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When someone calls you submissive, I bet you get all riled up or feel upset. That’s okay.
We are conditioned to see submissiveness as a weakness. And it’s way worse if you are a woman because it’s commonly viewed that a submissive woman is a weak woman – a person who says “yes and amen,” who obeys everyone around her (especially authority figures), who can’t make decisions, and who has no self-worth.
That isn’t necessarily true, though, as that's a very traditional and reductionist view of submission.
When you are submissive, you give power to someone else to make decisions or requests, but you also have power in that equation when you choose to relinquish power in consensual situations.
But there is the other side of the coin – when you are too submissive, it can have negative effects on your quality of life and make things difficult for yourself.
So are you someone who empowers herself while choosing submissiveness, or are you too much of a submissive woman? Let’s find out.
What Does Being Submissive Mean?
When a person is submissive, it means that they relinquish control and allow another person to make decisions and take the lead. It does not always equate to being powerless and dominated by others. That other person could be a romantic partner, a family member, a friend, a colleague, a boss, or even a stranger (such as an authority figure).
While the submissive person always has a choice, it isn’t as clear-cut. If you grew up in an authoritarian and controlling house, you may not have learned that you have a choice to advocate for yourself and not give up control.
As a result, you may never take control, letting other people live your life for you according to their wants and needs and you simply become a people-pleasing doormat.
When submission is an active, consensual choice (and trust and open communication is part of the relationship dynamic), the couple can foster greater love, care, and security.
And there’s something extra special when you give up control and let yourself be, all the while knowing that you are safe and your partner has your best interests at heart.
When someone is too submissive, it’s likely that they have a dependent personality style. This means they often give in to the needs and wishes of other people and they don’t express their own needs.
They may even become codependent on the other person because they “need” them and can’t function (at all or as well as) on their own.
Being too submissive is akin to always being subservient and wanting (or needing) to please others.
What Are the Ramifications of Being Too Submissive?
While being submissive can be good if you do it in a healthy way, being too submissive has significant ramifications.
Many women who are too submissive may believe that it’s just easier to keep quiet and let others lead because it helps maintain peace and they are compromising for the collective, greater good.
It can be less stressful to not worry about making decisions when you are too submissive, but the negative consequences include:
- Little to no autonomy
- Feeling powerless
- Being enrobed in self-doubt
- Being constantly obedient and compliant affects your ability to function socially
- Getting into abusive relationships and being unable to get out of these
- Being taken advantage of, personally and professionally
- Never pursuing your own dreams, interests, and aspirations
- Severe unhappiness and no self-confidence
- A loss of agency by feeling silenced within your own life and losing your identity
- Suffering from mental health issues, such as social anxiety, depression, and experiencing somatoform patterns
- Needing to ask for permission to do anything, such as buying personal items
- Fear of rejection, which leads to extreme people-pleasing behavior
- Being excessively needy, and you may have an unfounded fear of separation
11 Warning Signs You’re a Submissive Woman
If you are worried you are too submissive, here are the warning signs to look out for so you can change course and stand up for yourself more:
1. You Put Other People First and Are Service-Oriented
It’s a common characteristic of a submissive woman to put others first. As women, we are biologically geared toward taking care of our men, children, and extended family, and as a result, we are naturally service-oriented.
Of course, you may take this to the extreme where you never (or seldom) stop to consider yourself and your needs. If this is you, then you are a too submissive woman.
In Games People Play: The Basic Handbook of Transactional Analysis, Eric Berne also touches upon the harried or submissive woman. This lady wears many hats in a relationship, and she is the lover, the mother, the cleaner, the cook, the friend, the professional career gal, and so many more.
These roles are in conflict with each other, causing stress and anguish, and eventually, the harried woman can’t keep up with what everyone in the family (and even outsiders) expect her to be.
The harried woman exemplifies how a woman can easily put others first, and while we gain satisfaction by helping loved ones, this shouldn’t be you 100% of the time.
2. You Are a Follower
A submissive woman is also often a follower. Like in a dance, she lets her partner lead, following without opposition.
If the too submissive woman is in a romantic relationship, she supports her husband, no matter what his goals are. If she has children, then they take the lead. The submissive woman is there for every soccer game and spelling bee, always cheering them on.
