We’ve all heard of toxic masculinity. Toxic masculinity occurs when people’s idea of masculine or “manliness” is physical strength coupled with aggressive behavior and a lack of emotions. Toxic masculinity is power-hungry; it is win-at-all-costs domination at the expense of others. Toxic masculinity is antifemininity—eschewing any sign of feminine energy and seeing feelings and emotions as weakness.
We can all agree that toxic masculinity sucks.
Unfortunately, feminine energy can also get toxic.
That’s right, toxic femininity is a thing.
What is Toxic Femininity?
How do “feminine” traits like patience, nurturing, caring, loving, and feeling turn toxic?
When you put your own needs on the back burner to give, give, give to all around you…
When you give and work to the benefit of others but to the detriment of yourself…
When you’ve lost your TRUE self to your role as the “nice girl” who never rocks the boat, never makes waves, who never says “no”…
Your femininity has turned toxic.
How Good Girls Turn Toxic
In her book A Radical Awakening, best-selling author and renowned clinical psychologist Dr. Shefali calls out toxic femininity as a side-effect of culture praising girls for being “nice.” Women are raised and praised to be good, nice, and compliant in many cultures, including ours. Unfortunately, being a “good girl” comes with plenty of problems.
In order to obtain approval, validation, and praise, says Dr. Shefali, “women essentially shape-shift, morphing into whoever those around us wish us to be. After all, we are just being the self-abnegating individuals we were conditioned to be. This is especially the case if a woman grew up thinking of herself as ‘the good girl.’ ‘The good girl’ tries desperately to be validated, seeking a sense of belonging and endorsement from her outer world. She learns early that her goodness comes from two main sources: compliance and service to others.”
Just like toxic masculinity is born from cultural pressure for men to behave a certain way (powerful, aggressive, and unfeeling), toxic femininity is born from culture’s idea that women should always be good, nice, and in service to others.
Even at the expense of our own wants, needs, desires, and true authentic selves.
Toxic femininity annihilates our true self.
It leaves us depleted, depressed, and numb. Toxic femininity shatters who we are, paralyzes us, and strips of us everything that makes us unique and wonderful.
How to Counteract Toxic Feminity
What’s the cure for toxic femininity? According to Dr. Shefali, the answer lies in injecting a healthy dose of masculine energy into your life.
Embracing your masculine energy doesn’t mean you have to put all of your feminine energy to the side. Instead, it allows you to turn all of those loving, nurturing tendencies to YOURSELF.
Start Setting Boundaries
We let our feminine traits turn toxic by constantly filling up everyone else’s cups while letting our own get depleted. We think we are being unselfish by giving and giving without ever asking for help or taking back in turn.
In reality, refusing to set boundaries is selfish. When we don’t set boundaries, we train the people in our lives to walk all over us. We’re teaching them how to treat us, and it’s not pretty.
In the case of our children, we are subconsciously training them how to treat other people, as well. They may expect that same level of nonreciprocal giving from their own partners someday.
Worse, we selfishly block our loved ones, friends, and co-workers from experiencing their own growth. We prevent them from learning to rely on themselves and from seeing what they are capable of.
Dr. Shefali warns that constantly taking care of others is not being loving at all.
“We are thieves, robbing the other of the right to confront that truth as it needs to be. We don’t respect the other’s potential when we kowtow to their every need. By treating them as if they cannot handle our authentic truth, or handle the end of their dependency on us, we actually communicate our disrespect for them. We don’t believe they can cope with these realities. By not challenging them to cope, we keep them infantile and stuck.”
Start saying no.
Set boundaries around your time, energy, and resources. Empower the people in your lives to do for themselves. Let them know the real you, the things you want, and those you don’t.
Boundaries are beautiful.
Both our masculine and feminine sides are critical aspects of ourselves. Lean too far into one or the other, and you’ll find yourself imbalanced, or worse, toxic. Balance your amazing heart, and your tendency to nurture and care for others, create, and give with the powerful energy of self-preservation.
Take care of yourself and watch what happens when your feminine turns from toxic and tarnished to beautifully balanced.
Melissa Zimmerman is a co-founder and editor-in-chief of GloWellmag.com, as well as a wellness writer, digital marketer, and entrepreneur. Melissa is on a mission to bring expert advice and articles to women so they can reach optimal wellness in mind, body, and spirit.