Superwoman Syndrome...Do you suffer?

OK, so I admit, this post doesn't follow in my usual alternations between Food and Fitness, but after reading an article in Elle's January issue, the subject of 'Superwomen Syndrome', written by Lotte Jeffe, resonated hugely with me, and got me thinking.

Elle Jan edition

You may be asking, what is Superwoman Syndrome? Superwoman Syndrome refers to the modern womens' current obsession with overachievement; doing it all, exceeding it all, doing it better than anyone has done before. You're hair needs to stay perfect all day, you must excel at your full time job, alongside that gym workout you have to squeeze in before evening commitments with friends/family you should see. Yes, inside you're overworked, tired, and perhaps a little cranky, but still you will drop everything for anyone at the drop of a hat. Sound familiar?

Now, by no means am I calling myself a Superwoman, I'm far from it, but the idea of constantly pushing yourself to achieve better is most definitely something I can relate to. And the worrying thing is that, with womens' equality having come on leaps and bounds, Superwoman Syndrome is an issue that is becoming more and more prevalent in todays society.

Now, of course I'm not denying the fact that equal rights is without a doubt a great thing and, whether it be careers or families, women now really are being giving the opportunity to have it all. But, now, having it all is not enough - we have to be doing it all too. And with this comes a huge pressure.

The article

I have always been one to strive for perfection - shoot for the stars, is what I've always told myself. I am a firm believer that if I set my mind to something I will achieve it - and anyone who knows me will be familiar with my, albeit it somewhat cut-throat, striving ambition!

Yet the problem with this is that I'm always aiming higher, and punishing myself for not getting there. Take my degree - a First Class Honours, straight A's in my final exams, and 97% in my dissertation. Yes, I was thrilled but, crazily, I still questioned... what did I do to miss out on that additional 3%?

8 months, 182 pages, 38,000 words of hard work

And I'm sure you will agree, the idea of constantly doing better becomes all consuming. Take a recent (unnamed) target I was set to achieve over a 6 week period, which was already ambitious in itself. After only 3 weeks, I had already met it, so I pushed myself to achieve another +50%. A week later, I'd done it. So after that, I wanted +100%. When I finished at the end of the six weeks at +143% above my target, instead of congratulating myself, I was annoyed that had I have just pushed that tiny little bit harder, I could have made that +150%!

Superwomen syndrome thrives from the buzz of exceeding expectations which, in the modern busy lifestyle, leaves little time to switch off from the 'bettering one selves' mantra. You simply cannot take a break. Last week, I was running on the treadmill at the gym, when I caught myself giggle to the episode of the Simpsons playing on Channel 4, and felt a pang of guilt. It wasn't enough that I was squeezing in a workout after a busy day at work, and the fact I was actually enjoying The Simpsons was irrelevant, as Superwoman Syndrome told me in my head "I could make this run much more beneficial with BBC News playing on screen. Or a more current TV series, because when all my friends/colleagues are talking about the latest  Netflix upload I, again, feel that huge pang of guilt that, actually, I don't watch TV." Something else that I really should do - not because I enjoy it - but because a knowledge of popular pop culture would add in making me some sort of more rounded person.

And this is the problem with Superwoman Syndrome. I'm all for encouraging women and girls to be anything they want to be, achieving that new goal and feeling that awesome buzz, but the question is, when will we ever be satisfied with what we have done? Isn't it crazy, that my perception of 'satisfaction' relates to 'giving up'? For me, the phrase 'good enough' will never really be 'good enough' - there will always be better. And you could say, to a certain extent, we will torment ourselves until we find that something that is better. But then where does it end?

I read another article the other day about Satisfiers and Maximisers. Satisfiers, it said, are people who will find something that meets their basic requirements and settle for it. Maximisers, on the other hand, will look at all options available, weigh them up and select the one delivers the optimum benefits. "That's totally me," I, somewhat smugly, thought to myself, "I'll always try to get the best". It was only after reading on, however, did I once again feel that twinge of guilt as the article explained that, in actual fact, it's the Satisfiers who are the happier of the two. Maximisers, even when having found a suitable option, will always think there is something better out there, therefore will never achieve the satisfaction with what they have.

So, now that we're into February and the New Years Resolutions to be a better friend/girlfriend/daughter/sister/worker (and all the other things things you intended) are perhaps beginning to wane, remember the above, and stop punishing yourself for what you haven't done.

Instead, remember what you already have, what you already know, what you already have achieved, and congratulate yourself. Have fun, enjoy the ride, and be kind to yourself.

Because all of us, including you, are already a Superwoman.



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