Thursday, August 2, 2012

It's Not Easy Being Submissive/Passive

So what does it mean to be submissive? Here are some definitions (not talking about that kink stuff):

1) Adjsubmissive - inclined or willing to submit to orders or wishes of others or showing such inclination; "submissive servants"; "a submissive reply"; "replacing troublemakers with more submissive people"
unassertive - inclined to timidity or lack of self-confidence; "a shy unassertive person"
obedient - dutifully complying with the commands or instructions of those in authority; "an obedient soldier"; "obedient children"; "a little man obedient to his wife"; "the obedient colonies...are heavily taxed; the refractory remain unburdened"- Edmund Burke
humble - marked by meekness or modesty; not arrogant or prideful; "a humble apology"; "essentially humble...and self-effacing, he achieved the highest formal honors and distinctions"- B.K.Malinowski (source)

2) adjective: meek, passive, obedient, compliant, patient, resigned, yielding, accommodating, humble, subdued, lowly, abject, amenable, docile, dutiful, ingratiating, malleable, deferential, pliant, obsequious, uncomplaining, tractable, acquiescent, biddable, unresisting, bootlicking (informal), obeisant. Most doctors want their patients to be submissive.
antonym: difficult, awkward, stubborn, intractable, unyielding, obstinate, headstrong, uncooperative, disobedient (source).

3) Definition: allowing others to have control over you; 2. willing to submit to the wishes of others
Synonyms: compliant, acquiescent, docile, meek, obedient, passive, servile
Antonyms: domineering, controlling, oppressive

Usage Examples:
The submissive woman let her overbearing husband control her. (docile, meek, passive). The submissive servant did exactly what he was told. (obedient, compliant). Because she had a submissive personality, she always went along with what others wanted to do. (passive, docile, compliant). I don't like her submissive manner, and I sometimes wish she would just stand up for herself. (meek, servile, acquiescent) (source)
I'm feeling kind of weird right now (negative comments will be deleted and not read so don't even bother). I'm worried that I'm too submissive/passive and that explains some negative experiences I've had in the past and recently. It's not like it's ruined my life or anything, but it kind of gets you to agree to things you don't want to if someone pressures you enough. You feel like saying "no" isn't an option or that the consequences would be worse if you did refuse. But after you do whatever it is you feel mad at yourself for giving up and not protecting your best interests and angry at the other person for pressuring you. You end up feeling powerless, weak, and not even an adult because this submissive response pattern just sneaks up on you, unless you are on guard and expecting to be pressured to do something (Note it's very hard to be on guard when you really care about someone, you trust them, or you have been drinking).

You see or hear of other women who always think they are right or refuse to listen to anyone else and wonder how they can be so loud with their opinions when it's so possible they could be wrong or hypocritical? How do you know you are not making a fool of yourself or if your opinions/behaviour isn't really abnormal and there is something wrong with you? It's like they were wronged before and they developed this hard shell of grandiosity but I just don't have that. I know a lot of things but I know I don't know everything, and we don't even know how much we don't know. Why are these women so sure they know what is right? Why do they respond so quickly instead of taking the time to think, agree to disagree, or just accept that there is no definitive answer? I am open to listening to different points of view before deciding on controversial things, I am open to hearing the advice of those with experience, and I defer to the expertise of those who have worked longer in my field. There is a fear of being wrong so until I am sure I'll state my opinion but there is always room to be convinced otherwise. Is it easier to be this way or easier to just say "I know in my gut I'm right and that other person is not as smart as I am"?

I've always been like this but I've still managed to become successful and stay out of trouble. Being submissive is a feminine trait but not something I had to learn and I don't love it. It's just something some people are while others are more dominant. In some areas people can be dominant (e.g., at work) but very submissive in romantic relationships. It's weird that way. I knew I was passive and not very defensive when given constructive feedback from those with more experience/training, but being submissive kind of explains a lot of things. Whenever I'm angry at someone it often gets turned inwards as self-criticism or self-doubt (good grief...just like in this post) or I do something passive-aggressive (e.g., like writing this post). I know how to be assertive but I just didn't remember it when I needed it. I am angry now but I can't turn back time.

This is strong language but I HATE people who keep pressuring you and wear you down for their own selfish needs. They will convince you that you are crazy, deficient, insecure, a prude, or otherwise flawed for not doing what they want or for not agreeing with them (I have learned this is called gaslighting; Article1 really good read, Article 2). I think this is why I want a prestigious and successful man because then I would be able to trust his decision making more. I wouldn't have to worry that my submissive/passive nature will lead to our downfall because he had poor character and a history of poor decisions. To prevent this from happening I am careful choosing men and my standards are high because this is the only way I can influence who has power over me. I don't want to be led astray or hurt by the wrong person. I know a prestigious man can still hurt me, but at least I could look back and know I chose someone who didn't have glaring red flags. Maybe that's why I don't like men who are too masculine and dominant because I couldn't stand up for myself with them in the past.

