The Superwoman Syndrome
This Women’s Month, Untie the Cape and breathe
We see women around us being amazing and efficient every single day. They keep the world running. Strong-minded, soft-hearted, hard-working, and driven, women manage the ins and outs of daily living, while also being #bossbabes at their workplace. Running a family? Check. Rocking your career? Check. Looking after your parents? Check. Having a social life? Check. Being a student? Check. Potential burnout? Perhaps a check. If you often feel exhausted at the end of the day and are worried about stretching yourself thin with all your To-Do lists, you might be experiencing Superwoman Syndrome.
Yes, that’s right. A term that is used to empower, embrace, and uplift can also be harmful to you. The term ‘Superwoman Syndrome’ was coined by author Marjorie Hansen Shaevitz. Psychology defines this syndrome as a set of characteristics found in a woman who performs or attempts to perform all the duties typically associated with several different full-time roles. It happens when a woman neglects her needs and wants perfectionism in every role she has in her life and uses that as a way to measure success. Unfortunately, being labelled a ‘superwoman’ pushes women to set unattainable goals for themselves and sets unrealistic expectations about how they can “multitask.”
What does it feel like?
- Emotional Aspects: When you are doing too many things at once and you are unable to focus on things one at a time, you will begin to experience bouts of irritability throughout your day or at things that go wrong; small or big. This eventually builds up your frustration and causes you to feel helpless and vulnerable.
- Physical Aspects: Even though you want to be a superwoman and do justice to all the different roles that are a part of your life, your body too needs love. It can give up if you don’t give it adequate rest. You may experience muscle tension and spasms, abdominal pain, skin irritation, sweating, insomnia, and shortness of breath
The five types of Superwomen
Dr. Tasneem Bhatia, a doctor, and author who strived to achieve all her dreams but started going down the road of burnout documented her journey and observations in her book, Superwoman Rx.
She identifies different types of superwomen or the “power type” that you can fall into, including everything from health, personality traits to what you eat.
She is intelligent, determined, impatient, and has a great wit and sense of humour. At the same time, she also has insanely big demands from herself. Bhatia claims that Irritable Bowel Syndrome and acid reflux are often seen in boss ladies
We all know someone who puts her needs last and is a natural caregiver to everyone around; she is an earth mama. Bhatia says concerns like weight gain, depression, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, and hypertension are higher among Earth Mamas
Bhatia describes this type as the changemakers amongst us who long to provide selfless service to the world and make positive change; they are the nightingales. But, this often comes with a weak immune system, allergies, insomnia, and hormone imbalances
She is the creative one who spends most of the time in her small and comfortable space, doing her craft and what she loves. But, Bhatia says this often leads to anxiety, fatigue, hair loss, missed menstrual cycles, and insomnia.
It is important to know that your power type can change as you grow older and pass through different phases of your life. For example, your power type when you were 20 could be totally different to when you are 40 and have additional responsibilities on your shoulders
How to Untie the Cape…
- Delegate & Ask For Help: If you have too many things on your plate, whether it’s at work or home, ask for help from people around you and delegate the tasks. Make sure you ask your partner or someone available at home to finish some of the chores for you. And don’t feel bad about asking for help or feel weak because you asked for help. The ability to delegate tasks is a skill in itself
- Let Go Of Perfectionism: Understand and accept that it is okay for some things to not be perfect or up to your standards. It’s okay if your house is not clean all the time. You do not have to make the perfect dinner every night. Take time out to examine your goals and tasks to complete, and analyse what level of perfectionism is needed in each and if it is worth it. If you can compromise a little on the perfectionism in one task to give yourself more time and peace, then let the perfectionism go, little by little
- Make Time For Yourself: It is so important to have some time where you are alone and doing things that you love or have missed out on doing with nothing else on your mind. It could be simple tasks like washing your hair or taking yourself to a nice massage. This will help you relax and put you in the emotional space to unwind. So, at least once a week, try to do something for yourself and to show care to your body and soul
- Set Small, Achievable Goals: Do not overwhelm and exhaust yourself by setting goals that are unrealistic. At the start of every morning, spend some time making a to-do list and setting goals for things that are absolutely important on the list. When setting goals, you can try using the SMART technique: set specific and short, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time-framed goals. For example, rather than saying “I want to start walking more,” make the goal more SMART and say “Every morning, I will walk at least 20 minutes before work, for the next one month”.
With all these tips in your kitty, this women’s month, embrace the perfect imperfections of being a woman; let’s stop measuring ourselves against impossible standards.