The Superwoman Syndrome by Doris Smith


“The older I get, the more I realize I don’t want to be around drama, conflict or stress. I want a cozy home, good food and to be surrounded by happy people.”
I recently saw this quote and is not sure of the author, but this best describes my mindset at this precise moment in my life.

Having spent most of my life being the “responsible one,” it was hard not to respond to being the gap filler in my family. There were days when I felt I was not going to make it, especially when my mother died before my 25th birthday. There was no way I was not going to take care of my younger siblings. The responsibility of taking care of them, moving to a different country, being a young wife and in a few years a mother, did not phase me.

I didn’t know there was a name for the insurmountable responsibilities that was thrown my way, but one thing is for sure, superwoman syndrome is the perfect description. From as far back as I can remember, I was being groomed to be ready to always do this or that. Always your best and nothing less with school, home, work, husband, children, family, friends…Do, do, do.

However, In the past few years, the instinct to focus on me became real. Within seven years, I had two major surgeries, two biopsies, and a 50lbs weight gain. My children were in college and although I was an empty nester, the responsibilities seem to be overwhelming and there was never any “me time.” There was always someone needing help, whether financially or to the extent of having to help to raise their children. The expectation always was I would help no matter what.

Now before I go any further I must say, my personal walk with the Lord and a small group of women in my church has been my emotional compass. In other words, I knew I had support and that made the difference. Prayers and the Word of God kept me sane. Earlier in my life, there had been days when a gentle breeze would have pushed me over the edge. Most of the time I could not even understand what was happening, all I knew was that I had to keep it together. I could try to talk about my constant roller coaster waves of emotions only to hear. “I don’t know how you do it,” or “I really don’t know what to say.” I realized years later that one of my stressors was that I never really had time to mourn my mother’s passing and I am convinced to this day that I still haven’t fully expressed the sense of loss I feel without her. (30 years later).

The dictionary describes strength as not only the emotional or mental qualities necessary in dealing with difficult or distressing situations. It is also the quality or state of being physically strong, the influence or power possessed by a person or the capacity of an object or substance to withstand great force and pressure. I know I have withstood great forces and pressures in my life but not without great advice, friendships, and support. I’m physically strong because I’m not afraid to seek help.

I now realize that every woman does have her own strength but “without the validation of the people she loves, her actions it could be perceived as angry or weak.” Joseph Rael states, “The true human is someone who is aware, someone who is, moment by moment totally and completely merger with life.” That is where I want to be, “totally and completely merger with life.” Enjoying each day God gives me and not feeling guilty. Helping others but not neglecting myself. Many of us are not aware of how important self-care is to our wellbeing. Waking up exhausted and going to sleep exhausted is not a sign of worth or even acceptance. Usually, when exhaustion is present, emotions and frustration will complete the triangle and it’s all downhill from there. Black women, in general, are not really taught how to express their emotions in a healthy way and so when things become unbearable we usually cave or rage. For the most part, our closest relationships tend to receive the full brunt of our wrath. There must be an outlet for the constant bombardment of taking care of others and trying to find the balance within. We guilt ourselves into believing our families and friends can’t live if we don’t do …x, y or z. Believe me, they will.

We always need to take the time to re-evaluate our lives and as Oprah once stated on one of her magazine covers, “if you can’t love it, eat it, wear it, sleep with it, make peace with it, gain strength from it, or find joy in it, the time has come to LET IT GO!!!