THE SUPERWOMAN MYTH/TRAP
Strength, Health, & Stress how to take care of yourself while debunking common myths around the superwoman.
So this is for all the women out there that need to hear this, especially us black women. I think it important to debunk some myths around the superwoman and woman taking on so much by juggling everything all at once. This is for all the women who work hard to manage all the roles in their lives from mom to working professionals, wife, student, support system to family and friends, or other things that are time-intensive
What do I mean by the superwoman trap?
"I have to be strong. I have to be strong for everyone else."
For starters, the superwoman for black women was born out of the negative and derogatory stereotype of black women, such as the hyper-sexualized jezebel or the nurturing mamma. The superwoman was meant to amplify Black women's resilience and strength and fight against white supremacy and patriarchy. While these are things to be celebrated, it also came with a lot of baggage that we Gen X, millennials, and Gen Z, need to debunk.
I remember on an episode of empire; if you haven't watched it, watch it; it is excellent. Anyways Cookie Lyon, one of the main characters with all her sass, confidence, and having it all together, had a breakdown. As a result, she talks to a therapist, where her therapist debunks some of her myths by trying to do it all and not putting herself first and being there for everyone, which starts to affect her mental health. The reality of the superwoman myth or trap is if we don't take care of ourselves, who will. You can't pour from an empty cup.
The superwoman myth can have substantial negative impacts on our overall health, as it creates stress and tension in our bodies.
While it is important to celebrate the strength of women such, as resilience, fortitude, perseverance, it is also important to find a healthy balance between doing it all and doing what you can manage without burnout and high stress.
Bear in mind that this myth is not to undermine the strong woman out there, especially for us black women.
Theme and Symptoms of a Superwoman
Displaying the image of strength - the idea of being the strength or the backbone of the family, this including taking care of everyone and things around you and managing to find time to take care of oneself.
This can be brought on by society, other mothers and grandmothers before us, or seeing women around us who have gone through much more.
The need to suppress emotions: feeling like no one around us will understand what we are going through and the difficulties in letting people in (I personally struggle with the most). Even stigma of the idea people might think they're crazy if they express their feelings and emotions is particularly true when Black women get labelled as the angry black woman for expressing oneself. And simple out not everyone knows how to express emotions.
Not being able to ask for Help. -This is almost a resistance to being vulnerable or dependent on others. Sometimes, the superwoman trap gives us permission not to accept and ask for Help, or we are afraid that if we accept Help it might cause us to get hurt by someone taking advantage. This makes the superwoman always want to take the lead or be in control of the situation. A perfect example is sometimes in a relationship; we can have a hard time sharing house or caregiving responsible with our partner because we feel like something might not get done or it won't be done the way we want it to.
Need to succeed. -the idea of perfectionism or trying to always be the best despite limited resources (eg.time) also plays a role in the superwoman trap. For some, it might be routinely working late, neglecting to take a break, and sacrificing sleep which in the long term can put our health at risk
Obligation to help others or taken on their problems as our own: literally the superwoman trap makes us feel like we need to meet others' needs which is a common trait of the superwoman trap or syndrome. This can come from a place of nurturing others or assuming it to be our responsibility. This is really like picking up excessive bagged and carrying around an extra load as Erykah Badu so elegantly put in her song bag lady you going hurt back dragging all em bags like that — on day all em bag going get in you way. And it really does. The norm of juggling multiple roles, like always being there for friends and family, volunteering in our community, you name it, can put a strain on us. Really it comes down to having a hard time saying no and setting boundaries.
We all know by now or should Know that additional stress puts a strain on a lot of areas of our lives as women, but the superwoman trap makes it seem normal. As if it is something we must do in order to hold standards we think are okay. The reality is it is not okay and collectively, we need to move beyond this and garner healthier options to protect or mental health and well-being.
How to Overcome and Combat this Trap
“Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.” - Audre Lorde
Setting boundaries for ourselves,
Understanding when our plate is full,
Having the courage to ask for Help and
Being vulnerable by expressing how we feel and what we need so our need or met, and
Relinquishing the need for perfection and constant success because, let's face it we are all human, and no one is perfect.
Having others hold us accountable when we are not taking care of ourselves and doing to much.
Quite frankly, I often time fall into this trap as well, there is no shame if you do. Ways I have been combating this trap is being more intentional with how I schedule my time, ensuring I have breaks, and understanding when to say no and set boundaries. The reality is life is not a race it is meant to be enjoyed, and when we are trying to be superwoman, it can often get missed with the feeling of overwhelmed and stressed. So to all, though strong women, Black, Indigenous, and colored women out there take time for yourself, say no, set boundaries, say what you feel and need, and ask for Help.
What are your thoughts about the Superwoman tray would love to hear from you. email me your thoughts and comments at firstname.lastname@example.org