Sunday, January 22, 2012

The Superwoman Syndrome

Faster than a speeding minivan-
Stronger than a SUV-
Able to leap tall piles of laundry in a single bound-
It's a bird!
It's a plane!

I walk into my house after an exhausting day at work, two meetings with my favorite charities, a mad dash to the grocery store and a battle with traffic. I am dreaming about finding a comfy spot on the sofa to relax for just a few minutes before dinner. But what happens next is no surprise to a fellow superwoman.   I find myself washing a few dishes left in the sink from breakfast, which leads to disinfecting the entire sink and counter top followed by the microwave and coffee pot!  As I walk over to the refrigerator to put away the groceries that I left on the floor, I notice the mail, which I begin to sort and file.  While in the office filing away the mail, the phone rings- a ten minute conversation that turns into twenty. After hanging up the phone, I return to the kitchen only to find the groceries that never made it to the refrigerator still sitting on the floor.  While putting away the milk on the third shelf, I move the eggs to the second shelf which leads to an organizational overhaul of the entire refrigerator- and at the same time I am thinking about exhausted I am!

Do you ever find yourself seeking out more tasks and responsibilities despite your obvious need for rest or relaxation?  Then you too may suffer from the Superwoman Syndrome!  In the 1950's, women focused mostly on the home and family, in the 1980's, women wanted it all; a home, a family and a successful career.  As we move into a world filled with family, work, home, social and emotional demands, we are beginning to see that having it all sometimes means spreading ourselves too thin!  The result is that something will eventually suffer; that something is typically our health, our relationship with others and our peace of mind.  Why do we do it?

Perhaps we see superwomen in the media who make it look easy to "have it all".  They cook entire meals in a 30 minute Food Network show, they re-decorate an entire house during a one hour HGTV or DIY episode and Martha Stewart- well, enough said.  I have a sign in my kitchen that reads:  MARTHA STEWART HAD A NERVOUS BREAKDOWN HERE!  As women, we feel the need to be all things to all people; we derive satisfaction from knowing that we have achieved exhaustion!

Often, the superwoman is a perfectionist (not me of course) who has unrealistic expectations about what she is physically capable of achieving in one 24 hour day.  She sacrifices her own needs both physical and emotional for the sake of everything else.  Perfectionism is like a two-edged sword- it cuts both ways.  According to The University of Texas at Austin, "perfectionism is a duel with oneself, the ultimate no-win situation.  Perfectionism is not a healthy pursuit of excellence, rather a preoccupation with avoiding failure and disapproval". 

Perhaps if we looked at the biblical standard of perfection, we would lighten up on ourselves just a bit.  Matthew 5:48 (NIV) tells us to "Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect".  But, what is Godly perfection?  The amplified version puts it all into perspective.  "You, therefore, must be perfect [growing into complete maturity of godliness in mind and character, having reached the proper height of virtue and integrity], as your heavenly Father is perfect".

Becoming mature in Christ, means learning that I do have limitations (pause for an epiphany).  In order to have abundant life, I have to prioritize what is really important to me.  Abundant life is not about a daily planner crammed with activities.  Dean Dyer, in the book "Grace for the Race", tells us to "get off the hamster wheel of perfection, recognize our limits and rest with Jesus for a while".  Jesus loved us enough to leave Heaven and come into an imperfect world in order that we might experience His love and mercy; surely we can give ourselves permission to be less than perfect in order to spend more time with Him.  

Fellow Superwomen, I know that it is hard to take off that cape and suit with the big red "S" on the front of it; but you CAN do it!  I still consider myself a recovering perfectionist.  I am not proud of the fact that I am still doing the phone booth trick.  But, with God's grace, maybe someday I will be able to ignore that pile of laundry and get a pedicure- at least until we run out of underwear!

Until next time,

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