Bitter Woman Syndrome might not be a term in the DMS-V, but there are so many women that suffer from this, it might as well be. It’s when a woman has been bitter for so long that it becomes an ingrained part of her personality. This bitterness and resentment can start in a woman’s 30s or 40s, but there are things you can do to overcome this type of bitterness and reclaim your vitality, energy, and life!
If you’re wondering how to not become bitter, let’s examine bitter woman syndrome and look at 8 steps that will help you get back to being happy and helping you become bitter-free… or even prevent bitterness and resentment in the first place.
What is Bitter Woman Syndrome?
Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estes discusses the meaning of a bitter woman in her book Women Who Run with the Wolves. She says,
“There is a time in our lives, usually in mid-life, when a woman has to make a decision – possibly the most important psychic decision of her future life – and that is, whether to be bitter or not. Women often come to this in their late thirties or early forties. They are at the point where they are full up to their ears with everything and they’ve “had it” and “the last straw has broken the camel’s back” and they’re “pissed off and pooped out.” Their dreams of their twenties may be lying in a crumple. There may be broken hearts, broken marriages, broken promises.”
Read more about Women Who Run with the Wolves.
My paternal grandmother, god rest her soul, was a great woman, but fully embodied bitter woman syndrome. I love her for a great many things she gave me, including my love of music, and my appreciation for fine things. But she struggled to view anything in her life with kindness or appreciation.
She was often angry with my dad and uncle (her sons), who helped her around her house, or with my mother, who frequently made her meals to eat and went shopping for her. She was on oxygen for many years due to emphysema caused by decades of smoking, and it was a burden on her. She only truly seemed at peace when she was listening to music.
When I changed my career from teaching high school choir to elementary general music, she told me, “You’re going to hate it.”
Bitter Woman Syndrome (not a real thing in psychology, by the way) is a term to describe a woman who, like Dr. Estes puts it above, has “had it” with life. They are angry, they hold grudges, and they’ve lost any zeal or passion.
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10 Characteristics of a Bitter Woman
Here are 10 characteristics of a bitter woman:
1. They are resentful of the people around them.
2. They hold terrible grudges
3. They find something negative in even the most simple pleasures.
4. They angrily push away advice or well-intentioned conversations of change.
5. They resent the past and wish their lives had played our differently.
6. They are often resentful of men.
7. They consider most things in their life a burden to bear.
8. They never change, despite their unhappiness.
9. They wallow in self-pity.
10. They often like seeing others suffer as they have suffered.
These characteristics of a bitter woman make her seem heartless and cruel – even possibly a lost cause – but that’s not at all the case. A bitter woman is one who needs to reclaim what she lost in past.
No, it’s not easy to deal with, if you’re a caregiver or close family member or friend of a bitter woman. But when we view bitterness and resentment through the lens of love and understanding, we can have some compassion for it.
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What is the opposite of bitterness?
The opposites of bitterness are:
- full of wonder
- creative and flowing
- ability to roll with the punches
If you’re thinking this sounds like characteristics of the divine feminine, you would be right!
Feeling full of wonder, playfulness, and passion are things that bitter women may have been in the past, but these are things that they have lost along the way. When a bitter woman is learning how to overcome bitterness and resentment, she will work to reclaim these things in her life.
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8 Ways to Overcome Bitterness and Resentment
If you feel that you (or someone you know) is on the path to Bitter Woman Syndrome, here are some things you can do. These are sure-fire ways to release your bitterness:
1) Seek out friends who are capable of unconditional love.
Seek friendships that build you up, not tear you down. Be selective in choosing your friends so they don’t become bitter with time as well.
Find a friend who can build you up when you are feeling down, and who will listen to your feelings without judgment or criticism. A good friend is one that pulls others toward them instead of pushing them away by being bitter themselves.
Being around someone else who has already released their anger and resentment can help propel you to move forward and accept a more empowering life.
2) Consider setting boundaries with people who are too negative
If a friend is too negative or critical to be around at the moment, it may be worth considering how much time and energy these relationships are worth. When someone is negative or resentful, you might want to limit how much time you spend with this person so that your positivity isn’t drained by their negativity.
If someone is absolutely toxic to your life, you may need to take more drastic measures and cut them out of your life entirely. It’s okay to leave friends who don’t fit the image of the world you picture for yourself or who cause too much drama.
3) Forgive to let go of your bitterness
Remember that bitter women are usually too hard on themselves as well as others around them, and it’s important to forgive yourself—and your friends—for not being perfect all the time.
Forgiving someone who has wronged us can be one of the most difficult things. But finding the space within ourselves to let go of our anger and resentment, we can replace our bitterness with love and understanding. Forgiving sometimes takes time. Allow yourself that time and don’t try to force it.
Read about how to meet someone where they are to help yourself find the compassion for forgiveness.
4) Be honest with yourself
When overcoming your bitterness, being honest with yourself is an excellent step. If you find that you are bitter when faced with a challenging situation, take the time to think about how it makes you feel. Are there ways to change your perspective?
Try not to blame others for what’s going on in our lives and instead look at things as they truly are: we can never control other people or the world around us, but we can control how bitter and resentful, or accepting we are.
