You can do a lot.
You can balance a million and one tasks in one hand, easily. Or maybe you can clear a to do list in a flash. Or maybe you can lead 5 different organizations all while taking classes, working a job, volunteering, interning, and attempting to build lasting, authentic relationships. Or maybe you can solve a stranger’s problem before they can even get a chance to come to you for help. You’re known for doing it all. Maybe your reputation precedes you, and you’d better believe you have an image to protect, tooth and claw. Because being a superwoman is hard work. It’s long hours and no pay. Sometimes no respect. Occasionally no thank you. Frequently no recognition.
But you wake up in the morning and you get it done. You balance the workload. You put in the hours. You rush between the deadlines. You meet the expectations. You shove past the criticisms. You beat the odds. You blink away the tears. And maybe, at the end of the night, you have enough time left over to glance at yourself in the mirror and mumble, “good job” before collapsing in the bed and doing it all over again in the morning.
Again, you can do a lot. The key word being “can”.
I’ve found that there is a significant difference between “can” and “must”. “Must” implies obligation, a lack of choice. It has to be done and it has to be done by you. “Can” leaves room for decisions, for choices. You do it from desire not necessity, want not requirement. But you don’t have to.
YOU DO NOT HAVE TO.
Superwoman Syndrome is essentially the pressure many women feel to take on several roles, and to perform them to perfection. In order words, it’s the pressure to do it all and do it well. A lot of us make it work, and if I’m being honest, from a distance, a lot of us do it well. But while we’re busy carrying our own world of responsibilities on our shoulders, where does the girl behind the mask go? Often she gets pushed into a file titled “To Be Handled Later”. And then later never comes.
The accompanying side effects of Superhero Syndrome include but are not limited to the following: pretending our needs don’t exist in order to better meet everyone else’s; neglecting ourselves as we extend all of our energy outward; grooming, buffing, and shining our armor in order to protect a heart that is weary, tired, and more than a little insecure. And then convincing everyone else we have it all together in hopes that perhaps we can start to believe it as well.
Or maybe that’s just my experience.
I understand that saying “no” can taste bitter and coarse. Being selfish is foreign because some of us have been taught love means giving unconditionally to others without accepting anything in return. Loving ourselves first can feel impossible because all we’re ever told are the ways that we could’ve done better. Being content in the present rather than chasing seven different futures is counter instinctive because we feel the need to fight to prove ourselves to everyone who ever doubted we could do it. Pick your reason. There are plenty.
I’m here to lovingly tell you the very same thing I have to tell myself every time I feel myself slipping into the same tiring and borderline toxic habits. Even when it feels wrong, you need to grit your teeth and force yourself to stop, if only for a moment. If you were to strip yourself of your titles, your accomplishments, your connections, your obligations, your projects, your relationships, your obligations, your commitments, your responsibilities, and whatever else it is you believe make up who you are, you are still a good, capable, and wonderful woman. Flesh and blood, body and bone. You are a woman with hands that can build civilizations but also can fold themselves in stillness. A woman with legs that can keep up with the fastest of paces but can also stretch beneath a blanket in rest. With eyes that can see the next big goal, but also deserve a chance to drift shut in peace. With a heart that can stretch wide enough to welcome any and everyone, but first must learn to open up to welcome herself, flaws and all. With a spirit that is bold, complex, technicolor, and free from the need of validation from anyone but her Creator. Your value never was and never will be in how productive, efficient, impressive, or useful you are. You owe no one a single thing.
You are a woman, flesh and blood, body and bone. Your greatest superpower has never been how many battles you can fight at once, or how many people applaud your name. Your greatest superpower will always be found in the simple, brave, and beautiful action of existing just as you are at your own pace. It is in the ability to look yourself in the mirror at the beginning, middle, and end of the day and tell yourself “good job” simply for committing to yourself the same way you once committed to everything else.
~ With love, from a recovering superwoman