Superwoman complex: A woman’s wish to be excellent at all her roles (leader, professional, mother, wife etc.), that very often leads to psychological stress and feeling guilty toward family members or an expectation of being a superwoman that can and should do everything.
I have to confess: if you look this term up in the dictionary, you’ll find my picture right next to it. Guilty as charged. I never realized I fit into this category until just a few weeks ago. I was a little over one month into marriage, taking summer school, making home-cooked meals 3-4 times a week, working out 4-6 times a week, packing my husband’s lunches and mine, working almost 40 hours a week, involved in church ministry, cleaning house, writing papers, reading 200 pages a day for my class, trying to be a friend, daughter, and the perfect wife. I was exhausted by all of this and I don’t even have kids yet! After working 10 hours for my job one Saturday afternoon in a dirty, sandy outdoor concert, I came home and broke down.
Have you ever seen that episode of Saved by the Bell, when Jessie Spano was trying to balance all her life activities and then becomes addicted to caffeine pills to try and succeed at everything? My life was similar to that, minus the drug addiction. At the end of the episode Jessie finally freaks out. She goes from trying to prove she can sing on drugs, to yelling, to finally incoherently balling/mumbling, “No time, there’s never any time!” I think the writers of this show must have looked forward into the future, seen my breakdown and said, “This is great material! Let’s add some pills and we’ll have a great show!” Unfortunately for my husband though, he had to play theencouraging and consoling part of Zach.
The next day, I wondered why I had freaked out so much. I was doing all the right things. I was making homemade food, my husband was well fed and had a clean house to come home to, I was making good grades, I was trying to do a good job at work, and I was building more relationships at church. It seemed like I was doing all the things that the Proverbs 31 woman is said to do but then why was I breaking down out of exhaustion? What’s wrong with being Superwoman?
1. Superwoman is too busy and exhausted to spend time with God.
By the end of my day being “Superwoman”, I was exhausted and I needed to get a good night’s sleep to be able to save the day again. I pretty much told God, “I’m too busy for you. I have to do everything tomorrow and I need my sleep so I can’t read your Word.” The very thing that would bring peace, contentment, and joy in my life was the thing I was rejecting. The Bible is the way God speaks to us. It breathes life into our souls and without it we become spiritually deadened.
The Proverbs 31 woman is exemplary because the Scriptures influenced her life.
She speaks with wisdom, and faithful instruction is on her tongue. ~ Proverbs 31:24
How did she speak with wisdom if she didn’t get it from God, the source of all wisdom and faithful instruction? She sought Him and His law which brought her wisdom, peace, dignity, and strength.
The law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul. The statutes of the LORD are trustworthy, making wise the simple. The precepts of the LORD are right, giving joy to the heart. The commands of the LORD are radiant, giving light to the eyes.~ Psalm 19:7-8
How did I think I could make it as Superwoman, exhausting myself every day, without the very thing that would revive my soul? I was doomed for failure. Instead, I needed to be more like the Proverbs 31 woman who sought the Lord and His word which brought light to the eyes and joy to the heart.
2. Superwoman thinks she can save the day.
When you try to be your own superhero, there’s no room for God to save the day. I thought I could do it all on my own and, foolishly, I thought I didn’t need God’s help. I was the center and controller of my life, God was not the one in control. When He is not your reason, your center, your all, when He is not in control, your life will not be peaceful or successful.
Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight. ~Proverbs 3:5-6
There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death. ~ Proverbs 14:12
If you’re trying to be Superwoman, you will eventually fail and breakdown but when God is in control, there is peace and rest. I was putting my trust in myself which seems pretty stupid when I think about it because I’m a sinful, simpleton of a woman. Why am I trusting in that kind of person when I have a Savior who’s perfect, loving, strong, in control of the entire world and wants to do good for me? That’s the kind of God I want to save the day.
Delight yourself in the LORD and He will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the LORD. Trust also in Him, and He will do it. ~Psalm 37:4-5
For I command you today to love the LORD your God, to walk in his ways, and to keep his commands, decrees and laws; then you will live and increase, and the LORD your God will bless you in the land you are entering to possess.~ Deuteronomy 30:16
As for God, his way is perfect; the word of the LORD is flawless. He is a shield for all who take refuge in him. Psalm 18:30
3. Superwoman tries to be perfect in all her different faces.
A lot of Christian women think of the Proverbs 31 woman as being a type of perfect woman. She does everything perfectly, can be Susie-homemaker, smart, good with money, can sew anything, and her husband and children think she’s just the best.
God requires His daughters to be like that, right? Aren’t all those things in Scripture? They are and God does want them from us but there’s a big difference between Superwoman and the Proverbs 31 woman. The difference is: God.
You can do all the actions of the Proverbs 31 woman but if your heart isn’t God-centered then you’re just a Superwoman destined to fail. God knows that only He and His Son, Jesus Christ can be perfect, so why are women trying to be perfect in all areas of their lives? Is it for personal glory? Is it so you’ll appear to be the most talented girl in the dorm, the best wife in your small group, or the most desirable single woman men know? Unfortunately, I’ve been guilty of all these motives and they are purely selfish. They are “Me”- driven and that’s what the Superwoman complex is centered around: Self. Whether it’s to be the best or to please man, self is the motive, not God.
God does not want outward perfection, awards, or praises from man. That’s not what He values. The only thing God requires of us is that we seek Him and fear Him. The Proverbs 31 woman sought the Lord and feared Him.
Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised.
~ Proverbs 31:30
Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes. Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight. ~ 1 Peter 3:3-4
Superwoman is charming, she’s impressive, her worth comes from things that are outwardly seen but she fades away. A woman who fears the Lord, who has a gentle and quiet spirit, and whose heart reflects Christ, is the one who will continually be revived by Him, be of great worth in His sight, and can run the hard race towards holiness. If I had done these things, I wouldn’t have broken down and you won’t either if you put your trust in Him.
God doesn’t call us to be superwomen; he calls us to be godly women. If you’ve been trying to do everything on your own, then stop. Jesus says to you and me,
Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. ~ Matthew 11:28
When you put your to-do list, your troubles, and your full-schedules on His shoulders, life is much easier. It is lighter because He’s carrying the burdens. He doesn’t want you to have to because He knows you can’t handle the weight and you’ll collapse under it, like I did.
If you have been like the Proverbs 31 woman and putting everything in God’s hands, thank you. You have been an example to your sisters and we need more women like you. I pray that I will not make the same silly mistakes again and become more like you.
So go throw your Superwoman cape away and let God save the day!