She woke up at 6 a.m. and ran on the treadmill for half an hour. After a quick shower she made breakfast for her husband and two children and a fresh juice for herself. She drove the kids to school and then head off to the office. During lunchtime she dropped off a batch of clothes to the dry cleaner’s then ran to her gynaecologist appointment. She rushed back to the office with a cup of coffee in one hand and no food in her stomach. After 8-hours in the office, she went to pick up the kids from their grandmother’s and arrived home around 20 p.m. She bathed, fed and checked the homework of her kids while her husband is watching TV. She then checked her work email and baked a cake for the next day. Before going to bed, she ironed her shirt for the next day at the office. It’s 23 pm and with her last bit of energy she brushes her teeth and falls in the warm bed. She is exhausted. The next morning she wakes up and does it all again.
The Wonder Woman Syndrome – the pathway to burnout
This is what the Wonder Woman Syndrome looks like on the outside. It’s the disease which has women trying to do it all and do it all alone.
They set impossible expectations on themselves: to be great mothers, impeccable housekeepers, perfect wives, accomplished cooks, fitness and healthy-eating gurus while running a marathon.
Joanne Moss, Corporate and Personal Transformation Expert describing the Wonder Woman Syndrome brings light to the internal mechanism of this disease:
The Wonder Woman Syndrome-ridden women are juggling multiple and often conflicting roles – super mom, super wife, super daughter, super sister, super friend, super career woman, super homemaker, super colleague, super employee.
They are often perfectionists, overachievers and people-pleasers.
Learn more: Do you say Yes when you really want to say No?
This syndrome stems from low self-esteem and self-worth, and a negative core belief (usually unconscious) that has developed over time.
If I’m a good girl, I’m accepted, acceptable and lovable
If I’m perfect, I’m respected, valued and worthy
I’m successful if and when …
The expectations that they place on themselves are based on the perceived and explicit expectations of others, such as parents, friends, work colleagues/employees and society (influenced by media).
Women measure their self-worth in productivity and accomplishments
Women who suffer from the Wonder Woman Syndrome are often not aware of it, they don’t acknowledge it and they even believe it’s normal behaviour.
When they accomplish every task at the office, at home, in their relationship, in their extended family, in their motherhood – they feel worthy. Because they link their identity with their achievements, when they fail to check every bullet-point on their to-do list – they feel unworthy of love and appreciation.
When their achievements are gone so are they.
Doing it all and all alone day in and day out takes a toll on your health – body and mind – and on the relationships with your loved ones:
- Sleep deprivation;
- Increased risk of heart disease;
- Poor communication with your spouse/partner;
- Eating disorders;
- Low self-worth and self-esteem;
- Guilt and shame;
I can already see the look on your face:
Heart attack? Me?! Pffff! It’s not gonna happen!
If your everyday life looks a lot like this, think again:
Now that you’ve seen the video, which by the way depicts only two or three hours of a normal day in the wonder woman’s life, I want to make sure you noticed the following:
- She ignores every sign of her body telling her something’s wrong – the I’m fine, honey! to her kid and her husband; if that would have happened to one of her kids or her husband she would have rushed them to the hospital in a heart beat (pun intended!);
- She puts everyone else’s needs before hers – she attends to her kids’ needs AND her husband’s – who doesn’t participate in the morning routine of his family (feeding the children, preparing them for school etc), while she only takes a sip of coffee;
- “Do I look like the type of person who has a heart-attack?” If your body could talk (as a matter of fact it does), it would say Yes, you do! Because you’re body is not made of rock, it has needs and limitations no matter your age and continuing to deny and ignore them will only bring you serious health issues;
- She apologies to the 911 for bothering them – even after she realised she was in the middle of having a heart attack, she still didn’t consider herself and her situation important enough to ask for professional help;
- She asks the emergency team to arrive late so that she could have 8 more minutes to tidy up the house – I’ll let you comment on this one.
Do you want to get rid of your Wonder Woman Syndrome?
Here are 10 steps you can take to improve your life:
- First acknowledge you are not chocolate, you can’t make everyone happy;
- Stop comparing yourself or your life with others;
- Reconnect with your body and listen to it, don’t ignore its signs;
- Ask for help when you need it;
- Decide to be OK with good enough – do the best you can at that moment;
- Build a network of trusted people (family, friends etc) you can rely on;
- Stop looking for self-validation outside;
- Stop giving in to other people’s expectations;
- Discover your self-worth;
- Raise your self-esteem.
The Wonder Woman Syndrome is the exterior manifestation of an inside problem.
It’s your mind’s solution to an emotional pain you suffered in the past.
This kind of pain or suffering doesn’t heal itself.
Seek professional help to identify your emotional pain and learn healthy ways to deal with it.
It’s not selfish to put yourself first – it’s self-full. You need to keep your cup full. What comes out of the cup is for the others, what’s in the cup is yours. But you have to keep your cup full. When you give to others to the degree that you sacrifice yourself, you make the other person a thief. Take care of yourself first so you can take care of others.
Iyanla Vanzant talking to Oprah