Superwoman: Enough with perfection!

In this fast-paced world, women are under so much pressure — to be perfect mothers, wives, professionals, homemakers, and social beings. What can one do to break the shackles of this ‘superwoman syndrome’?

Every night, while doom-scrolling Instagram, many of us ogle the perfect lives of our favourite social media influencers. These women look like a million bucks, while simultaneously juggling homes, husbands, in-laws, children, and high-profile careers. And they do it like it’s a cakewalk. Flustered at being nowhere near this ideal of a ‘superwoman’, we tuck ourselves to bed, unsatisfied with our own lives and stressed about everything wrong with it. Welcome to the very real but extremely unhealthy practice of ‘superwoman syndrome’.

Whether one is an influencer or a regular person, there is no denying that we live in a world where women hold themselves to extremely exacting standards.

Everyday triumphs

At a jury meeting for an award I recently received, one of the male jurors asked, “Why do you deserve this award?” Reflecting on a past incident where I arrived punctually at 6:20 a.m. for a 6:30 a.m. for tee off with my male colleagues, I recalled one of them expressing surprise at my promptness. I pondered how many of them had undertaken morning responsibilities such as preparing their children’s meals and scheduled their workers, and so on — just to show up for a 6:30 a.m. round of golf? We constantly prioritise and multitask, a demand often unimaginable to others. Therefore, my response to the jury is that I, like any other woman, deserve the award just for showing up every day. This, however, is a standard I have set for myself, and I take pride in surpassing it daily, much like my passion for the game of golf. Kavitha Mantha, owner Sage Farm Café

They often bend over backwards to pick up the slack at home when their partners or families aren’t contributing enough, and at work, when their colleagues fall short. This unrealistic way of being soon results in excessive anxiety and can have a negative effect on one’s physical and mental health. The issue is further exacerbated when we are constantly bombarded with unreal images of near-perfect women balancing everything so well on social media. However, we don’t know what really goes on behind the filters. Most of what we see simply isn’t true. Social media doesn’t show the army of help, or the amount of money being spent by women to make their lives look perfect.

Vinati Dev, the founder of Sai Shiko, a coaching practice that works with adults and students to build resilience, believes this debate needs to be re-framed. She says, “Wellbeing is the key to performance.”

If your performance is causing your well-being to suffer, you will not sustain your performance in the long run. It is not a chicken and egg situation. It’s the rudder that allows you to sail.”

She highlights that women are conditioned to fulfil certain roles. Hence, they end up taking on too much. Her advice is to understand ourselves better so we can make decisions on what drives our well-being, whom we can lean on for support and then take on projects accordingly. “We have to negotiate our priorities by also supporting others in our system. There is no manual to this. All we can do is make our health central to our life and prioritise accordingly.”

Janaki Srinivasan, a freelance content writer and editor, blogger and mother to a 12-year-old, feels that women themselves are responsible for the state they are in. “I don’t agree that society alone thrusts these unrealistic expectations on women. Partially, it’s peer pressure and partially it’s their desire to be seen as someone important. The day women understand their self-worth sans the need to look or sound perfect, half the battle is won. Women need to remember that no one is perfect, and neither should anyone aim towards perfection. However, people at large expect women to don an invisible cape at all times, juggle between work and family, and strike a perfect balance between both. This is insane and, in most cases, drives women to extreme heights leading to burnout.”

Sohini Roychowdhury, who juggles many roles herself, has a different take on the debate. As a renowned Bharatanatyam dancer, author of three books including the latest on the feminism of goddess Kali titled ‘The Dance of Kali’, social activist, professor, and founder and creative head of Sohinimoksha World Dance and Communications, she believes that all women are superheroes. “They definitely have it harder, balancing dreams and duties, having to fight harder as society judges them harder. I think women set up higher goals for themselves to excel as mothers, doctors, artistes, homemakers and all of it. As if they have a point to prove to the overwhelming jury that comprises friends, family and society at large.”

She blames this deeply instilled belief on patriarchy. “Societal validation still plays upon the psyche and many of us want to conform to unrealistic preconceived images.”

So, how can we shun the ‘Superwoman Syndrome’ and live happier and more fulfilling lives? Dev advises to re-frame terms like ‘Superwoman’ and ‘balance’. “We are not trapeze artists balancing anything. We are human beings, and we can actualise our creativity and our nurturing side!” Srinivasan says to stay away from the rat race and trust your own potential and strengths.

Roychowdhury summarises with, “Just follow your dreams and write your own story. That’s the key to happiness and the only way to mental health and well-being. The rest will follow, and life will balance itself in the best way possible. If you are kind to yourself, you can be kind to the world around you. That’s all there is.”

Don’t get swayed by influencers

While everything appears amazing, elegant, and stunning, it’s definitely also vital not to be swayed by the ‘influencers’. We must live our own lives, doing what is necessary while also attempting to do what we enjoy. As women, we all have our own challenges, but we also have this incredible strength within us and resilience that sees us through every stage of life, so it’s critical to focus on that inner strength. We must always seek comfort and affection within ourselves. Love yourself and appreciate your own wonderful company. Being happy is an extremely personal experience that has nothing to do with anyone else.

German-Swiss poet and novelist Hermann Hesse once beautifully said, “Within you, there is a stillness and a sanctuary to which you can retreat at anytime and be yourself.” Deepa Palaniappan, owner, Shambala Resorts Coffee Baroness

(The author pens lifestyle articles for various publications.)

( Source : Deccan Chronicle )
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