My journey from perfection to imperfection: Overcoming the superwoman syndrome

The superwoman syndrome is an integral part of our societal script. It is embedded: the need to be perfect, the need to be outstanding in everything we do, in every role that we play.

All of us experience a life-changing moment, a moment that redefines us. I remember mine, when I almost broke down, had shattered confidence and utter hopelessness, so much so that life didn't seem to hold any meaning and I even contemplated giving up.

I was going through a difficult marriage, financially drained and under tremendous family pressure to compromise. The fear of social ostracising was real, the phrase ‘what will people say’? was not a line in the movies anymore, it was an echo that haunted my survival.

The rock bottom

That morning is still vivid in my mind, I had woken, when I saw myself in the mirror, and saw a person who was defeated in life; at work, in marriage, defeated as a daughter and a sister; buried in shame within.

I blamed myself for it, because until then, I had done everything gloriously. I had a dream run being this perfect person, successful outside and revered by people, friends, and family. The entire journey of that perfect person – the ‘perfectionist’ had come to a grinding halt. And, then something changed; No, it was not overnight. It was a tedious journey, a journey where I was reborn, a journey of catharsis and learning. I even went out and took professional help. In retrospect, I have always wondered, was I a victim of superwoman syndrome? I think I was.

Superwoman syndrome

Superwoman syndrome is an integral part of our societal script. It is embedded: the need to be perfect, the need to be outstanding in everything we do, in every role that we play. It is a part of our nurturing, the stereotypes and culture we grow with.

Over the years, I have spoken to many women who have suffered the same and many still are living that trap, even raising the next generation to walk through the same fire test almost unconsciously.

In my view, it is not a gender issue or a simple fight against oppressive patriarchy, it’s a fight against a mindset because stereotypes, social scripts are not based on gender and often subscribed by the women themselves. We need a structural reform at a revolutionary pace; our standard of thinking must keep pace with our standard of living.

Understanding the cultural context

We all love superhero movies. It is a cult that is widely celebrated. There is a huge fan base cutting across generations. There is an expectation of the larger-than-life person from a very early stage of your being. Let’s look at the Indian context, India is a land of goddesses - you are expected to be a ‘super formula’ - a combination of strengths from all of them and weakness from none.

From the goddess of education to goddess of wealth, prosperity, and strength almost everything rolled into one. The reality is quite different. All of us have our strengths but we also have our weaknesses, and we simply cannot be a superwoman every day - can we accept that about us? Or are we striving for that extra every day? We must ask ourselves a serious question on whether we are suffering from the superwoman syndrome?

Overcoming the superwoman syndrome

Why are we putting ourselves under so much stress? Let us ask ourselves what our unmet needs are and how they are manifesting in our lives. Is it our need to be loved and to belong, to be accepted or acknowledged, to have an identity, to have freedom of choice? My submission is simply that there are many ways of doing it without putting oneself under a trial of perfectionism.

Here are my own learnings:

Self-awareness is key to navigate the high seas of life - You need to first understand and be aware of what is going on within, to be able to make any changes in the world around you. In some cases, self-reflection, a deep conversation with yourself and people around you might help. In others, your path to discovery with professional help can do the magic. Once you know where you stand and accept yourself, you can plan your onward journey, self - awareness is a compass you need to navigate the high seas of life.

Accepting yourself is the ultimate power -Embrace and accept yourself, for who you are with no judgments is crucial; your uniqueness is the power that will help unlock your full potential. Unless you are at peace with yourself, you will continue to live a life which bleeds you from within.

Don’t outsource your happiness, own it – We need to take the reins of our happiness because the locus lies within and not outside us. If you love doing something or yearn for it then might as well do it. Depending on someone else to fulfil your dreams is giving away too much of your own power, and taking ownership of your own happiness is absolutely empowering.

Tell your story - It is important to reflect and process your own feelings. It is about being confident in your skin, letting people know who you are. You can express yourself through conversations, relationships, friendships, writing, stories, dancing, music, photography and in other different ways. Let your story travel beyond you.

Intellectual ventilation - Having an open mind is a essential for constant evolution as we reform and transform as individuals and humanity at large.

Keep flowing like water, meandering, and making your way through the magical terrains of life.

(Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of YourStory.)

Edited by Rekha Balakrishnan


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