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Written By: DiveThru Team

Reviewed By: Natalie Asayag MSW, LCSW


Feeling Submissive: A Guide to Your Emotions

PUBLISHED Apr 12th, 2021 & UPDATED ON Nov 30th, 2022

When we’re feeling submissive, we basically go along with what other people want. We let them take charge or make all of the decisions without really speaking up about our own needs. Even if it makes us uncomfortable or unhappy, we might feel submissive in our personal relationships for lots of reasons. Maybe we worry that if we speak up, we’ll get push-back. Or we might worry that we’ll upset someone or step on their toes. We might feel like our ideas, thoughts or feelings just don’t matter that much to other people, so why bother even trying? It’s easier to just go with the flow and follow the leader, right?

It’s not easy to speak up for yourself, we know. Depending on the situation, you might struggle with knowing whether or not you have the “right” to share how you feel. But we’re here to tell you that your thoughts and emotions are valid, always. So let’s dive thru feeling submissive, ways it impacts your wellbeing and how to cope!

A Deeper Look at Feeling Submissive

What does it really mean to feel submissive? Hmm, let’s take a look! APA Dictionary describes submissiveness as: “n. a tendency to comply with the wishes or obey the orders of others.” Basically, their wish is your command! 

You might feel like going along with what someone else says or taking their direction? Is this a bad thing? Not necessarily! There’s a lot of situations where you’re expected to comply with someone’s orders. Um, have you ever had a boss? Or been in a classroom? Or had a parental figure when you were growing up? We were expected to obey their rules and do as they asked, but that’s totally normal.

Other times, though, feeling submissive isn’t so great. Maybe you’re dealing with someone who has a lot of control over you and your life. It could be a family member, close friend or even your partner. It seems like everything always has to go their way, or things go south very quickly. So instead of speaking up and saying things like: “Actually, Friday night would work better for me,” you keep quiet. Better to compromise what you want to avoid upsetting them, right? Wrong.

In other situations, feeling submissive has more to do with how we perceive ourselves. Maybe you have a really great boss who seems open to new ideas and input, but you still don’t offer your opinion, ever. You don’t see yourself as worth their time or a valuable part of the team, even though that’s not the case!

Setting boundaries with people can also be a struggle for so many of us. People could be crossing our boundaries everyday, even if they don’t mean any harm, but we might let it go because we don’t want to seem difficult or like a poor sport. Maybe you’re a people pleaser who can’t seem to say “no” because you just hate the risk of disappointing people. So yet again, you compromise your feelings for other people.

It’s mentally and emotionally draining. You are so tired of letting things slide, or complying with what other people want 100 percent of the time. But it doesn’t have to be this way! You can get through feeling submissive and this fear of standing up for yourself. We’re here for you!

How Feeling Submissive Shows Up Mentally

Inside your head, dealing with feeling submissive can be a lot to handle. It could even be all you think about because you just don’t know how to overcome it or where to begin trying! Here are a few mental signs you might notice when you’re going through this tricky emotion:

  • Low self-esteem
  • Negative self talk
  • Self doubt
  • Feelings of worthlessness
  • Feelings of hopelessness
  • Lack of communication
  • Isolating from others

After a while, these signs can seriously impact your life in negative ways. It can cause you to feel isolated from other people or want to distance yourself from others because you feel like you have no control over the situation. These signs can also develop into a mental illness such as anxiety or depression if they’re not dealt with appropriately. But you don’t have to navigate this feeling alone! Speaking to a mental health professional can help you get on the right track and understand how to set boundaries and work through your feelings.

How Feeling Submissive Shows Up Physically

When you feel submissive and like you don’t have any say or control over a situation, it’s not just on your mind. It’s written all over your face and your body language! Here are a few physical signs of feeling submissive:

  • Hunched shoulders
  • Lowering your head
  • Avoiding eye contact
  • Faking a smile
  • Fidgeting or biting your lip
  • Shaky voice

Going along with things you don’t actually want can also heighten your stress and anxiety levels. That can cause you to deal with nervous sweating or sweaty palms, increased heart rate, high blood pressure, chest pain, muscle tension, headache and stomach ache. You can also be more susceptible to getting sick because prolonged stress actually weakens your immune system. If you deal with these symptoms regularly, it’s helpful to seek professional help as they could be a sign of a more serious health problem or mental illness.

5 Ways to Cope with Feeling Submissive

Now that we have a better understanding of this emotion, let’s look at some coping strategies to work through feeling submissive! Don’t worry, they’re simple but effective. Try ‘em out for yourself!

1. Journal

There’s nothing quite like pouring out all of your emotions onto a page, we tell ya! Try writing down how you feel, where you think these feelings are coming from and explore those thoughts. This is also a helpful practice for reframing any negative thoughts you’re experiencing. Journaling gives you tons of clarity, to say the least! Releasing those feelings can help you move forward with a lot more perspective than before.

2. Give Yourself a Pep Talk

Sometimes, we gotta give ourselves a little pep talk in order to turn those negative thoughts around. Try saying some encouraging phrases to yourself out loud: I feel submissive right now but I can overcome this feeling. My thoughts and emotions are important. It’s okay to speak up for myself and set boundaries. My words matter!

3. Reach Out for Support

Gaining the courage to speak up for yourself can be really intimidating and nerve wracking. Try reaching out to a friend, family member or loved one when you need to have a good ol’ vent session. They can be there to listen and support you, and maybe even offer up some advice if that’s what you need. Either way, just having them be there for you can make all the difference in the world!

4. Engage in Compassionate Self Talk

When we feel submissive and are afraid to speak our mind or set boundaries, we can be hard on ourselves. Maybe the voice inside your head is telling you that you’re weak, or that nobody will care how you feel anyway. Let’s flip the conversation and speak some kind and compassionate self talk instead! Try telling yourself out loud: It’s okay to speak up and set boundaries. They make me feel safe and respected. The people who truly care about how I feel will understand and respect my boundaries. My thoughts and feelings matter!

5. Comfort Yourself Like a Friend

If you don’t have anyone who can be there for you right now, that’s okay. You can be there for yourself! Think about how you would want a loved one to comfort you in this moment. Give yourself a pat on the back, write a list of the things you like about yourself, or go for a drive to think. Think of the reasons you might be feeling submissive, and encourage yourself to break free of those negative thoughts. You deserve to be happy!

That’s it, that’s all we’ve got for now! We hope this helped you understand this emotion more and how you can get through it like a champ. Remember: your thoughts and feelings matter!


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