "self". How do we find our "self"? The first thing we need to accomplish is to know and understand our personal likes and dislikes. This is a major part of the process to finding our "self". A hub, as it were.

When we have certain things in our lives that make us happy or provide us with comfort, we should always make the time to partake of them. Unfortunately our hectic lives and schedules do not always allow us this luxury.

Women are reclaiming their identity, direction, and empowerment within the counseling process. They are reading self-help books and magazines, listening to personal growth tapes, watching informational talk shows on television, attending lectures, workshops, retreats, and returning to school. Women are searching, questioning, and finding their lost selves through many avenues.

Although this type of 'self-help' information can be readily gleaned, there must be a head-heart, or intellect-feeling connection before one's situation can change. All knowledge learned must be internalized (believed), and processed (discussed, analyzed, emotions explored). Insights must be gained and goals set and attained, in order to resolve unfinished business, heal wounds, and grow.

Even though women are gaining more value in society today through our changing socialization process, we are still receiving ambiguous messages or values which we internalize and accept or struggle with. For example, we are told (through advertising, fashion and diet industries, etc.) that an anorexic model is to be held in high regard, and, in the next breath, that this type of behavior is wrong, bad, sick, controlling, and life-threatening.

The term co-dependency, as applied to women, takes our strengths of caring, compassion, loving, nurturing, loyalty, forgiveness, gentleness, trust, and protecting of loved ones, and turns them into opportunities for exploitation and shame.

Co-dependent thoughts and behaviors will be experienced when we are unaware of the skills or denied the context in which to appropriately direct our female strengths and balance others' needs with our own. This directly relates to our self-esteem, self-concept, confidence, trust, and risk-taking.

Since life management skills were not taught to us in our early development, many of us unknowingly created dysfunction and dependency in our lives. We became other-oriented, and neglected or ignored our own needs, feelings, and lives. We allowed ourselves to be diminished by others and believed their words. They became imprinted in our subconscious mind and now can greatly affect our life choices, including our relationships.

We may feel limited to only one or two choices, greatly diminishing the sense of power and control in our lives. Depression and suicidal thoughts are a silencing of our voices, a diminishing of our self.

Counseling can offer a safe, supportive place to explore life experiences, belief systems, behaviors, and relationship ills, while at the same time gaining insights, knowledge, and skills to create a more positive life. It is a valuable tool to use during our exploration of who, what, where we are, and why.

The best therapist provides a safe environment to explore your issues, keeps what you say confidential, has good listening skills and a nonjudgmental attitude, knows how to focus on your needs and not their own, does not foster dependency, and values you as a unique individual.

The time is now for you to empower yourself to create healthy, joyous options in life and love. The greatest challenge we all face is to understand ourselves. Explore and open to a whole new you!