In comic book history, Superwoman (or Supergirl) first appeared in an Action Comic by DC Comics in 1959. She had superhuman strength, hearing, vision and could fly. Go back a bit further and you’d find that even Lois Lane was Superwoman several times beginning in 1943.
Usually when people today think of a Superwoman, they think of a cape-wearing super-heroine with magical powers, great hair and makeup who manages to rescue someone in distress in the last 10 minutes of an hour-long show.
Or in terms of us puny humans, she’s an extraordinary woman who is outstanding at every role she has – worker, partner, mother, community member and her house is spotless!
This new definition of a Superwoman came as more and more women began working. In 1988, Marjorie Hansen Shaevitz wrote the book on Superwoman Syndrome, to help women do everything they want to do and be happy while doing it.
“The superwoman identity refers to a woman, who performs a combination of multiple concurrent full-time roles such as wife, mother, worker, homemaker and caregiver [72, 73].” Authors Sumra & Schillaci researched the effect of stress on woman in multiple roles (aka Superwomen). You have all the jobs all the time. The stress comes from trying to do everything perfectly…..even though we know we can’t.
Here are 10 signs you’ve got Superwoman Syndrome:
- You work (in/out of the home) and you’re a caregiver (kids, parents, partner)
- You feel like a failure because you aren’t doing everything perfectly at home AND at work
- You stay awake all night thinking about everything you need to do the next day, week, month or year
- You’re to-do list is longer than a trip from here to the sun
- You worry that your kids/partner/parent aren’t getting enough of your time
- You stay up late cleaning/cooking/packing lunches/ironing because you can’t stand the thought of not getting everything done
- You get frustrated with yourself because you CAN’T do it all perfectly
- You say yes to EVERYONE and EVERYTHING because you don’t want anyone to judge you
- You’re afraid of losing your partner, kids, parents’ love if you take time for yourself
- You get physical symptoms (headaches/stomach problems) from all of the stress, worry and guilt
If you agree with at least four or more of these, guess what? You’ve got Superwoman Syndrome. And that makes you a Superwoman.
Sure, your cape is probably wrinkled, faded and has a few stains and tears, but you still have it. You’re still a Superwoman. You put tons of pressure on yourself to do everything right. You’re a perfectionist. You have trouble saying no and don’t like disappointing people (so you say yes to everything). You try to be all things for all people all the time because you feel bad if other people feel bad. And the more you do, the more stressed out you get and put yourself at an increased risk of various physical, emotional and mental health issues.
The best way to stop superwoman syndrome from stressing you out and creating havoc in your life is to be kinder to yourself. You can be kinder to yourself by practicing good self-care. By loving on yourself a little bit everyday. Self-care means doing all the things that increase your energy and joy while decreasing stress and guilt. Taking 5 minutes to listen to your favorite song. Putting up your favorite quotes at your desk. Self-care can also mean going to therapy or getting a coach to guide you through the process. Practicing good self-care allows you the room to notice the thoughts and feelings that cause superwoman syndrome.
Having a life doesn’t mean you need to be in last place. It means that you need to take better care of yourself so that you can be at your best for yourself, your family and work. Check out my post on why I think balance is b.s. and what to try instead.