If like me, you were raised to be a good little feminist, you may have what I have come to call “Superwoman Syndrome.” As a child you were told to be all you can be, and while on the surface that sounds good, the truth is the attempt to be and have it all can turn you into a burned out, workaholic who puts family and a personal life last in the attempt to live up to the Superwoman myth.
In many ways, I see feminism as the female version of the blue pill, the “pretty little lies” women have been told will lead toward a happy, successful life. Like the supplicating beta male, trying to “be nice, then be even nicer!” the female blue pill tells a woman that she should work harder, achieve more, that job title and status, “just like a man” are the path to success.
And of course if a woman tries to live that life script and finds it lacking, feminism blames her. She’s not trying hard enough, she has to try harder! She has to be more powerful, more independent, more strong because after all she is a victim of oppression and a failure if she doesn’t.
So she goes to college, starts her career, puts off marriage and family in the quest to climb the corporate ladder. If she does marry and have kids, she’s told to put her family last, to put herself first, and to let someone else do the “menial” tasks like raising children and keeping house. After all, those are things ANY woman could do, right? Why waste her potential?
So she either finds herself married with children and a husband that she barely sees or when she does she’s so darn worn out she’s just going through the motions. Or she puts off marriage and kids only to find that when she’s “ready” at age 35, she’s facing a much smaller dating pool than she would have in her early 20s, and unlike then, now she feels like she has to decide quick, maybe making concessions she would not have otherwise that lead to a “meh” at best and unhappy at worst marriage. Or maybe she doesn’t settle only to find she can’t find anyone at all, or at least not anyone who wants to marry her although they may want to sleep with her.
At this point such women either just furiously keep trying to work the broken script or they realize, perhaps too late, that they played their hand all wrong. Now what? There are no easy answers. You can’t turn back time and redo things over, and for many the path to the corner office turns out to be a lot less satisfying than it was supposed to be. Or she’s finding her employment options becoming more limited with age, as she competes with ever younger workers who are willing to do her job for less. The corporate world, she may find, will never love or care for her like a family would, she’s entirely disposable. In her youth focusing on herself may have been enough, but with age she feels the loneliness and disconnection from anything of true meaning or legacy more and more as the meaning and security her job and career were supposed to provide becomes more and more precarious.
It takes a lot of guts and insight for someone with Superwoman Syndrome to admit it’s not working out, that change is needed. However it is the only hope she has of ever getting from where she is to where she would rather be. The process can be filled with feelings of betrayal, anger, bitterness, and blame. After all she did everything society told her to do, and it didn’t work, not because she didn’t try, but because nobody told her it was a big social experiment and she was the guinea pig, a test case.
In time the anger fades and life moves on. She starts to rediscover what it means to be a women, to be female, to be feminine. She learns there is strength in weakness, in letting go of control, of following rather than leading. She learns being a womanly woman doesn’t make her “less” but makes her more. She learns no job or career will ever be as satisfying or stable or secure as a loving family. She learns a woman’s greatest achievement is not her own, but to nurture great achievement in others which in turn is her shared triumph and achievement.
If you find that it’s just not working to “be it all and do it all,” consider taking off the cape, humbling your pride, admitting that maybe independence is not the path after all, and learning how to be interdependent or even (gasp!) dependent.
There’s freedom in letting go.
Let those who have ears hear.