Do You Have A “Wonder Woman” Complex?
Many of my patients are highly accomplished people. They are used to running everything in their life at a high intensity. They also wear many different hats like a business owner, mom, volunteer, and more. When these types of people develop a chronic illness and are no longer able to function at the rate they were in the past, they become a person they don’t recognize. Even the small everyday tasks become insurmountable when you develop a chronic illness.
Part of getting better is understanding that the super high level of performance is not sustainable. What’s happening now is your body is making your health the number one priority. And that is something a lot of people are not used to focusing on. Will power and drive has gotten you so far, and you may have accomplished great things that people told you would be impossible. However, that does not mean that everything is overcomeable. Gravity, physiology, physics, the metabolism, all these things trump will power in the long run.
There is an overwhelming amount of my patients who have this “wonder woman” complex, and they have been succeeding at this for years.
A wonder woman complex is someone who…
- tries to help everyone around them
- makes daily sacrifices for the people they love
- attempts to do everything at once
- has lots of different titles each with heavy responsibilities
- juggles a multitude of tasks every day
It’s NOT A Character Issue
Now, some great benefits come with having these qualities, but this mindset is very detrimental to someone dealing with a health issue. The cold hard truth is that wonder woman has to die so that YOU can live. You have to say goodbye to the “I can do everything for everyone with no limits mindset” because you have to focus on yourself. This is a hard brutal reality for most people to accept. But the truth is there are limits, and there will always be more people who need your help. If you cannot learn to say no to some things, you will end up having to say no to everything when your body breaks down.
One of my patients beats her head against the wall and thinks that she “should” be able to do everything and that because she can’t, it is a character issue. The real tragedy of this is that if she were to stop and allow her body to heal and recuperate instead of beating herself up, she would accomplish a lot more in the long run. She would be more successful in helping people next week, next month, next year because she’s allowing her body to recover.
If you have a chronic illness and refuse to deal with it, the reality is you will face a more severe decline. If you make yourself and your health a priority you will slowly get better. This gives your future self a chance to have an impact on peoples lives. However, you cannot do it without learning how to say no. This is not a character issue; it is a physiology issue.
Activities That Promote Healing
Your whole life has been spent on getting things done in the world and accomplishing things that other people can validate. All of the focus on what is happening outside of us means that we completely ignore what is happening inside of us. When I talk about dedicating time and energy into healing; I’m talking about the activities that society labels as “lazy and unproductive.” Letting your body heal and recover means sleeping eight hours. Yes, EIGHT hours a night! Recovering is going out with friends and laughing and having conversations and enjoying yourself because that releases happy hormones. These activities are not the ones on your to-do list or the ones you check off to show people what you accomplished that day. Unless you exercise your parasympathetic nervous system (part of your nervous system that promotes healing) you will not recover.
The times when we are recovering and allowing ourselves to rest are sometimes when we grow the most because we can reflect and learn. Athletes are an excellent example of what happens when you do not recuperate. When they do not take time to rest or take care of their body, it is called overtraining. What happens is every time they work out, they get a little bit weaker over and over again. The solution for overtraining is REST. You have to adopt this same mindset in your life because if you do not rest your body, you will not improve your health. This is non-negotiable once you have a chronic illness.
Here’s To A Better Life,
Dr. Steve Puckette