Being Superwoman Part 1

Being Superwoman Part 1: Recognising when it all becomes a little too much

There’s been a lot of research over the last 40 years around happiness and the discoveries are both fascinating and worrying. It’s been found that despite having better finances, more autonomy, more control over their lives, better access to power, and (whilst there is still much to do) more equality than ever before, women are less happy than their counterparts in the 1970s.

At that time there was a gender happiness gap with women reporting higher levels of subjective wellbeing than men. This trend has gradually changed over the years to the point that it has reversed entirely.

There may be lots of reason for this decline in women’s happiness levels but one has been shown to be that as women have taken on more in the workplace, started businesses, stood up to be counted, take on more positions of authority, they haven’t relinquished the day to day home and caring roles that, at that time, they would have been solely responsible for.

  • 90% of carers in the UK are women (not just of their own children)
  • The majority of household chores are still done by women.

Workload has been piled upon workload. More and more has been taken on, without letting go of other things that someone else could help out with. Women, as a result, end up running around like superwoman.

We are juggling everything:
Childcare, relatives, homelife, social life, trying to keep fit and healthy, housework, shopping, cooking, personal development & learning, looking after a relative, running a business perhaps, extra responsibilities at work and…and …and
all of those other things that society and perhaps we expect of ourself.

And while there are plenty of pressures on men too, they are not the same in most cases.
(I’m going to talk in generic terms for the purpose of this article, there are always exceptions.)

We know it’s different for us as women. And we’ve developed this strategy to cope, called ‘Superwoman’ where we just run around and do it all. Perhaps because we feel no one else will do it as well, or that they’ll forget something, or just because we want to be seen to be capable and able to do it all and have it all.

“I tell women, that whole ‘you can have it all’ — nope, not at the same time; that’s a lie,”
Michelle Obama

Running around like superwoman has got us as individuals, and as a society to a great place in the world. But it’s also led many women to illness, fatigue and burnout. Especially in the corporate world.
So, is it time to say thank you, to your inner superwoman,but recognise that she is SO 80s and that’s it’s time to retire her?
We need to find a way of moving forward, of building our businesses, of earning a living, of having fabulous relationships, and of being happy and finding balance in our life, without the stress that being superwoman brings.

Because it’s not just mental stress. It’s physical stress as well.

When we run around trying to do it all, our stress hormones are continually triggered and we are running on adrenaline and cortisol. This can lead to illness and burnout. It’s no wonder we are tired and worn out, and perhaps a little unhappier than the women of 40 or 50 years ago.

So, it’s time to retire superwoman, to send her back to the 80s with her shoulder pads and high heels! And find a new way of moving forward so that you can be successful not just in your business but in all of your life.

The first step in my action plan to help women prepare to retire their inner superwoman is:

Recognise the signs of starting to take on too much and becoming overwhelmed.

We say yes to so many things, for so many reasons. We take on so much, we say no to so few things. We want to help, to be seen to be available, caring, and to be seen as capable and that the job, or career isn’t impacting on the rest of our lives.

I think it’s a mistake to not admit that we take on too much and that we can’t do it all.

Take a few minutes, grab a pen and paper and spend some time thinking about and writing about what it feels like to be overwhelmed and to have that feeling of having taken on too much. How does that manifest for you? What feelings do you get? What repeated behaviours do you have?

Commonly some of the things I get told about are:

  • Feeling stressed,
  • forgetful,
  • anxious,
  • don’t know where to start,
  • fidgety or agitated
  • snappy,
  • headaches or migraines,
  • unfocussed,
  • tired,
  • tense,
  • some ladies want to throw it all out the wndow, (all or nothing mentality)
  • reach for coffee, chocolate, wine, or something else to get through.
  • For me, I do a lot of pacing when I feel overwhelm coming on

When we know our personal reactions and symptoms, and start to notice, we can, with practice, start to see overwhelm coming much sooner, and we can start to cut back and perhaps event to delegate or say no to things.

It takes practice to spot the signs, but with practice you will start to spot overwhelm more quickly until eventually, you can see it up on the horizon and take the necessary steps to stop it reaching you at all!

Keep an eye out for other articles in this series that will take you through more steps to help retire your inner superwoman and to find a new way being the best version of you.

You may also want to download my free PDF worksheet: ‘Is It Time To Ditch Superwoman?’

Click here to download it!

Picture of by Helen Leathers

by Helen Leathers

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