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Stay Grounded: No More Superwoman Syndrome, Superman Complex

How do you stay grounded when the Superman complex and Superwoman syndrome make anxiety soar? Super anxiety needs a super response--here are four that work.

How do you stay grounded when the superwoman syndrome or the superman complex make your anxiety soar? It’s hard to feel calm and live anxiety-free when you pressure yourself to be perfect in every way, in every situation. Living with the superwoman syndrome or a superman complex can make you feel high-strung yet utterly exhausted. It can cause multiple symptom-types of anxiety: physical, cognitive (thought-based), and emotional. If you feel you have to be Superman or Superwoman, you may find that the idea of letting go actually increases—not decreases—anxiety. That’s okay. Getting rid of this kind of anxiety is a process. Read on for tips on how to stay grounded to get rid of the superman complex or superwoman syndrome. 

Superwoman and Superman are demanding. They take your anxiety to an extreme level by insisting that you do it all, be all things to everyone, and to do it perfectly. They’re also savvy and tend to see through ordinary efforts to reduce stress and anxiety.

Quick fixes won’t work with the superwoman syndrome and superman complex. Instead, metaphors can help you change the way you think about life and anxiety in order to take back your life and stay grounded.

Metaphors to Stay Grounded and Stop Being Superman, Superwoman

1. Forget about superheroes. Think instead about heroes. Who’s your hero, or who was your hero in childhood? Don’t have one? Now is the time to get one. Your hero can be anyone. Your hero should be someone you admire, who isn’t perfect (no one is), and who you can visualize during times of anxiety. You can think, “What would my hero be like in this situation? How would he handle making a mistake?” This gives you encouragement and a vision for your ideal self.

Your hero should be realistic and meaningful to you. I have a friend whose hero is a woman who has worked for a mattress store on a busy street for years. The woman smiles, waves, and keeps going when she drops her sign. My friend admires her and envisions her when she’s anxious, stressed, makes mistakes at work, etc. My friend’s perspective shifts and she adopts the traits she loves most about her hero.

2. How do you want to be when you’re 100? Picture yourself at age 100. When you look back on your life, what do you want to see? What were you like? Did you do what was important to you? How do you want to be remembered? This is part of a therapeutic exercise to stay grounded in which some people write their own eulogy. If that’s meaningful to you and will help you define what you want in life, by all means, write a eulogy. If that feels macabre, then do the same thing but don’t call it a eulogy. Call it an ode to beating anxiety and the superwoman, superman syndrome.

3. Vision: not X-ray vision, but U-ray vision (as in “you” ray). What do you see when you’re in your superhero costume, cape flapping in the wind because your anxiety is soaring and taking you with it? Is it a beautiful scene you gaze down upon or is it chaos and stress and rushing through the motions of life so you can get on to the next thing that must be perfect?

Now ground yourself. Here, right in the middle of your life, instead of up above it in a costume, is where you are. This is where you live. What is your vision for it? What do you value? How do you truly want to be? Calling to mind your hero and his/her traits and your eulogy or ode will be helpful in defining how you want to be in your life. Knowing what you want gives you a positive target and helps reduce anxiety.

4. Now that you’re on the ground, take off your cape (because you don’t need it) and put on your walking shoes. You are ready to walk and to start taking action to living a grounded life, one in which your shoe comes untied sometimes or you trip over a crack in the sidewalk.

You no longer feel the need to live the superwoman syndrome or superman complex. Your anxiety stays manageable instead of skyrocketing. You bend down, tie your shoe, and keep on going down the sidewalk of your life, cracks and all. And even though you tripped, you’re okay. Actually, you’re okay because you tripped. You’re much better than when you lived with anxiety because now you’re staying grounded.

Author: Tanya J. Peterson, MS, NCC

Tanya J. Peterson is the author of four critically-acclaimed, award-winning novels about mental health challenges as well as a self-help book on acceptance and commitment therapy. She speaks nationally about mental health, and she has a curriculum for middle and high schools. Find her on her website, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

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