If she has friends, it’s always the friends who choose where they eat or party or how they hang out.
She never makes decisions, instead allowing others to choose for her and she happily goes along.
3. You Always Ask for Permission
If you are too submissive, you never just do it because you don’t feel or believe you have the right to do so. You must ask for permission – to buy much-needed milk or undies, to go out with your friends, or to take a soda from your parent’s fridge.
While asking for permission isn’t always a bad thing, it is when you don’t have any independence or self-agency (and when you are reliant on others for your most basic needs). It’s also not appropriate to ask for things in your own home – like you are a stranger there.
4. You Exhibit Passive-Aggressive Behavior
Some women who are too submissive may just quietly fade into the background, never saying boo or bah. They may smile and be friendly in a down-to-earth kind of way.
But some ladies are quite passive-aggressive: they indirectly express negative feelings instead of openly talking about them and advocating for themselves. What they say and what they do often don’t match.
Passive-aggressive behaviors can include:
- Backhanded compliments
- The silent treatment
- Wistful wishing
- Being or running late
Just because a submissive person tries their best to suppress their decisions, needs, and wants, doesn’t mean those go away. And the passive-aggressive behavior is the result because they’re trying to comply or fit into their submissive box.
5. You Don’t Say No to Intimacy
If you are too submissive, saying no is a big issue. So when your partner wants to have sex or even when a stranger (or guy or lady you just met) propositions you, you don’t say no to intimacy.
You are always ready to please others – sexually and all other ways – and you put their comfort and pleasure above your own, even if you have to go through some level or a lot of discomfort.
You are sexually compliant at all times, which isn’t any basis to build a healthy relationship on.
There is also a fine line between being willingly submissive and rape, so know what the differences are and whom to call for help if you need it.
Being submissive to intimacy, even when married or dating, can still constitute rape as the woman may be forced to have sex with her significant other.
6. You Justify Everyone’s Actions
A huge part of being too submissive isn’t just not being able to say no and willingly allowing everyone (and their friends) to walk all over you, it’s also justifying their actions – like they have the right to dominate, impose, command, bully, and control you.
When you are too submissive and justify their behavior, you’ll be quick to stand up for them in public and private, whether you know all the facts or the whole story. You don’t believe they can do anything wrong. But do your friends and partners have your back?
Also, you easily justify your own submissive behavior. When you people-please and serve, it’s you being kind (right?). But kindness should be based on equality, yet being submissive is dependent behavior.
7. You Have Dreams But Never Pursue Them
We all have hopes and dreams, and it’s normal for people to pursue their goals and also take a break from that when they need to rest or regroup. Yet, as a too submissive woman, you never go after what you want.
You don’t have hobbies, and it’s possible that you think you are “happy” in your dead-end job. Or you accept being passed over for promotions and you never try to be and do better.
Perhaps you don’t feel like you are worthy of more or that you don’t deserve good things, but whatever the case, you live your life for others and to make them happy.
What about you, though?
You are enough, and you can go after your interests and dreams (if you choose to).
8. You Are Codependent
A main characteristic of women who are too submissive is codependent behavior. They bond with others and blend their identity with them so they never express their power. They also deny that they are unique.
By submitting to the will of others, they often get the affection, protection, and care they need. As a submissive person, you think you are weak, incapable, and defenseless because you don’t have the power (or desire) to speak up.
And you also believe that others – your parents, friends, and partner – are more capable of making decisions and facing life’s challenges than you are.
Key warning signs that you are codependent include:
- Being unable to identify your feelings and emotions
- Being scared of abandonment
- Unable to set healthy boundaries
- Ignoring your needs and desires
- Making extreme sacrifices for your partner
Sounds like the warning signs you are too submissive, right?
9. You Are Quiet
While a too submissive person may exhibit passive-aggressiveness, they may also be quiet – extremely quiet. They comply without argument or raising their voice (at all). Silently listening is their thing. A command or question may be followed by a soft “yes” or simple nod.
As a soft, gentle, quiet soul, a submissive woman is easily imposed on. They are meek, smiling silently as they allow others to dominate.
10. You Have a Low Self-Esteem
A submissive woman doesn’t know who she is, and as such, she has a low self-esteem. When you believe you have value, you don’t sit at a table that doesn’t serve you. You stand up for yourself and what you believe, and you express how you feel when you have a healthy self-esteem.
