For Nurses: Self-diagnosing Your Superwoman Syndrome
Superwoman isn’t real.
I know, I know – you’re a super nurse, a super mom, a super wife, a super business owner. You’re super motivated, super committed, a super problem-solver, super fast at getting things done, and super smart. All super things to be, right? Absolutely!
It’s great to be a high achieving, super woman except when you start thinking you’re Superwoman. Why?
Because when you think you’re Superwoman, you feel you should be available to everyone in your life at a moment’s notice. You think that you should be able to quickly and effectively handle any problems that arise no matter how complex or sudden. You think you’re not allowed to make any mistakes. You try to single-handedly juggle any number of sharp knives (or scalpels) in the air all at once without dropping any.
Day in and day out, you juggle, work, family and life in what seems to be a never-ending act to achieve a perfect balance that leaves everyone happy and begging for more. You put enormous pressure on yourself to accomplish superheroic feats.
And when you can’t get it done, you feel like a failure. Your patience runs thin. Maybe you snap at your kids or your partner. You feel guilty.
I know, I’ve been there. Repeatedly.
The Superwoman ideal is unrealistic and unhealthy. It took me a long time to learn that. And even longer to internalize it. As nurses, we must be proactive about our own self-care, and that means seeking support from others.
Scrolling through my social media, you might think I do it all. With a few snapshots, you might see that I’m a mom, a wife, owner of 2 successful businesses, I travel a fair amount, I workout, I have homemade meals with my family, and I’m involved in my kids’ lives.
I want to be clear about this – in no way shape or form am I able to accomplish all of that by myself.
A support system behind the scenes makes this possible. I have a team, a community, and a network of loved ones that make living my dreams possible.
It wasn’t always this way. Mostly because I wouldn’t let it be.
I thought I had to do everything myself.
I didn’t ask for help because I saw it as a weakness. An admittance of failure. An opportunity for embarrassment.
On a very deep level, I didn’t ask for help because I didn’t love myself. I felt unworthy (thus the unconscious desire to earn my worth).
And so this became a pattern in my life. Periods where I attempted to do it all – be everything to everyone. Eventually I’d start to struggle (you can only juggle so much for so long). I’d feel overwhelmed, but I wouldn’t let anyone see it. Finally, I’d hit a wall. Only then would I ask for help.
The problem with that? What could have been a gentle request for support became a frazzled, snapping, fearful demand.
This created tension in my marriage. I felt like a bad mom and an absentee friend. I felt even worse about myself (note – ignoring your own needs and feelings is really bad for your self worth).
For some people, asking for help is easy. For me (and probably many of you) asking for help is HARD. It takes awareness of my thoughts, conscious decisions, and consistent practice.
Simple Steps When Asking for Help
Asking for help is it’s own skill.
First, ask for help before it’s your last resort. If you wait until you reach your breaking point, then you’ll be in fight or flight mode. You won’t have the clear-headedness to see possibilities and communicate your needs.
Second, know your specific request. Saying, “I need help” isn’t enough. The other person can’t read your mind and know the best way to help you.
Lastly, replace your old story with a new one.
My stories around help used to be:
- Asking for help is weakness and a sign of failure. It means I’m unworthy.
- If I ask for help, my family will be destroyed.
But now that I’ve brought these unconscious stories to light and have a bit more practice under my belt, I’ve created new stories to replace the old ones:
- Asking for help is courageous. It’s a sign of strength.
- When I ask for help, good things happen.
Recently, I felt like I was barely keeping my head above water. Once again, I’d taken on too many responsibilities. I knew I had to ask my husband for help. I didn’t want to reach a breaking point and have my request come out as a frantic demand. So, I thought about it. What was on my plate that didn’t need to be?
Once I sorted through my weekly activities, I saw it. Food.
If I didn’t have to spearhead the family’s groceries and meals, I’d have the extra mental and emotional space I needed.
Not only did my husband step up and take over the food, he also offered to pick the kids up from school 2-3 times a week.
It’s hard to describe just how amazing this has been for me. Sure, I’ve gotten some BIG things off my plate, but it’s not just that.
Being vulnerable and asking for help gave my husband an opportunity to show up for me in a way I hadn’t allowed before. That’s felt great for both of us, and deepened our connection.
Support Systems Come in Many Different Shapes and Sizes
Over time, I’ve grown my support system to include my husband, my mother who helps with the kids when we are out of town, a virtual assistant, full- and part-time employees, and a household manager who helps with laundry, food prep, transporting kids to school.
Of course, there are a million variations of what a support system might look like for you.
As you and your business grow, it’s your job to consistently reevaluate where you can start handing things off to others. Yes, there is a point at which it’s wise to start hiring people into your support system. But until then, there are many no to low cost ways to take things off your plate:
- Who says you have to do the shopping all the time? Making the small investment into services like Instacart or Postmates means you have more time and energy for higher value activities
- Housekeepers. They aren’t as expensive as you might think.
- Ask your partner, family members, and friends. You and your loved ones are a tribe who can and should lean on each other when it’s needed.
- Virtual Assistant’s can take on a lot of the menial tasks that eat up your time. Services like Fancy Hands and Get Magic are really affordable.
- Utilize freelancers through websites like Upwork, Fiverr and 99 Designs. Too many business owners – nurses especially – try to do it all – even if it’s something they have no experience or expertise in. You shouldn’t be building your own website or designing your logo. And you certainly don’t have to pay top dollar for those things, especially when you’re starting out.
- If you’re a parent, offer to start a small community of parents who rotate one day a month for watching over each other’s kids for a few hours.
I know it’s difficult for entrepreneurial nurses to ask for help. Just remember, you might survive without a support community, but you won’t thrive without one.
Chances are, you have more of a support system than you realize. If you only just ask.