The superwoman balancing act – how perfectionism sets us up to fail


We are all on amission to be the best we can be, to be happy, to have the perfect houses,families, partners, and jobs, to complete our to-do lists, to complete ourbucket lists, to make our parents proud, to get promoted, earn more money, andbe successful. Good enough is no longer enough. We live in a world where we areso developed, we can have everything and instant gratification. Normal is whatwe have, but it’s not what we want to settle for—it’s no longer enough. Weexpect to have everything and for the fairy tale to be a reality, and it won’tbe. We set ourselves up to fail; our imperfect lives (which are the best theycan be) are never going to be perfect. We aim for perfection and are thendisappointed because it never arrives.

All this againsta backdrop of not quite feeling good enough those nagging feelings of self-doubt.  According to the International Journal ofbehavioural science 70% of us think we’re not as good as others believe we are,it’s called Imposter Syndrome.  It’sexacerbated by our fear of failure, trying to please everyone around us,striving for perfection but worried we’re falling short all rolled into one!  It’s particularly prevalent in women and givenrise to these superwomen tendencies that so often end up in busyness, burnoutand breakdown.

Woman are good atbeing perfectionists; this comes from our need to please people but also ourvery high standards and expectations of ourselves. It can be a strength andwhat makes us good at what we do, but can also be our undoing. It’s where weset ourselves up to fail, expect too much, and lose touch with reality, andwhere the bar actually is - often we raise it far higher than it needs tobe. 

Perfectionism isalso our fear of failure manifesting. Sometimes our self-doubt means we’re soscared of not making the mark or falling short that we go way over what’snecessary, work twice as hard, to make sure we don’t fail. Whether we’reapplying for a job, having our hair done, going to the gym, or just doing ourday jobs. We want to be the perfect parents, workers, friends, and partners; wewant to look like a perfect cover of a magazine and live in perfectly clean, tidyhouses with perfect lawns. 

We placemassively unfair expectations on ourselves. To work hard at work but notfeel guilty if we can’t be at the school gates at 3pm everyday or to be a goodmother and not feel bad for arriving to work at 9am. Much of this guiltcomes from ourselves – we feel bad for leaving at 3pm even if we arrived at 7 –we worry what others will think and we are constantly trying to prove ourselvesworthy.

It’s no wonderwe’re so busy and can never find time for ourselves.  We are so busy in our modern world, the pace of life has quickened,expectations are higher and we’re all trying to do more things in lesstime. We have this superwoman complex where we try to juggle multipleroles in life all masterfully - with overflowing to do lists and excessivedemands on our time – there’s never enough hours in the day.

We’ve also attachedour self-worth to being busy.  It meanswe’re needed and valued and that we’re contributing.  Often is can be martyrdom at play as westruggle through our busy lives feeling secretly pleased the family/workplace mightcrumble without us.  So we wear busy likea badge of honour and attach our identity and worth to society in just how busywe are – this means we’ve deprioritised rest, relaxation, time out and anythingthat is the converse of busy – no wonder burnout is becoming more common!

Often its our ownhigh expectations that drive this behaviour – especially if we’reperfectionists.  So what can we do aboutit?

Top Tips

It’s not about notdoing our best or lowering the bar but resetting it to a realistic level.. Understandingthe difference between excellence and greatness and perfect and what isachievable in reality.  If we’re perfectin one area of life there’s bound to be another far from perfect that’s notgetting the attention it needs!

  • Give yourself permissionto make mistakes – we are human

  • Knowing that we don’t have to be superwomen to be enough and to beworthy

  • Stop comparing to others

  • Putting ourselves first for a change

  • Making time for self-care – balance the busyness and buildresilience

  • Leverage your strengths rather than trying to be good ateverything

  • Asking for help when you need it and delegating tasks (both atwork and at home)

  • The to-dolist will never be complete.

  • You’re doing thebest you can with what you’ve got, and that is enough

“We don’t have todo all of it alone – we were never meant to” Brene Brown