This type of honesty and self-reflection can benefit from affirmations, so consider getting yourself some affirmation cards to help transform your mindset.
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5) Practice being more accepting
Speaking of acceptance, bitter people have a hard time accepting things as they are. This doesn’t mean that bitter women should accept bad behavior or be passive in the face of adversity, but bitter people often get stuck focusing on how life is not fair and who’s to blame instead of trying to understand what has happened.
Acceptance can help bitter women let go of their negative emotions and let go of bitterness. More often than not, life is just a complex web of events, emotions, and less-than-perfect reactions. No one is really to blame. Accepting something as it is can help to wash away our bitterness and resentment.
6) Practice gratitude
Research shows that bitter people are more likely to be higher in materialistic values and lower on gratitude for what they have in life.
This creates a vicious cycle where bitter feelings lead to anger, which then leads to greater levels of discontentment about their lives. Most bitter people complain a lot – but not always because they know how to change their lives for the better.
Gratitude is a powerful tool for creating change in our lives and the lives of those around us and can be an antidote to bitterness when we let go of bitterness. When you focus on gratitude, your feelings can’t help but shift from bitterness to appreciation – and the energy that comes with this state helps attract things into your life that improve it.
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7) Make peace with your past
I believe that when my grandmother passed, her worldly burdens were transformed and she was able to find peace with her past and the pain that she had suffered in this life, like her divorce and being alone.
But you don’t have to wait until you pass away. If you want to work on overcoming bitterness, learn to make peace with your past. (This is another form of acceptance.)
Yes, it may be difficult to drudge up the past and think about things from an objective perspective, but the ability to do this in the face of pain and discomfort can transform your future life and help you move forward.
Think about moments in your life that transformed you and helped your current situation take shape. Were they happy? Painful?
8) Reclaim what you once loved.
When you were a child, you probably loved certain things unabashedly. Maybe you loved singing, or flowers, or drawing. Whatever it was, try picking it up again.
Reconnecting with things from a time in your life that you did not feel bitter can help you regain your passion for life. You can reclaim what you once loved by playing with markers again, or singing in the car when nobody is looking. Capture and preserve those fleeting moments of joy before they slip away.
And who knows? Maybe if enough bitter woman syndrome sufferers start reconnecting with their childhood passions, we will help create a happier world.
There are many people who suffer from this so-called bitter woman syndrome. They have a difficult time accepting things as they are and can’t get over the past. The bitter person’s feelings of disharmony affect the people around them. Bitter people also have a higher materialistic value and a lower level of gratitude.
But learning how to overcome bitterness and resentment is possible. Gratitude is a powerful tool for creating change in our lives. If you find yourself feeling bitter and descending down the path to being a bitter woman, try to surround yourself with unconditional love and reclaim things from your past that you once loved.
And don’t forget to slow down, be mindful, and nourish your soul.
The more people that know about what bitter woman means, the more we can work to overcome it in our own lives.
I’m turning 36 this year, and I’m headed to the point where I have to decide if I am going to become bitter or not. But I have faith in myself that I will keep my zeal and joie de vivre!
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Tuesday 17th of January 2023
I'd say the number one way to overcome it is to stop overextending yourself for others. It's generally women who end up here because they have given too much of themselves to others, including their husband and children. Women are taught they need to be "good" and not happy. You can't pour from an empty cup.
Tuesday 17th of January 2023
Thursday 17th of March 2022
Be curious not JUDMENTAL AND DISMISIVE Rece and Dawn. Some of us have a lot of pain to heal.
This article was helpful Dawn, but I am disappointed in your comment. "Lets call these people narcissist" is lazy because it is an overused term. People need to fit a list of criteria to be a "narcissist"
Emotional pain is overwhelming for me, I sought this article to help heal myself. Is that a narcissist? Let me help you. It is NOT.
Thursday 17th of March 2022
Cheryl, it's interesting that you bring this up, because I've recently realized that I am actually a covert narcissist myself. You're also correct that judgment is one of my own flaws and one of the obstacles that I was put on this earth to learn to overcome.
It also helps to look at Rece's situation as when you first discover something that was harming you, it's easy to feel angry. Rece is likely feeling angry both with herself and with this other person in her life, which is a completely normal and justified reaction. As she moves through her emotions, she will likely become less angry/judgmental and more understanding.
I'm sorry you're going through an overwhelming emotional pain right now, and I believe that we can find healing in all kinds of sources. I know that being met with others' reactions can be very triggering and painful when you're feeling so raw, but it helps to allow others to have their own emotions and focus on your own.
I wish you healing and peace and I'm sending you love and light.
Friday 5th of November 2021
Sounds like an imploding narcissist as they get older they get more bitter and resentment towards everyone around them. Very dangerous people to be around. Sorry I've read a lot over the years about this and in my opinion it's what's called an imploding narc IE bitter old lady or man.
Monday 6th of February 2023
@Rece, You are 1000 percent correct. Was married to a hard core narc.
Saturday 6th of November 2021
Rece, I agree. It's really easy to get stuck in that rut and develop those narcissistic tendencies as you get older (and it does definitely apply to men too). It's difficult to work with people like this, but it also give us the reminder to never allow ourselves to be like this and to give them some grace and understanding.