I am close and personal friends with a superhero; Superwoman to be exact.  She is one of my dearest friends and I am proud to say that she often blesses me with an ‘s’ of my own when I manage to do the impossible.  Admit it, you know her too.


She’s the neighbor who manages to have the impeccable yard, throw the perfect dinner party, and stay involved with all six of her kids.


Or the single woman climbing the ranks at her prestigious career while making time to support her friends, take care of her ailing parents, and look fabulous while she does it all.


superwoman syndrome-pinI have to confess that it’s kind of exhilarating to have earned superhero status; there is an adrenalin rush that comes with completing the seemingly impossible.


Let’s be honest; everyone wants to be Superwoman (or Superman) at some time or another.


The drive and perseverance that comes with doing what other people believe they can’t is an impressive quality.  It is something to be proud of and a characteristic that helps many of us achieve things that at one time seemed inconceivable.  But just as in the comic books, there are some very really dangers to being Superwoman.
Often referred to Superwoman Syndrome, many women are subjecting themselves to overwhelming schedules and unreasonable expectations in an effort to live up to some kind of perfectionist standard of womanhood.  While the desire to be our best is not inherently bad, it has many women pushing themselves beyond the brink to be the best in every area of their lives.


As someone who has aspired at one time or another to attain Superwoman status myself, I understand the pressure to meet and exceed this ideal of perfectionism.  Women today, married or single, mothers or childless, are faced with pervasive and often conflicting messages about what it means to be a “good woman”.


For many it’s the desire to meet these ideals that fuels the Superwoman Syndrome.
Whether it is a desire to be a “good” mom by baking 5 dozen cupcakes and showing up for story time each week or the need to be a “good” worker by staying late and taking on other people’s projects; women are stretching themselves thin with some potentially devastating consequences.  The physical and emotional stress of pushing yourself beyond reason can have some serious repercussions on your health.


Sleep deprivation is often a badge of honor among us superwomen, unfortunately the results to our bodies is much more than just needing an extra cup of coffee in the morning.  Lack of sleep can diminish your ability to focus, slow reaction time, and even contribute to weight gain.  Superwoman stress can also contribute to headaches, stomachaches, irritability, mood swings, and even anxiety.


These physical and emotional responses can be avoided by changing the definition of “superwoman”.


I believe that most women embrace this superhero attitude because we understand our potential to shape and nurture our families and communities.


We have a deep desire to use our influence for good.


We want to support our children and encourage our spouses.


We want to shape communities and corporations for the better and so women push hard…. we lean in.


But I want to challenge each of us to begin to not only support others health and happiness but invest in our own as well.  Rather than accepting the current image of superwomen as those willing to be self-sacrificing to the point of exhaustion, let’s start to model a new image that promotes an image of balance and self-care.


Instead of patting yourself on the back when you’ve pushed yourself to meet another unreasonable request; practice setting clear boundaries and making time for better self-care.  Teach the people around you that the real key to a better life is learning to care for yourself as much as you care for others.


It’s possible to achieve amazing things without burning yourself out.


The same determination that once allowed you to work 80 hours a week and still show up for your family and friends, can be applied to things like self care, having fun, and connecting with people you care about.  By turning our superwoman skills inward, women have the opportunity to be the best kind of superhero- a healthy one.