Does anyone remember the whole discussion of being a “superwoman” from the late 1970s and 1980s? No? Well, guess what – too damned many of us are STILL doing it. Of course, it may just be my generation – who was “coming of age” during that whole era of “having it all” for women.
And the reality is, I didn’t “have it all.” In terms of the superwoman syndrome, I failed. Why? Because I didn’t have any children. It’s not that I didn’t want them, it’s that I just couldn’t have them. But, for a long time, I tried to do the whole full-time job, and full-time wife. This included being editor, proofer and first reader for my ex’s attempts at writing a book (he actually has most of 2 different ones written, but I don’t think he has the gumption to be able to face the repeated rejections and mandatory editorial changes it requires to actually get a book published).
During the 20 years I was married to my ex, I had 3 separate “nervous breakdowns” – yes, it took me three of them before I actually finally caught the clue brick. Now, I will admit, the first one was not “caused” by him, but was heavily exacerbated by him. The cause of that one was two deaths, in close succession, of people very close to me (my brother, and my best friend). The grief spiraled into a complete inability to function in society.
Shortly after I ‘recovered’ from that first one, and was making great strides forward in rebuilding myself and my life, I started to have physical symptoms. This wasn’t just depression symptoms, or fatigue, or lassitude. No, this included major panic attacks, anxiety at a level that raised my blood pressure to dangerous heights. In fact, it was so high that my doctor at the time insisted upon doing an EEG, to make sure that I had not had a heart attack without my knowledge. The EEG came back clean, confusing the doctor to no end. So, she put me on high blood pressure medication, required that I take a 3 month leave of absence form work, and sent me off to assorted therapies to “help” manage the anxiety.
It was this “nervous breakdown” that led to me returning to school. I had already been attempting to build a business as a web designer, but could not seem to get a job in the industry without at least a bachelor’s degree saying I knew what I was doing. Going back to school gave me that impetus to start living for myself, instead of living for my husband.
You see, even without my conscious understanding, I had absorbed the expectation that as a responsible wife, when you marry you must subsume your life, your ambitions and your goals into your husband’s life, ambitions and goals. Now, while I am not happy about it, I do understand it. And it is no one’s ‘fault’ but my own.
Societal expectations, peer pressure, unconscious programming, these are all things that are going to happen no matter what. It doesn’t matter if those expectations change, or that programming changes, it’s still going to hit you in the hind-brain. What matters is whether or not you are able to step OUT of that, and see it for what it really is.
You have the opportunity every day to step out of your comfort zone, and to look deeply at not only your choices, but what unconscious programming those choices are based on. You can choose to just jog on without changing, and continue being a victim of your own unconscious bias. OR you can step back from yourself and see what is healthy for you and what is not.
Hopefully you don’t need the cosmic 2×4 repeatedly applied up-side my head that I did.
But, I’m trying. I’m trying to root out those biases that are unhealthy for me. And I’m trying to retire from “active superwoman” status. I don’t need to try to “have it all.” I need to be a partner, not the only one doing everything. And that’s not just in a romantic situation, but in friendship and in working relationships as well.
It’s not about independence or dependence, it’s about INTERDEPENDENCE.