I have to work on being more assertive and less submissive. This will actually be going against my nature and trying to be something I'm not but this is what's encouraged by most people. It's easier sometimes to let people control you, but if they make you do things you don't want you feel horrible after. There is such a thing as being too submissive/passive. I wrote about this before in my post about Assertiveness Training for Black Women...I need to read that again.


  1. Interesting... I think, despite our reputations, many Black women have the same issue--even those, who, outwardly appear very confrontational and combative. For example, aren't the prisons are filled with women who are serving time because of their affiliation with a man (being enticed into a life of crime to please them or maintain a relationship/bond with these men)?

    While, admittedly, I'm over-generalizing, I think it is the overall nature of women to be more accommodating because bonds and connections are very important to us. I think we just all have our own individual limits/deal-breakers as far as to how far we will go.

    But definitely, if you feel that you have often compromised your beliefs, desires, etc, in the interest of someone else's then, yeah, I wish you luck in your progress towards self-assertion!

    Great post!

  2. Hi DMB,

    Thank you for your comment and welcome :) After reading about it a bit it does seem like a lot of women have this problem and even the dominant and confident one's can be gaslighted sometimes. I don't think I will ever become a dominant person but I can just develop a habit of saying no more often and not letting someone convince me that I'm the strange one for not wanting to get involved in whatever they are pushing on me. I don't know what it is with people who just push and push and push and don't take no for an answer. I can't stand them!

  3. Hello,

    I can relate to being worried about being too passive. I grew up with a father who would blow up If you stated a truth that was different from his. The end result is that whenever my brother or sister or I talk to each other, we dissemble and never actually (or try not to) state our needs or feelings to each other or to outsiders. That has led me to situations when I feel I may have been taken advantage of because I was too passive about my needs, my actual needs.
    There is also the problem where I was so worried about being perceived as a 'Typical Loud, Brash African-American woman (though I'm Canadian) that I've kept silent rather than feed into that negative stereotype. I am overweight so I perceive (whether true or not) that people are worried I will scream and carry on, though that has never, will never, happen.

    My basic point is that it's good that you can identify it now and are brave enough to change it rather than let it shape your life for so long, you're in your forties before you realize you need a new path if you ever want to be happy. Sometimes people criticize because they see you are willing to do something they are still to afraid to do: change.

  4. Thanks for your thoughtful comment EbonyFaery :) Change is good if it improves your life and being too submissive isn't helping me. I'll find the balance and won't become too aggressive though.

  5. Luv your cite. Your story reads like mine. Yes I am a passive person by nature. I have learned over the years how to say no and to not be so trusting. I have learn to watch and examine behavior of most people especially men. If they are gentlemen with others then I have little problem with trusting them but if they are jerks to others I would not expect them to be good to me. When it comes to pushy people use technology to blown them off. I.e. caller ID, voicemail and just turning the volume off on your phone. Also if a person asks you of a favor and tries to get you to commit with disclosing the favor then politly tell them no and that you will be busy that day even if you are just doing your laundry because that's busy work. If the person tries to pressure you just tell them you cannot make a commitment under pressure and that the answer will have to be no. Then avoid the person(if you can) for a few weeks. Most will get the message in time.

  6. Thank you for your comment CNS and I'm glad that you like the site :) Those are some good suggestions about how to handle people who like to pressure. I think sometimes I just need to say exactly how I feel "You are really pressuring me, please stop because I don't like it". I really have to make sure to do this next time. I'd rather deal with their negative reaction to that statement than feeling bad about caving to their pressure after the fact. A lady definitely should not allow herself to be a doormat...I have to remember that!

  7. I think the subject of submissiveness has to remove itself from the influence of Western Christianity and Western thought. If submissive, the word and the subject, were understood in the context of the sacredness of the Womb it (submissiveness) takes on other meanings, and becomes by a mere shift the entry way into the realms of Power Western culture once killed women for discovering and acting upon.

    Women have two (2) wombs, men just one (1) that is in need of the development of the attendant powers of women's wombs and their natural connections to birth, the Earth, our Mother and the consciousness that holds the worlds together in agreements made in the long ago. Men cannot birth themselves as the Adam & Eve story implies, nor can we give birth to our Sacred Dream without the awakened wombs of the women in our lives.

    I know today's women have little, and usually no understanding of these things, and I understand why, but ignorance of what they carry leads them to embrace masculinity as a substitute for their lack of power(s).

    These are my words. I am Gregory E. Woods, Keeper of Stories (Dawn Wolf)