Day after day I work with women that pour their heart and souls into their families, their friends, their careers, their churches, and ministries. Many are overworked, underpaid and underappreciated. Some were raised in women only homes and were raised to do it all by themselves and are very capable. Others desire help, but find themselves in situations where they are left trying to figure it out and make it happen on their own. While others have a spouse and support, but still feel stretched thin with all of life’s requirements and expectations. These superwomen all have one thing in common, the pressure to do more and do better even if that means sacrificing their own needs and wants.
Somewhere and at some point, it became standard operating procedure for women to put others before herself. Many of the women I work with aren’t able to pinpoint where this belief and behaviors come from but typically attribute it to the matriarchs in their families. Some of this can possibly be due to our patriarchal society. It isn’t my position that it is either right or wrong, just an observation. In some cultures, it may just be considered a division of labor in order to benefit the masses. This may even be God’s design that women be the caretakers, nurturers, life givers, and cape wearing divas. However, I doubt God’s design included guilt, shame, anxiety, and depression as a way of life.
When we neglect our own needs and desires we are at greater risk for burnout. While it may seem desirable to take the path of the martyr it usually leaves one empty spiritually, emotionally, mentally, and physically. We are better servants, caretakers, healers, and giver's when we take care of our own needs and desires. By neglecting our own needs and desires we are more likely to become bitter, resentful, angry, and judgmental. Doesn’t this seem counter intuitive to being caretakers, nurturers, healers and life givers?
So superwoman if you woke up this morning at 2:30 to help your precious toddler that wet their bed, or scare away the monster under the bed know that you are making a difference and it is ok to sleep in a few extra minutes, drink coffee before doing any chores, or enjoy reading before engaging with the world. Your emotional, spiritual, mental, and physical health is important. Superwoman, if you have a sink full of dirty dishes, overflowing laundry basket, and dinner to cook after working an 8 hour shift, know that it is ok to lock yourself in your room for 15 minutes before lifting a finger. You are worth it.
I meet women that are so loving towards others and neglect to show that same love to themselves. STOP IT! You are a queen, worthy of being loved and yes that means loving yourself. You are fearfully and wonderfully made.
Whether you are a stay at home mom, career woman, or combination of both, here are some tips to help you stop neglecting yourself and start being more gracious and loving towards yourself,
- Take time to do things you enjoy
- Express your needs and desires to your spouse
- Create a self-care plan and don’t allow feelings of guilt prevent you from following through
- Surround yourself with other superwomen and encourage one another (prayer groups, mom fitness groups, book club, art group, etc). I cannot say enough positive things about the power, encouragement, and empowerment that can thrive when women come together.
- Set aside time to slow down and breath, just a few minutes of mindful breathing can make a world of difference.
- Journaling can be very therapeutic. Placing a journal by your bed can be a good reminder to take a few minutes to reflect on your day.
- Praying and meditating on what is good and what you are grateful for can help put things in perspective. IT is easy to focus on all that is going wrong, but that is rarely helpful. If you can remember to focus on the small victories that happen each day (ie I kept the little humans alive today) that will remind you of what is important.
- Be gentle with yourself, some days will be overwhelming and it is ok to not be ok. Sometimes we need to take our capes off and wash them. A little grace goes a long way.
- Don't struggle alone in silence. If you are feeling overwhelmed, anxious, and or depressed confide in a safe person (friend, family member, counselor). Healing is possible.