Superwoman Syndrome is exactly what it says it is-a person who tries to do everything and be all things to everyone, all at the same time. There are many women (and men) today who are struggling to juggle, family, career, home and social activities. Are you one of them? If you are, most likely you are feeling over committed, overworked, overwhelmed, guilty, and too exhausted to do justice to anyone or anything.
The term superwoman was created by author, Marjorie Hansen Shaevitz who wrote the book,The Superwoman Syndrome, published in 1984 “for women trying to do it all.” Superwomen always put others first and tend to set standards that are far beyond reasonable. They measure their self-worth entirely in terms of their tangible accomplishments and how productive they are. They keep adding more responsibilities and roles as if “more” somehow makes them better. On the other hand, there are women who are only handling one role but are obsessed with doing it perfectly. Either way, these Superwomen are stressing themselves unnecessarily and have lost touch with the joys of living. Those who are setting and relentlessly pursuing impossible goals are inevitably headed toward undermining both their physical and mental health.
Who are the Superwomen?
Superwoman Syndrome can affect anybody. Although varying in intensity, it affects women at different ages, at different career stages, and at different economic levels. They are mothers, working professionals, educators, college students, community organizers, activists, volunteers and socialites. Young girls and college-aged women are becoming more and more susceptible because they are increasingly pressured to excel in school, sports, looks and relationships. Some reports show that girls as young as 13 suffer from Superwoman Syndrome.
Super women are good people-they are highly responsible, duty-oriented, and have a strong desire to give to others and to do what is right. Even though they willingly carry massive loads, they are generally unhappy about their situation and how they are living their lives. Not only are they feeling burned out and exhausted much of the time, many of them must also cope with the unrelenting demands of insensitive employers, grueling deadlines, lack of inadequate childcare resources and non-supportive spouses. Not seeing any way to lighten their loads, they often feel trapped and secretly resent others who have been able to escape from the relentless demands being made on them.
Recovering from Super Woman Syndrome
For over-committed, over burdened people, living a simpler life seems like an impossible goal. But regardless of how easy as it was to become a Superwoman, it is just as easy to stop being one. It starts with a conscious choice to get off the treadmill.The following are a few questions you need to ask yourself.
• Why am I unable to say no to others?
• Who put me in charge of the world?
• What is taking on more and more duties and responsibilities doing for me?
• Are there other people who can share some of these responsibilities with me and am I willing to ask them?
• What am I truly willing to let go of and delegate?
If you are truly to overcome the “I am responsible for everything” attitude, it is imperative to examine and re-define what you are truly responsible for and what you are not. There are other steps to be taken as well.
Give Up Perfectionism – Unless you are Martha Stewart or are planning to entertain the Queen, your house does not have to be spiffy and neat 24 hours a day. Neither do all your meals have to be perfectly balanced among the four main food groups-an occasional pizza or bag of burgers is not going to cause malnutrition.
Learn to express yourself – It is important to be able voice your thoughts, feelings and beliefs without anger, feeling defensive, or being disrespectful of the rights or opinions of others. By being more assertive you will find it easier to say no and to stand up against those who pressure you into doing what serves them and not you. If you find this difficult or impossible to do, consider taking an Assertiveness Training course.
Build a Support System – Having a network of understanding and supportive people is particularly important. Surround yourself with positive people and as much as possible, avoid the advice givers, those who use guilt to control you, and those who think you should solve all their problems.
Brainstorm Your Options – Even if you think you have run out of options and there is no way out or any way you can think of to lighten your load, the truth is there are always possibilities. Are you absolutely certain you have thought of everything? Two heads are better than one, and several heads are even better at solving problems and generating ideas. Seek out others in similar situations who are managing to live their lives well and ask how they doing it. They may offer solutions you have never considered or resources you never even knew about.
Let Go of Problems That Are Beyond Your Control – When our world is spinning out of control our natural inclination is to hang on tighter. Some things are simply going to be out of your hands no matter what you do, so stay focused on what you can control, not what you can’t.