guest blog post by Gina Blitstein
Women wear many hats - some we love and some we loathe, yet we wear them nonetheless. It seems every day requires more of us as we pursue the many roles we play, be it partner, mother, businesswoman, daughter, sister, friend, good citizen…the list goes on and on. It often feels like it requires superhuman effort, endurance and speed to fit all we want to do into a mere 24 hours.
How do our lives get so crazed? If we step back and take an introspective look, we’d see that a lot of it is of our own doing. We tend to take on too much, never admitting that we have limits or boundaries that even we ourselves need to respect. So why do we think that we need to be “Superwoman” - and for that matter - that any woman is or needs to be?
Kathy Caprino, psychotherapist, women’s work-life expert, career and life coach, speaker, and author of the new book Breakdown, Breakthrough: The Professional Woman’s Guide to Claiming a Life of Passion, Power and Purpose, describes the phenomenon she calls “overfunctioning” in women. Kathy defines overfunctioning as “doing more than is necessary, more than is appropriate, and more than is healthy.” Sound familiar? Kathy explains that “Women are addicted to overfunctioning out of fear of not being in control, or not living up to someone else’s standards, or being judged negatively by others.”
We pile tasks, responsibilities and expectations on ourselves relentlessly until conflicts invariably arise. Often the biggest conflict is that between family and our work. Where family is concerned, we always want to give our all, never feeling we are letting them down as we wear our other hats. On the other hand, we can resent family obligations when they seem to interfere with our performance in other arenas. Kathy advises that we listen to those pangs of guilt we may experience when one obligation threatens to overshadow another. “The key is to determine what your values and priorities are and live from those. Use your feelings of guilt as pointers to what may need to shift to make you feel better about how you are living and working.”
We are truly doing ourselves - and everyone around us - a disservice when we expect more than we should of ourselves, setting unrealistic standards for feeling like a successful woman. So what can we do so as not to fall prey to the ‘myth of Superwoman?’
Kathy offers three tips for stepping out of the “overfunctioning” cycle:
1. Prioritize with conviction what matters most to you, then shift your focus away from what matters less to you. Stop worrying about what others will think, speak up, power up, and live from your own values and priorities.
2. Embrace asking for help (where appropriate) from all those who would (and should) give it. Empower others, including your children, spouse, colleagues, subordinates, etc., to take on more responsibility where it is the healthy and appropriate way to go.
3. Examine your fears about letting go of control. Look at what’s holding you hostage. Perhaps it’s a childhood experience of feeling less than secure, or perhaps you felt loved only when you were perfect, doing it all. Explore the beliefs and patterns that keep you stuck in overfunctioning mode, and begin today to shift them towards the understanding that you aren’t meant to handle everything all by yourself, and do it all perfectly. Let go of the guilt.
Successful - and healthy - mastery of this conflict appears to be a balancing act, motivated by our gut instincts. “I live from a commitment that in order to be satisfied with my life, I have to have appropriate boundaries so that I can make sufficient time for myself, my work, and my family — in balanced ways that will benefit us all.” Kathy declares. “The key to success is using “guilt” in a positive way, consciously following your own internal guidance system (including your emotions, values, and priorities), to determine how you wish to lead your life and govern your time.”
It is possible to do enough without doing it all. It is possible to be enough without trying to live up to an unattainable standard of perfection. Set realistic and authentic goals for yourself, then filter your expectations and actions through them. The freedom derived from functioning through that mindset really is super.