• The Good: Real-world patient examples; possible conditioning behaviors that create meek women
  • The Bad: Surface-level advice; ignores whole populations of people
  • The Literary: n/a

Many women today are overwhelmed, emotionally exhausted, anxious, stressed, frustrated, or unsatisfied, managing a career and/or a household, and tending to put others before themselves. This guide empowers women to gain self-awareness of their needs and find the courage to live the lives they want.

I picked up two self-help books at the library recently, and though neither was exactly what I wanted, they are heading in the right direction. The Emotionally Exhausted Woman is written by a therapist and spiritual teacher to encourage self-awareness and self-respect, and to simply ask for what you need.

The best section explores the theory of the inner child and provides examples of adult behaviors and their linked childhood experiences. I don’t personally identify with the adult tendencies to need to always be liked or to try to do everything and be everything, so I started out feeling quite bored.

But a couple of times I saw myself reflected in the words on the page, and I felt immediately validated. For example, I hate to be a bother. I have no problem asking help if it’s for something small, like chores, or directions, or even a project at work. But I find it extremely difficult to admit I’ve lost something important, or I’m sick or injured. I’ll downplay my needs to a ridiculous length, likely because I was conditioned as a child to believe that love and affection are for smart, independent children (i.e., children who don’t lose their new glasses or wrack up expensive medical bills).

Once you realize your feelings are not your fault, it’s quite satisfying to think back on your own childhood and wonder about the situations that molded you into the person you are today. I don’t consider myself to have had a bad childhood, but we’re all conditioned, through praise or attention or abandonment to favor certain behaviors or others.

I also appreciate the section about not falling into the trap of self-care. Massages, bubble baths, or manicures are good, but they’re only a temporary respite and feed the consumerism machine.

Unfortunately, there’s a lot that irked me about this book as well. This is a book written by a middle-aged white mother for other middle-aged white mothers. To be emotionally exhausted, you must have a uterus, and you must have grown a baby in that uterus. Limiting the audience to only female mothers downplays the socialization of boys, as well as child-free women like me.

There are brief mentions of race and class, but the author’s focuses on “individual courage” says a lot about her perspective. Stand up for yourself! With no mention of the systems that many of us are forced to live within, confined by circumstances and discrimination.

And when it comes down to it, Colier’s take-home message is to ask for what you need. The book does an okay job exploring how to identify what you are feeling and thinking, but there could have been more here, especially on how to ask and what to ask for. I’m still looking for actionable steps on how to “live your truth and ask for what you want”.