The Superwoman Syndrome: A Middle Eastern Reality

Superwoman SyndromeI began thinking seriously about the Superwoman Syndrome when I fell into the vicious circle of trying to be perfect at all levels. The first time occurred in Montreal (QC, Canada) while studying (M.A., PhD, Post-doctorate researches…) and working 20/24 hours. The second time in Lebanon…

During one of the first women gatherings (sobhiyat) I attended in 2007, someone asked me if I work. My answer was: Yes, almost 24/24, and proud of it!

It took me few years to fully realize that this ‘train de vie’ is physically and psychologically damaging.

A friend of mine published a post on Facebook in May 2011, describing her way of life – and obviously mine too : “I am an alarm clock, a cook, a maid, a teacher, a nanny, a nurse, a “handyman”, a safety officer, a psychiatrist, a driver, an ATM, an amusement park, a cuddly friend (doudou)… I have no vacation or sick days. I am on call all year long!”. I included the following list: “I am  a daughter, a sister, a cousin, a wife, a mother, a lover, a daughter in law, a sister in law, a worker, a volunteer, a robot, a conflict resolution and mediation expert, an activist, a social relations instigator, a judge, an investigation officer, an accountant, a victim, a slayer, a citizen, a friend, an enemy… A ‘superwoman’ struggling to survive… “

In fact, this reality/syndrome characterizes many women I know – friends, colleagues and acquaintances – living in Lebanon and the Middle East in today’s fast pace lifestyle. Women who are constantly striving to accomplish everything possible in a perfect manner. Even when having the time, they consider themselves selfish to indulge in self-pampering or to simply provide themselves a quiet time alone. And if it’s not the case, society customs and laws remind them of ‘their duties’, ‘goals’ and ‘standards’ that are most often unnaturally high – i.e. impossible. Women who are caught in a vicious circle of measuring their self-worth and being measured by others in terms of productivity, excellence and tangible accomplishments beyond average.

Unfortunately, these women are losing in the battle of equality with men when they are burned out and constantly unsatisfied. They end up losing their self-worth and being exhausted on physical, psychological and interpersonal levels. I often found myself lost when striving to become a perfect worker, a perfect mother and a perfect housekeeper, to the point of undermining my health and my relations to others. It took me several years and gradual concentration on my needs/aspirations and dreams to begin to break the vicious circle and to recognize/embrace my imperfections.

I am still working on getting off the super powerful Treadmill and being/living as a WOMAN, not as a superwoman.

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