As women leaders, we have this nasty habit of trying to be all things to all people.
In fact, we are often the first to volunteer for extra duties and the last to ask for help. This practice of overextending ourselves is leading us into mental and emotional turmoil.
Many Women Leaders that I coach, are working toward retirement from their superhero duties. They are feeling overworked and underappreciated. Despite their feelings of discontent, they have a hard time taking off “the cape.” When encouraged to consider asking for help, many are hesitant to do so, and fear appearing weak, bothersome, or incompetent.
This “Superwoman Syndrome” has affected many of you reading this post. Even though the “Superwoman Syndrome” is not a real disorder, it is a real experience. This label describes women who are trying to do it all. They are balancing work, parenting, school, marriage, and many other roles. Stress levels are often high and self-care and wellness low. If you are a Superwoman, this post is for you.
You, like I once did, are hiding your suffering and pain behind the false cape of invincibility.
Many women equate reaching out for help in areas like parenting, marriage, household management, and upper-level career duties, as being weak, stupid, or ill-equipped to handle life. Especially since other women are doing it so well….right?
Wrong! No one is managing everything and all things perfectly.
Part of the issue that keeps us bound to the cape, is that we put on this glamorous front of faked perfection. Our fake smiles, fake togetherness, and photo-filtered lifestyle are weighing us down.
Women Leaders are struggling and guess what? No one is talking about it!
Occasional complaints to a friend or co-worker is the rare exception of exposing the true struggle. There’s a lot of tears and pain hidden behind the cape. This lack of authenticity is leading women to believe that if they are struggling, something must be wrong with them. The reality is, we all have some level of struggle. Some struggles are more intense, but even low-level struggles can wear on us over time.
There was a time when I thought being a “Superwoman” was a positive thing.
I then found myself feeling resentful, burdened, and burned out. I was giving more than I had to give and my “cup of renewal” was empty. I was scraping the bottom of the cup and discovered that nothing was left for me.
My Superwoman facade went on for many years, until she finally decided to quit on me.
She bailed on me ya’ll. Do you know why? Because she never existed in the first place. I made her up to justify self-neglect in the name of career success. I lived in a make-believe world of invincibility until one day a health challenge showed up as my kryptonite. I was losing the battle against my stress and my health was the casualty.
Does this sound familiar?
You look like you have it all together when in reality, you are silently suffering from mental and emotional strain. You mask your mental challenges behind your achievements, well-styled hair, carefully applied make-up, thoughtfully coordinated outfits, a busy schedule, and a well-ironed cape.
You are the first person that people call for help, but the last one to reach out for assistance. You show up in the spaces you occupy looking the part while trying not to fall apart. You are leading externally, but losing internally.
I raise my hand in solidarity with you, because that was me.
Ladies listen! Are you ready to remove your Superwoman mask and embrace the beauty of your humanness?
Your human frailties are not flaws. They are divine red flags to alert you to the danger of over-doing and under-renewing.
Everyone won’t support your decision to retire the cape. They may call you stuck up, selfish, rude, antisocial, lazy, funny acting, or a list of other undesirable names.
To all my Superwomen out there, there is no better time to retire than now. I know it’s not easy, but it’s necessary.
Many of you have capes that are tattered and torn because you have been wearing them so long. My greatest hope is that you will realize sooner rather than later, that superheroes don’t really exist on Earth. What does exist, are women who are on the verge of breakdown and burnout.
There is nothing super about that.