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Taking Off My Cape: Letting Go of the Superwoman Syndrome
by Whitney Jenerette
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September 12, 2020

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Taking Off My Cape: Letting Go of the Superwoman Syndrome

Courtesy of Q11photography

We’re almost one month into the new year, and in the last few weeks, many of us have made sacrifices and promises to ourselves to stay committed to personal resolutions. Each year this is considered a time to restart, reboot, and reassess. We continually set goals to improve our finances, careers, physical health, and spirituality, but what about our relationships? Many of us, including myself, hold on to the past in hopes there will be a future.

For some, their new year goal was letting go of toxic relationships that continue to cause distress. In contrast, for others, it was developing and maintaining a connection that will sustain time. What I’ve learned throughout my years of counseling as a mental health specialist is that reassessing our relationships is equivalent to recreating peace, developing effective ways to communicate with our partners, and [most importantly] learning who we are as individuals. In the words of the late, Maya Angelou, My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor, and some style. After all, what’s better than self-love?

Related: In Search Of: Self Love

It’s a catch-22 because, in relationships, we adopt roles that benefit the household, children, and significant others. These roles were determined generationally by belief systems, cultural norms, and family dynamics. But where does our well-being fall into this equation? Unfortunately, we, especially women, become complacent to fulfill the roles in relationships as the nurturer or provider. As Black women, we have a difficult time taking off the cape. It’s a generationally instilled belief system of falling into the superwoman syndrome.

As Black women, we have a difficult time taking off the cape. It’s a generationally instilled belief system of falling into the superwoman syndrome. 

Once the bills are paid, children or loved ones are taken care of, and the house is clean, what’s next? I’m guilty of this and recently stopped to reflect on my day-to-day of fulfilling my various roles and wearing many hats but neglecting the most critical obligation in my life, which is ME! Being on auto-pilot is tiresome, and I was unsure of the last time I asked myself, who am I? Trust me; my growth process is lit! I’m not the same woman I was last year or even yesterday; the constant evolution is REAL.

Courtesy of createherstock.com
Courtesy of createherstock.com

It’s not until we are fed-up, burned out, single, or divorced that we become intentional and take a long in-depth look in the mirror to begin taking accountability for ourselves. But at that point it is too late. In my growth journey, I’ve learned to pause and ask myself a few key questions to center and recharge, such as, “What are my triggers?” “What are my strengths?” “Am I exhibiting toxic traits to my current relationships?” And the most important question I ask myself is, “Am I okay?”

Related: In Search Of: Fulfillment

I know it’s easier said than done, but as a mental health physician, I often challenge my clients to do the same. To sit with themselves if not daily at the bare minimum weekly, and I find myself in complete awe of their revelations that come from being able to sit alone and confront their most intimate thoughts. By confidently identifying our desires, generational norms, insecurities, and emotions help to pinpoint the exact influences of who we are at the core as individuals. It also sheds light on the ways these factors contribute to our decision-making process, boundaries, and relationships, both with ourselves and others.

As a 30-something-year-old Black woman born and raised in Detroit, I’ve made it my mission to educate my community on understanding your innate power and removing the stigma of mental health. Being kind to yourself is not an option but a necessity to thrive, especially “when life gives you detours, unpaved roads, traffic, and flat tires.” I always say to maneuver the good and bad times this life has to offer, “we must find alternative routes, drive slow, be patient, and replace old with the new.”

It’s time to break the generational curse of Black women being everything to everyone, except something to ourselves.

When we are not taking care of ourselves, we’re unable to be fully present or add value in relationships. It generally leads to many of us adopting the glass-half empty way of thinking. Although it took me a while to shift my frame of thought, I’m glad I finally arrived at my destination of each one, teach one. It’s time to break the generational curse of Black women being everything to everyone, except something to ourselves. Not just this year, but ongoing, let’s start focusing on becoming your own self-expert. You’ll notice how your relationship with yourself and others will soon flourish and be amazed at how clarity translates to daily guidance.

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