But where did this notion that women need to bear the weight of the world on our shoulders come from?
Why do we attempt to take on everything ourselves, draining ourselves both mentally and physically while the majority of men do not feel this same pressure? Well, my friends, this pressure we feel is called Superwoman Syndrome and women have been struggling with this for decades.
During the second-wave feminist movement of the 1960s, women fought tooth and nail to gain the work, family, and reproductive rights we have now (and are still fighting for). This was the first time that women had access to these opportunities, and instead of sacrificing these opportunities or trading in home life for work life, women took on everything at once.
So here we are, 50 plus years after the second-wave feminist movement and women are still battling the pressure to do everything - and do it well. But in addition to trying to do everything well, we are now trying to be the best at everything we do. With the introduction of social media, it has become a competition of who can simultaneously have the best job, spend the most time with their kids, make the best dinners and find time to exercise - all while still looking flawless at the end of the day. The problem with comparing ourselves to others on social media is that we are comparing our “behind the scenes moments” (bed hair, eyeliner smeared across our faces, kids and pets running around a messy house) to the “highlight reels” of others. The problem is, these “highlight reels” aren’t what our lives really look like. This is something I saw online that encompasses this notion perfectly :
Me on Instagram: Made cupcakes with the kids, love them so much!
Me behind the scenes: YOU’RE GETTING EGGSHELLS IN THE BATTER OH MY GOSH LET ME DO IT!
It’s a hilarious example and it’s entirely true. On social media, we are constantly trying to present the best versions of ourselves yet we feel terrible about our “behind the scenes moments” because we assume other people don’t have them. This sort of comparison creates such undue stress, yet we do it anyway. For moms, there is the ever growing pressure to provide their kids with action-packed summers they’ll be bragging to their friends about for years to come (not to mention posting about on social media). This additional pressure can be extremely overwhelming, especially if a parents are not able to take off time from work during the summer or afford these lavish vacations.
So what do we do now?
The answer lies in self-care (yes, that word you’ve been hearing so much about). They aren’t kidding on airplanes when they say that in case of an emergency you need to put your oxygen mask on before you help your child put on theirs. Think of self-care as your oxygen mask. You may be a strong, powerful, and independent woman who thinks you can withstand the weight of the world without taking a break (believe me, I’ve been there), but you can’t do it without your oxygen. And the best part is, your “oxygen” are things you already enjoy doing! You just might need to take a moment to reconnect with yourself and figure out what they really are.
As a culture, we’re beginning to recognize that women are taking on this role of Superwoman and overworking ourselves to the brink of exhaustion; but what do we do about it?
Below is a list of things you can implement into your daily life to help you recover from Superwoman Syndrome, so you can get that necessary oxygen you need!
- Happiness List: Make a list of little things you enjoy. Cheap things, free things, expensive things; it doesn’t matter. It can be as small as taking a walk in the sunshine or as lavish as getting a 90 minute full body massage.
- Use Your List: Take the list you just created and find little ways to begin implementing these into your daily life. If you’re certain that you couldn’t possibly add anything else into your life then start small. Take a 5 minute walk on your lunch break or listen to your favorite song on your commute to work. Start with one thing a day, then add more as you feel comfortable.
- Create a Support System: Humans are social beings (yes, even those of you who are introverts), and need social interaction and support. You don’t need to have a big support system either, you just need to find someone you can reach out to when the going gets tough and maybe to grab a coffee with on a Saturday morning. Nowadays, there are so many different ways to meet new friends that it’s astounding! There are apps for meetup groups based on common interests, support groups for moms - both online and in person, apps for women seeking a new female best friend, and the list goes on! A simple Google search will point you in the right direction.
- Say No: Get comfortable saying no, especially to things you don’t really want to do in the first place. No long winded explanations, no profusely apologizing or justifying why you can’t. JUST SAY NO! We always think of “no” as such a dirty word but it really doesn’t have to be. The best guideline I’ve ever heard for saying no is, “say no, but be thankful”. For example, if you are asked to bake cookies for your child’s school fair a great response could be “No I’m sorry I won’t be able to, but thank you for thinking of me!” Straight to the point, plain and simple, but polite and thankful.
- Ask for Help: If there really is something that you need to get done, then ask for help. Asking for help does not make you weak. In fact, it means you’re strong enough to recognize that something needs to get done and you’re taking the initiative to ensure it gets done (while your sanity remains intact).
These are just a few of the many things you can do to break away from the overwhelming pressures of Superwoman Syndrome and get back on track to living your life. Just take baby steps, deep breaths, and remember to ask for help.