I call it “The Lady in Waiting Syndrome.” You know it, I’m sure, that dead-end place we often find ourselves where we stay, passively and devotedly, in service to someone else’s grand dreams.
We’ve all known it, that quietly desperate posture we assume of subservience, of not wanting to make anyone uncomfortable, where we don’t dare cause pain by rocking anyone’s world or making anyone move over just ever so slightly so that there would be room enough for us and our voice, for our full selves to shine.
Or maybe we’re just waiting for some part of ourselves to be ready to move, or to be able to tell our story in some different way, a way with a little more breathing room.
For whatever reason we wait. We wait for our loved ones to notice we’re dying because the taproots to our desire have long since dried up. We wait for permission. We wait for the right timing (when it has long since passed or we imagine it will never be).
We wait to be saved or to be healed or to know more or to get everything organized and cleaned up and calmed down. We wait for kids to grow up or go to school or for the drama to lighten up, for enough savings, for that promotion or until retirement. We wait for that other person to change.
We wait and wait so long, we’ve been waiting and waiting so long, we’ve forgotten what it is that we really want.
We have waited so long we have lost our way to well of our knowing, of our dreams, of our desires. And then when, ever so rarely, someone asks us what we want, our only response becomes, “I don’t know.” We know longer know what we are yearning for.
There are perfectly good reasons, all in alignment with our most cherished values, as to why we’ve gotten here. We love our families. We want our children to have their needs met. We know how to be team players. We are supportive and thoughtful and generous. We are very hard workers – at home and in the workplace. We are willing to make extreme sacrifices for our loved ones, our beliefs, and our shared futures. This all speaks extremely well of us. We can take a bow for all that we’ve done and all that we are.
There are times, too, in our lives when it might feel like we’re waiting but in actuality we’re in the middle of a process that requires our full attention. Lingering illnesses – our own or of a loved one – can have us feel like we’re just in waiting mode, waiting for this to pass. Caring for very young children or old parents can induce similar feelings occasionally, as can seemingly endless years in school. Long processes can certainly get frustrating and be exhausting, but with these we are in motion. We aren’t stuck in waiting even though healing, care-taking, and practicing can take much longer than we’d like. We can acknowledge ourselves for the stamina it takes to weather long processes, to be Ladies in for the Long Haul. More congrats for us!
In the midst of Lady in Waiting Syndrome, though, we aren’t in motion. We may have started out with our perfectly good reasons in mind but despite all of our best intentions we often get lost. We get lost in our support roles and forget that it is our job to be the carrier of our own dreams. Even after all of our successes, we stay stuck in the familiar care-taking role. We remain gracious, responsive, and a bit empty.
We become perennial Ladies in Waiting. Waiting and wanting.
The good news: We don’t have to keep waiting. Many women come to personal life coaching because they’ve had it with waiting and are ready to start moving. Some know where they want to go. Many women have forgotten the way to even access their own desires, to know what they really want. Coaching meets you where you are and helps you get out of the role of Lady in Waiting.
Even better news: We all can live in alignment with our most deeply held values, in loving partnership with our families, friends, and co-workers AND get our wants and needs met, too.
Here’s a journaling exercise that can begin to get you ready for your next step. Many a lady in waiting is good a making lists (and getting things done!), so use that talent in this way: make three lists.
First list your accomplishments and successes. Now don’t fall into the trap of the critic telling you nothing counts because it isn’t perfect. Just list what you’ve been up to. If you’re anything at all like most of the women I know you’ve been very busy at home, with your family and friends, at school, at work, in your community, within yourself. Go for it and acknowledge yourself. You know who does the work – the ladies in service!
Next list what you’re waiting for. Be honest, not judgmental, just honest. No one is going to see this but you, honey bun, so do what you can to look at the stories you’re telling yourself about what needs to happen first, or who needs to get what else before you do something wild and crazy like follow a secret dream. Make a long list about why you are waiting now.
Third, list what you’re tired of, what’s draining your energy, or what’s driving you crazy. Again, this is for your eyes only, for you to really look at what’s exhausting you (before you get sick and tired of it). Honesty is the best policy here even if it feels hard to admit because what you might be tired of is good for someone else.
Just by making these lists, by honestly looking at these questions, you will be in motion. You’ll be waking up and shaking off the spell you’ve been under. And you’ll get a glimmer of a good next step to take to get yourself moving.
What are you waiting for?
If you’d like help getting out of Lady in Waiting Syndrome, consider joining my 2013 Building Power-from-Within teleclass series for women. Find out more about it on my classes page or contact me. I’d love to hear from you.