When you are too submissive, it’s the opposite. You are unassertive, collaborative, and conformist as you suppress your needs and let others dictate your life.
Armed with a low-esteem, the submissive woman desperately desires to be accepted and approved of, and they believe being submissive will meet those needs (even though they are all about serving others).
11. You Appreciate Others More Than They Value You
When you are too submissive, you value and appreciate the people in your life way more than they do you.
You are always considerate and thankful (almost too much or to an unhealthy extent), and you are okay with your partner, kids, and friends treating you like trash.
The people in your life take you for granted and use you – because you are user-friendly, bending over backwards to cater to their wills and needs. While that’s a major cause for concern, it’s a huge warning that you are way too submissive.
How Can You Break the Cycle of Being Too Submissive & Heal?
It’s not easy when you realize you’ve been too submissive all your life and there’s a different way to live. It’s also wonderful when you realize that you have power, that you can safely express your feelings and needs, and that you have value.
But how do you break the cycle of being too submissive? It’s not easy to change bad habits, heal, and move on toward a better life.
Follow these steps to stop being so submissive:
Step 1: Identify You Are Too Submissive
You can only enact change once you identify what’s wrong. To ensure you aren’t too submissive, ask yourself:
- How often do I let people walk all over me?
- Do I ever advocate for myself? When? How?
- When did my submissive behavior start? Why? What am I afraid of? How can I face my fears of abandonment and not being accepted and loved?
- How many of the warning signs of being too submissive resonated with me?
Step 2: Work on Your Self-Esteem
It’s essential to work on your self-esteem and realize your worth so you can take back control and become assertive. Start working on your self-esteem by:
- Journaling for personal development
- Being kind and compassionate toward yourself
- Identifying your strengths
- Finding hobbies you enjoy
- Doing self-care
- Surrounding yourself with a supportive network with people who lift you up and don’t walk all over you (and don’t allow you to let that happen)
Step 3: Stop People-Pleasing and Learn to Say No
Once you feel like you have value and are more self-confident, practice saying no and stop people-pleasing behaviors.
You should also learn how to set boundaries to keep yourself safe and know what you are and aren’t comfortable with.
Some tips to help you include:
- Learn polite phrases for saying no so you don’t have to think or doubt yourself.
- Don’t add an explanation or excuse when saying no. Also, don’t be apologetic as it weakens the power of your no.
- Be firm when saying no.
- Consider your priorities and put yourself first.
- Be aware of your capacity and that you can’t be tequila or chocolate to everyone.
- Set boundaries by reflecting on why you need them. Then identify a few main ones and practice implementing them. Be consistent.
Step 4: Process Your Trauma
Part of your journey to heal involves facing your trauma and identifying why you are too submissive.
- Recall memories of when you were submissive. What happened? What caused you to give in and not be assertive?
- Were any of your role models submissive? How about your cultural background?
- What are your deepest fears? How do they relate to you being too submissive?
- Has being submissive in your life served you well at all?
Step 5: See a Mental Health Professional
Therapy can be invaluable in your road toward healing from being too submissive. A mental health professional can help you process what’s happened and give you the tools needed to move forward and heal.
They may prescribe cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) to modify dysfunctional emotions, thoughts, and behaviors related to your dependent and submissive personality. Medication may also be needed.
Final Thoughts About Being a Submissive Woman
Being submissive is only okay when it's consensual and it benefits you – while not undermining your power and self-agency.
When it takes over your life and you are a people-pleaser of note (always looking out for others, running to cater to their needs, and not being able to (or afraid) to stand up for yourself), it’s a worry that you are too submissive. And that won’t do you any favors in life.
To further help you on your journey to deal with and heal from being too submissive, look at these 9 assertive behavior examples to help you succeed in life. Remember, you’ve got this.
And if you're looking for more resources on personality types, be sure to check out these blog posts:
- 15 Common Stoic Personality Traits & Characteristics
- 23 Magnetic Personality Traits & Characteristics That Attracts People
- 11 Rules for Forming a Friendship with an INFJ Personality Type
Finally, if you want to identify YOUR personality type, then take one of these 11 personality tests to better understand what makes you tick.