Resiliency Myth: How the Superwoman Complex Sets Us Up for Unnecessary Stress
This past week, I haven’t felt as accomplished as I’d like. Ever since having my son, the days have been shorter, work has felt longer, and time for myself has been few and far between. Before I begin to feel sorry for myself though, I remember one KEY thing.
Rather than telling myself, I can and should have it all, I instead stop and think, can I find reasons to be happy, now?
I love being a mother, but I also have to acknowledge that since becoming a mom, being on autopilot has sometimes become a way of life. But I’m finding more and more, that way of life just isn’t going to cut it. Some may think it’s impossible, but I am absolutely determined to find happiness in my life in any given moment. If not, I know I will resent everyone in my life, who ultimately means well. If not my son, then my husband, and if not my husband, then some other poor innocent bystander who comes across my path. In these last several months of being a mom, I know that I can cook, I can watch the baby, I can help my husband with his business, I can go to work at my 9–5 every day. Heck, I can do a lot of things.
But regardless, what we all want is to be happy. And, because I love my husband, son, and many friends very dearly, I want life to go well for them. And that is a-ok. But what’s NOT ok, is thinking that I’m somehow responsible for them being happy. I have often stopped and asked myself, “is my husband even asking for perfection?” Thankfully, he’s not.
I ask myself, “is my son asking for perfection?” Indeed, he’s not. (He is only 12 months, after all!)
So where did this idea come from? This feeling that I have to somehow control everything and everyone around me to be happy creatures? And why does it feel like I’m barely managing on a unicycle, trying to balance 3 spinning plates on my fingertips and nose? Like at any moment, if I don’t keep performing, then somehow everything will come crashing down?
It’s times like this when I remember the serenity prayer. My circle of control is only so big. And although I want things to go well for others, I can’t do for them what they must do for them. And furthermore, if I’m not happy, then I’m really not going to be a good mother or wife anyhow.
It’s funny because mental health is my passion. I have degrees in psychology and counseling. But yet, I’ve even had to catch myself from the belief that “I should know better, I’m the expert here.” Or, fall into the trap of “I can’t ask for help; I can’t be the person who is having a tough moment.” But this is real. I am being transparent because I want to let everyone know. There is no state of “perfection” we are going to reach, while we are in mortal, human bodies. Our lives will always include some level of ebb and flow in our mental and emotional states. Sometimes, we need to recharge. Sometimes, we need to take time away from work or our families, to just, be.
I love the phrase, “Bridging the Gap.” Meaning, that space between where we are, and where we want to be. And so often, we can get so caught up in bridging the two, that we forget to LIVE. We forget to soak in the moments of peaceful solace. The serene moments when the sunrise flickers through the blinds and hits our partner’s face just right, and they are so beautiful. The moment when our child smiles at us with messy fingers after you’ve just bathed him.
In my life, I’m now seeing that those small moments are the real pleasures. And that, is everything.
I’m learning there’s no real one goal that once I reach it, I’ll be in a state of bliss forevermore. No, happiness is not meant to be attained and possessed like a college degree. But rather, it’s about what am I choosing to feel about myself and about life, right here and NOW. Because once later gets here, it will be now. So why not make now amazing, now? Sometimes, we see our peers on Instagram and think, “I should be further along.” But those thoughts aren’t helpful. And by whose standard is life to be measured, anyway?
I’d encourage us all as women to ask that, the next time we see that woman with a six-pack weeks after giving birth, or that mogul with the new Bentley, or the lady boss who just purchased her summer home. The real measure of my success is, am I happy today? That’s an easy question now because all I have to do is take stock in what I have to be thankful for. And there are so many things. So if the answer’s yes, then I’ve done well. Indeed, happiness is perceptual.