August 17, 2018

On Being Superwoman

Identity Development
Mental Health & Wellbeing

You are super-motivated, super-committed, super problem-solvers, super-fast at getting things done, and super-smart. All fantastic stuff to be, right? Absolutely! Except being so super can often create issues for high-achieving women. Now, I say this to a generalized audience of women because I’ve seen, both in practice and in research, a vast number of women feel pressured both internally or externally to be superwoman. Some areas where today’s superwoman is convinced that she can have it all and be all at the same time include marriage, parenting, in their careers, in the home, maintaining a fresh face and fit figure, balancing a social life, studies, hobbies, and even volunteering. What an exhaustive list! Don’t get me wrong, it can feel amazing to be successful and needed. There’s a great sense of satisfaction and happiness associated with being able to do it all. But, on the flip side, being a superwoman can cause feelings of being overworked. At a point it may even overwhelm life, leaving one stressed, alone, and at times even depressed.

Superwoman DNA

Does any of this sound like you? If you’re still debating, let’s get a little deeper into the characteristics of a superwoman… or what some may even call, “superwoman syndrome.”  

  •     Perfectionistic– always striving for perfection in how you look, speak, and perform. There is an effort to be seen as good enough, maybe even better than good enough! People-pleasing is often a habit here because being liked can be vital to a superwoman’s reputation and to them internally.
  •     A desire to be recognized– after all, you have all these accomplishments in multiple areas. The more you achieve, the more recognition you receive, and thus the more you want to achieve. It’s a vicious cycle where you are striving to be more and do more.
  •     Control– this is your comfort, your best friend. Asking for help? Not a chance! Too unpredictable since there is a belief that no one can do it better than you can. That leaves superwomen with having too little trust to give up any control and allow others to help out. It may also come from a sense of guilt or failure in recognizing that we may not be able to something on our own.
  •     Overdriven– There is nothing that is too big or too small; you will go for it, complete it, and strive for more. Superwomen are driven to be the best business owners, employees, best friends, best moms, best wives, and best dressed. There will always be something to do and strive for.
  •     Walls are evident – Superwomen may appear confident, but no one is perfect. There are always insecurities and flaws people wrestle with. Superwomen tend to feel loved when performing and being perfect. There is a difficulty in asking for help but also sharing and being vulnerable with the actual emotions. Superwomen can maintain control over their lives by staying in their own minds and vulnerability is seen as surrendering and losing their sense of control.
  •     Difficulty receiving– giving keeps superwomen in a position of power and control. However, if you are always giving, then it could be possible not to feel appreciated enough. Conflict in relationships can arise where no one else thinks that they can measure up to your expectations and standards.

These characteristics aren’t necessarily all unhealthy. They are equally driving forces, but what ultimately matters is whether or not you are giving time to reflect and take care of yourself!

Gift of Time

Maybe it’s time to stop and reflect – just because you can have it all, doesn’t mean you have to. Sometimes in overemphasizing all these other areas in your life, inevitably other parts get neglected. What if, instead of achieving more, we focused on producing what truly mattered? Kids won’t be kids forever, so what if we gave them the gift of presence? What if we made time to just “be,” for those in our lives. For example, going out for tea with a friend who might need to talk, but isn’t willing to ask because you’ve been “too busy” doing things recently?

Invaluable Status

When did we start being invisible women — individuals who don’t want to disturb the status quo? What if we stopped caring about what everyone thinks all the time? What if we stopped analyzing and perfecting everything we do? What if we laughed out loud in public places? What if we followed our heart’s desire? Maybe, just maybe, we‘d show others how being visible is a superpower. Be visible, be seen, and stop caring so much. It’s time for us all to stop being Superwoman and start being super women. Competition can break us down internally and externally with others — encourage other women in their journeys and scrap out shaming women who may not be trying to do it all too!

Current Inventory + Gratitude

Take inventory of your mind and body. Give yourself a few minutes, even seconds, to notice (without judgment) what is around you, what you are feeling, where there may be pain or tension. Take your eyes off this post and take 60 seconds do a body scan! In addition to taking inventory of where you are in the present moment, assess how things are going for you. What is working for you right now? Why are you doing the things that are filled in on your calendar? Allow bewilderment and wonder enter your life without having to plan every next second. Every morning as you wake up, think to yourself: what surprise could happen today?

Creating Space

Lastly, if you are tired of juggling it all, talking to a professional can be an excellent way to help you work out the effects of dropping some balls without a negative impact. It might help you consider which tasks can be thrown for somebody else to catch, or even those that can be kicked out of your life altogether. It won’t be easy, but it might just finally give you room to breathe.


Written by therapist Tina Choi

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