Superwoman is burnt-out
and Superman has angina

We all know someone who thinks they can do it all, be it all and have it all.

By Nevine Shazli

That someone may be the one looking back at you in the mirror. Male or female, the superhero in us ends up dying or collapsing at one point or another if it is the one constantly running the show. It’s time to redefine the superhero as a part of our self which we call upon when life demands extra power and set aside when other “personalities” are warranted.

Recently I’ve been dreaming of a getaway. A yoga retreat in Costa Rica. Ten days, because seven are not enough to allow total decompression and restoration, and two weeks is a bit too long to be away from my son and husband. I’ve caught myself driving and wanting to head to the airport. Is it just the winter and lack of Vitamin D? Sorry, no amount of synthetic D3 can replace the real thing. No. It’s that I’ve been on superwoman mode for a long time. And she’s exhausted. Between mothering a two year-old, tending to the family and home, and having multiple ventures going on business and career-wise, all is exciting and good, but I’ve been flying as Superwoman. The cape has to come off now. It’s only with forced introspection brought on by multiple consecutive viruses that I’ve been able to pause, look around and realize that Superwoman is at risk of burning out. She has in the past, and it wasn’t pretty. It’s time to give her a break and call forth other characters. Superwoman, if left to her own devices, will keep on running like the Energizer bunny until she drops dead.

Superwoman, if left to her own devices,
will keep on running like the Energizer bunny
until she drops dead.

Today’s woman feels like she has to rival any man in business for the modern-day definition of success (outer signs of affluence). Plus she has to look good doing it. Nails have to be done, hair styled and clothes on trend. All while raising children, being involved in fundraisers and charities and saving the planet and its animals. Thing is, we want to do all that and feel that we can. We care, and we have big hearts. But the saying “something’s got to give” holds true. Don’t get me wrong, I believe women can do it all and have it all, but not all at the same time. No one can, and it’s ok that way. It might be a time to focus on career and sacrifice a bit in the way of home life. You can be dedicated to your health and put your financial and material needs on the backburner while you take care of yourself. The children might require all your attention and extra time and that means fewer visits to the gym and a few extra pounds. So be it! Give yourself a break! Superwoman can come forth when you really need her; any real life challenge requires that she show up and take over so you can draw from her strength and invulnerability. She just can’t run the show all the time.

Superwoman can come forth when you really need her… She just can’t run the show all the time.

Men have always had a Superman complex. They need and want to handle everything. A successful career, social status, providing for the family, physical fitness… These are generalizations of course, but to some degree the chest-puffing, testosterone-induced need to have it all under control is hard-wired, just like an ability and desire to nurture is generally hard-wired into the female kind. Today’s man, however, is expected to change diapers, participate in household chores, spend quality time with his family, renovate the house and be a Ricardo in the kitchen. Oh, and he still has to whisk his woman off her feet and keep things romantic. This do-it-all have-it-all be-it-all conundrum therefore also applies to men. But because for many generations men have been used to being under external pressure (to succeed, provide, etc), they don’t drop dead from the added pressure; they simply develop and live with angina, constantly at risk for a heart attack or stroke. Superman gets tired too. And sadly, if he lacks insight or self-awareness, his condition is likely to become chronic. Did you know that a majority of heart attacks occurs on Monday morning between 4 and 10 am?

Superman gets tired too. And sadly,
if he lacks insight or self-awareness,
his condition is likely to become chronic.

According to Jungian psychology, there are four Universal Archetypes. These are “personalities” we all have within us. Ideally, they should be in balance so that no one archetype dominates all the time. They are parts of ourselves we can all upon depending on situation/context or life stage. They are: the Warrior — this is Superman/woman, the fighter, the soldier, the hero, the Magician — the wise guy, the fairy godmother, the one who can “make it happen”,and the Lover — the purest part of who we are, the caretaker, the one who loves and connects with others. Finally, we have the Sovereign — the king/queen, the visionary, god/goddess, president, commander, governor. The Sovereign is the one who integrates all the other archetypes into a comprehensive vision of your life and purpose. Ultimately, it knows why you are here and what you are here to do. How then do we use these archetypes to keep ourselves in check? We simply have to ask ourselves, for example, “What would the King in me say about this?” or “How would the Lover in me react in this situation?” it’s also wise to pause whenever we feel an imbalance in our body, mind or heart to see if there is one aspect of ourselves that is running the show, squashing all the others. This is true even on a daily basis; an emergency doctor who has to be the warrior at work would do well to drop that archetype once he gets home to his family, where the lover might want to make an appearance.

Today’s Superwomen and Supermen may wish to re-think the superhero archetype as one who is a part of the whole. One who understands and is compassionate toward all aspects of the person. One who saves the world, yes, but who also knows how to lie down and give its counterparts a turn at the helm. Otherwise, we shall all drop dead or live at risk of doing so. Mastering these concepts requires practice.

Until then, anyone want to meet me at the airport?

Note: If you read my previous article on iDentity you might be wondering how all this archetype stuff fits in with your True Self. The True Self outweighs archetypes and other personality aspects. You can say that the True Self holds the archetypes as tools that allow us to function in this world.

Image: Edgar Zuniga Jr. via

Nevine Shazli

Nevine Shazli

Nevine Shazli is a graduate of the Robbins-Madanes Training (RMT) program. She uses Strategic Intervention Life Coaching with individuals who need help with relationships, personal growth and development, and general life challenges. She is also a certified ThetaHealer® and uses the ThetaHealing® technique as an integral part of her life coaching services. Nevine graduated from the McGill University School of Physical and Occupational Therapy in 1997 and has since been working as a health care professional in the field of Occupational Therapy. In 2007 she completed a yoga teacher training; she teaches yoga and meditation to small groups. She is also a Reiki Master practitioner.

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