Is it a bird, is it a plane? No it’s you rushing through life like it’s one big emergency, trying to be all things to all people and do everything without burning out.
Like superwoman our schedule is busy and we’re constantly responding to other peoples emergencies, rushing around trying to put out fires and recue others! High achieving women have this drive to do more, or better, to prove ourselves. On top of all this most of us doubt our abilities, worry we’re falling short, get overwhelmed at the amount on our plate and worry we’re not enough.
So many of us these days admit to feeling overworked, overwhelmed and overscheduled juggling families, career, friends struggling to keep up with the never ending demands.
We go through life trying to support everyone else and then when we burn out we feel guilty for letting people down – sound familiar? Yes life is full, it’s fast but we also place additional unnecessary pressure on ourselves by trying to also make it perfect – to be superwoman.
Life has changed and evolved for women and whilst the opportunities are endless the same cultural norms and upbringings weigh us down with an expectation to fulfil many roles. So now we’re encouraged to be career high flyers but are still required to be a great partner by taking care of things at home, raise the kids and be at the school gates at 3pm. Expectations have increased, along with the amount of balls we juggle in the air, it’s led to this quest to be superwoman in all areas of our life – now we’ve got the equal opportunity or course we want to execute it perfectly and show we’re capable.
What do you think of when you think of superwoman? The mythical superhero character in the movies? A woman who’s simply doing more than the average woman? Someone who pushes herself to excel at everything and succeeds?
For most of us we think of strength, world saving, someone who has it all, can do it all, she’s generally admired and respected and someone we wished we could be. We nearly always think of her as someone else, someone better than us – they belong in the superhuman category right?
She may be the high flying career woman, who always looks amazing when drops the kids at school with their freshly made organic lunches, she’s been up since 5 doing yoga and making hand pressed veg juice for the family. In her spare time she’s training for a marathon, volunteers raising money for breast cancer and she may well have not eaten a carb since 2005 but is she really perfect?
What about those women that seem to do it all, have it all and thrive? How do they do it? The answer most often is that they don’t! Whilst it may seem on the surface that all their plates are spinning, take a closer look, get to know them, see what’s happening behind closed doors, in their heads, their stress levels, how they sleep, their relationships and they’ll be a wobbly plate somewhere that needs spinning before it topples. Perhaps they’re using photoshop on those beautiful selfies? Or have an entourage of people that help them at home? A high performing team at work that carries the load?
If we compare ourselves to these superwomen we fall short. We can never see the full story and even the strongest superwomen have a weakness. In fact the more like superwoman they appear the greater the chance that they’re battling insecurities, exhaustion, not feeling good enough or just tired of trying to fulfil those expectations.
Yet we look at these people and are encouraged to strive, lean in, be perfect whilst feeling like we’re constantly falling short and will never measure up because we’re human and sometimes all we need rather than doing more, is doing less, take a break, permission to be ourselves rather than superwoman and to not feel guilty that it’s not enough.
Let’s get some facts straight when it comes to superwoman;
Real women make mistakes, we cry (sometimes for no reason), we get emotional, we care fiercely for the thigs we love, we are social creatures, we also like to be by ourselves, we might drink too much wine on a Friday when we’ve had a tough week at work. We sometimes shout at our kids/dog/spouse/call centre reps. We buy fruit that we intend to eat or juice but it ends up rotting in our fruit bowls or on our desks. We join the gym but don’t actually enjoy going. We eat cake even when we’re supposed to be on a diet, we drink too much coffee, we can only post a selfie if it’s been taken 100 times and then filtered. We keep clothes we can no longer fit into in our wardrobe in case we ever regress to a size 10. We’re still not 100% sure we’re cut out for our job and as capable as everyone else seems to think. We’re constantly beating ourselves up for the things we’re not good at, we’re too quick to see the things we don’t like about ourselves and don’t often see how amazing we already are.
In all seriousness, how do we harness the superwoman in us but make sure she’s not destroying us in the process. Having sustainable expectations and knowing what to do to not only tame our inner superwoman but to uncover the innate potential that lies within us and makes us so amazing, to harness everything that does indeed makes us superwoman, as we are.
The higher the expectations we place on ourselves the more unrealistic they’re likely to be – we’re setting ourselves up to fail so it’s no wonder we don’t feel like we’re enough. It also leads to a direct correlation with our feelings of overwhelm and busyness – the more we have to become the more we have to do and then the less time we get to be or do anything that matters!
If we hold ourselves to an impossible standard we will sadly, always fall short. We think it’s all or nothing. If I can’t be CEO, chair of the PTA, out earn my peers then what’s the point, I’ve failed. If I’m not growing my own organic food in the garden, teaching the kids piano, learning to speak French, making raw meals from Real Food Kitchen each night and having mind blowing sex then I’m failing as a mother and wife so I feel guilty. Guilty we’re not at that 430 pm meeting, guilty we didn’t go to the school lunch recital, guilty our legs are cultivating cellulite farms and guilty we’ve been too tired for sex for the last three years!
What if we were to enjoy life without these expectations and guilt that we place upon ourselves?
Trying to be superwoman makes us less productive. Our ambition to be superwoman is actually our undoing and once we let go of this need to be perfect what we find is we become better, life becomes manageable and we succeed at what we’re attempting because we’re not setting ourselves up to fail. We embrace who we are and what we have and find the joy in life, we find time for us and the overwhelm disappears. Our schedules start to align with our priorities and we have more choices, we become healthier and happier with more energy and therefore more to give to those that depend on us. We feel less guilt, we don’t spend as much time chasing our tail, we can think clearer, we sleep better and we are enough, as we are.
Be amazing, strive, have ambition but make sure you’re the driver of that, not guilt or some superwoman fantasy we’re seeing in the movies and magazines.
Appreciate our strengths as we are and tap into what makes us amazing without trying to be different, more, or better. So be your own superwoman and know that she is real, imperfect and yet still amazing. Let go of the superwoman complex to move from the impossible to the amazing reality we have within us.
You already are amazing so stop chasing the myth, its why you feel like you don’t measure up. If we let go of trying to be perfect and have it all we might just find out we already do and we already are, life changes for the better and instead of superwoman you become you and no-one is you, that is your power.
Strive for the best version of you but stop trying to be superwoman – you already are.
I’d love your thoughts and contribution towards my next book based on the above. There’s a prize (only until the end of November 2019) you’ll go into the draw to win if you complete this survey. I’d love to know which title you prefer, your thought son superwoman and the challenges you face which form part of this short survey.
Find out more about the book and launch dates here