As women we have a unique ability to empower others, nurture others and support others – we excel at being everyone else’s biggest cheerleader. Except our own.

There are highly destructive yet often-hidden patterns that while not unique to women seem to be most common among the female friends in my circles. Do you recognise one or more of these in yourself, or in others of your acquaintance?

It’s the friend who is there in your corner, giving you all the encouragement, positive support and confidence you need but consistently (though often sneakily) never prioritises their own passions, projects or ideas.

It’s the Mum who’ll give her time, her energy, even her food for her children – to see them happy, to see them fulfilled and nourished – but utterly neglect her own happiness, fulfilment and nourishment.

This cheerleading strategy manifests itself in ways that aren’t always easy to recognise; that may appear positive at first but that, on deeper reflection, are destructive and detrimental…

1. It’s an insistence on focusing on and putting others first, in some mistaken belief that being selfless is what being a good mother/wife/daughter is (according to whom???).

2. It’s not believing that it’s ok to have, be or do something for yourself because for some reason you don’t deserve it.

3. It’s surrounding yourself with (or not letting go of) the people who have a vested interest in keeping you small/staying as you are and restricting your growth, because it might cause them to look too closely at their own painful stuff they work hard to deny and avoid.

4. It’s hiding your light or not even recognising it in the first place, because it’s never been appreciated, recognised by anyone else, least of all you.

5. It’s not taking any time for yourself, or when you do, thinking you have to cram a million and one ‘useful’ things into that time instead of doing something just because you want to.

6. It’s a deep pull to rescue others – to make sure everyone else is ok – out of some sense of duty, a fear you won’t be loved if you don’t; what is essentially your ‘stuff’.

7. It’s the sense of achievement, accomplishment, or a feeling of being useful ‘for once’ when you’re serving others in this way. Though it’s really a way to avoid serving yourself.

8. It’s filling and using up all your available time with tasks that help and support other people – sharing about their cool business projects on Facebook, forwarding useful resources to friends etc. – because that feels far safer than investing that time on starting or progressing your own cool project.

9. It’s wanting to be involved and know what’s going on with everyone else to give you a sense of importance, value and the appearance of being active, connected and involved; when you know you’re not building anything of your own because you’re too scared it’ll fail (or succeed).

I think it comes from a deep sense of not being good enough, not being worthy enough, not deserving enough. It comes from that little (big?) internal voice telling you the same words, over and over again, as it whispers (shouts) to you the destructive, divisive words that appear so innocuous and yet keep you stuck where you are, unable to move.

A client recently asked me how you start to change this…

My advice, in the first instance, is to start paying very close attention to the voice whenever it speaks…notice that it’s there, notice what it says, notice whose voice it is, what tone it uses, how loud it is, where it appears to be coming from (behind you, in front of you, to the side of you).

This is the voice you might want to begin having a conversation with, if you’d like to start being your own best friend instead of your own worst enemy…