As a naturopathic doctor specializing in women’s health, my work days are filled with the pleasure of sitting across the desk from incredibly remarkable women. As we discuss their health concerns, I listen to unique stories of their families, their careers and their community, and I find myself inspired by their commitment to each facet of their lives. More often than not, despite their amazing strengths and accomplishments, their stories are peppered with heavy doses of self-judgment regarding how they manage the juggling act of life. The majority of my female patients have adopted a common notion that they should be able to do more, or do it better. Not only do they want to excel in their careers, raise well-adjusted children, keep a spotless home, and cook healthy meals, but they feel they are failing if they don’t also volunteer at the soup kitchen, fit in skinny jeans, and persuade their children to drink green smoothies.
As a first born and incessant over-achiever, I get it. We are continually reminded that life goes by in the blink of an eye. We strive to seize opportunity, live passionately, and offer our best to those we love. At first glance, many of these patients appear to be superwoman, somehow managing it all. However, they are in my office for a reason; fatigue, insomnia, anxiety, weight gain, PMS, or difficult menopause are just a few of the symptoms I commonly hear. Feeling hurried and hectic has become the “norm”. In their pursuit of a fulfilling life, they have worn themselves out. In the whirlwind of it all, they forget or simply can’t find the time to stop, breath, and be present in the beautiful moments they are working so hard to create. They become too tired from over-tasking to exercise, too stressed to sleep, and too rushed to enjoy the moment. They are too wired and tired to realize how super they already are.
So what do we do to change this? As women, how do we break the habit of self-judgement when our efforts fall short of our Pinterest boards? How do we become more compassionate with ourselves and each other in order to replace our weariness with the love and support that we so deserve? For starters, we can turn to each other. Women need other women. A supportive community and a healthy dose of laughter can sometimes be the best medicine. We can find comfort by sharing our personal war stories with women who live their days in similar shoes, performing similar juggling acts. Spending time with women a generation older, who have mellowed with age and experience, can bring us wisdom and faith. We can bring some focus to our lives by developing mindfulness and stress management strategies to help us prioritize where we invest our limited time and energy.
Community, mindfulness, and stress management are abundantly valuable for these wired and tired women. While their efforts to create a happy and meaningful life are filled with good intention, the approach is flawed. It’s time for us to redefine “superwoman”. Maybe she isn’t the one who is hurried and hectic yet well put together. Perhaps she is the one who has gotten herself to bed early, despite the piles of laundry, so she can get much needed rest. Or maybe she is the one who holds off on taking the promotion for now, allowing herself more time to make it to a yoga class now and then. She may be the one who hasn’t showered today, hair askew, playing on the floor with her children. She is the woman taking a quiet walk in the snow. She is the woman taking the time to do what fills her cup, the time to take care of herself…even if just for a few moments, so that she can find the space to breath, to be present, to enjoy this beautiful life. She is the new superwoman. And we should applaud her.