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Wellness > Mental Health

Superwoman Syndrome and Its Destruction of Female Welfare 

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at CU Boulder chapter.

“As a mother, I am worried about your health.”

“There’s no medal for pushing yourself.”

“I haven’t felt anything in a month.”

Months after the release of “Barbie,” I am still reflecting on the raw honesty of America Ferrera’s famous speech. For many women, this scene was like a bullet straight to the heart; for the first time in my life the media really unveiled the contradictory and constant battle of womanhood. Yes, periods are inconvenient, constant sexualization is demoralizing, and I wish my grandmother could have pursued her dreams instead of being confined to housewife-hood, but for me, the most toxic, demeaning, and absolutely frightening aspect of being a woman is “Superwoman Syndrome.” 

Superwoman syndrome is “when a woman neglects herself because she is doing it all and stretching herself too thin.” Symptoms include bouts of irritability, excessive or lack of sleep, memory and concentration issues, muscle tension or aches, anxiety, and more. As a college senior who is currently working as a waitress, teaching three fitness classes a week, regularly meeting with three personal training clients, being the editor in chief for HCCU, taking four classes (two of which are in my second language), while also striving for a social life and regularly exercising, it’s no surprise I experience many of these symptoms on a regular basis. I have Superwoman Syndrome. 

I recently ignored an eye infection for two weeks because I felt guilty about missing work to go to the doctor. Read that again. I avoided a burning, itchy, red, blurry, and throbbing left eye because I didn’t even think to prioritize my health. While I have experienced similar phases of workaholism, this self-sabotaging behavior was my wake up call; my superwoman syndrome had become chronic.

By not setting professional boundaries and scheduling myself minute by minute, I became my own worst enemy. My incessant urge to be smart and fit and a leader and a friend while also making money and passing my classes sculpted me into a grumpy, exhausted, hungry, and emotionless robot, impacting my well-being for the worse. Even Superwoman must take off her cape sometimes. 

And yet, I am not the only woman who has also put herself on hold while getting caught up in the midst of doing it all. I have witnessed girls continue to lead clubs, go to class, work 8 hour days, and play sports while side-stepping the inner demons of family trauma, mono, breakups, concussions, and more. My own mother went to work the day I was born and continued to teach even when she had meningitis and couldn’t stand up. Come on ladies – respect yourself a little. 

The harsh reality is that there is no reward for being Superwoman. There is no grand prize for working two jobs, no high fives or hugs for attending class with a head cold, nor is there any reason to continue to overbook yourself until each day blends together into an abyss of to-do lists. It doesn’t matter how hard you work or how good you are at what you do if you come home every night and cry because you are so tired, feel so under-appreciated, and just really really need a day off. I believe Superwoman Syndrome is the underlying cause of emotional turmoil in most women. 

This being said, there’s no doubt in my mind every woman I know can do everything and more than their male counterparts while bleeding, carrying six bags of groceries, or with a literal human inside of her, but that doesn’t necessarily mean we should. Why do we have to prove our worth as students, employees, friends, and females by testing our limits? 

In what world would a man go to work if he woke up with a pool of blot clots in his pants? In what world would you get a promotion or an A on your exam because you showed up even with a migraine? Women need to stop putting so much pressure on themselves –- literally skipping meals, forgetting to shower, and boycotting hairbrushes, deodorant, and razors – in order to make it in this world. I need to stop pushing myself until I feel like if a single human being speaks to me, I will flip a table and scream at the top of my lungs. 

I can do it all, but I refuse to do it all. 

To combat my desire – no need – to do it all, I’ve practiced saying no. I have turned down extra shifts at my waitressing job, rejected potential clients as a personal trainer, and allowed myself to miss occasional workouts, classes, and even social events when I am feeling sick, tired, or overly emotional. I have practiced journaling and become comfortable with doing assignments last minute instead of days in advance. I remind myself daily that focusing on my own needs is not selfish but part of being human. And for my readers: you are still worthy, intelligent, inspiring, and beautiful even on days when the only thing you can imagine checking off your to-do list is showering. You can still be Superwoman even if the only person you’re saving is yourself.

Lanaya Oliver

CU Boulder '24

Lanaya Oliver is the Editor-in-Chief and a contributing writer at the Her Campus Chapter at the University of Colorado at Boulder. As Editor-in-Chief, she oversees a team of editors, is the lead publisher and editor, and works as a campus corespondent. Outside of Her Campus, Lanaya is a senior at the University of Colorado Boulder. She is double majoring in both Psychology and Spanish with a minor in Sports Media. Her writing career started in high school when she was elected the position of school wide poet laureate after winning a poetry contest in her sophomore year. Now Lanaya’s writing has evolved from creative pieces to profiles and articles for her Her Campus articles. In her personal life, Lanaya is an ACE certified personal trainer and teaches both cycle and barre classes. Fitness is her passion and more often than not she can be found lifting weights, riding a bike, or running. She also enjoys being outdoors, binge watching movies, spending time with friends, thrift shopping, and munching on any white cheddar flavored snack she can find. Lanaya hopes to find a balance between her love for writing and her dreams of working in the fitness industry in her future career.