As South African Women’s Day rolls round again, we can draw satisfaction from the small victories achieved along the way. For instance, we have successfully challenged the old ‘weaker sex’ stereotypes. Unfortunately, the victory can be bitter sweet.
Our strength and resilience are acknowledged. So is our versatility. We are often praised for our multi-tasking abilities – a backhanded compliment as multi-tasking is largely a myth. Our coping skills are also lauded as we juggle the demands of home, children and career.
But let’s get real. Women pay a price for soaking up the pressure on so many fronts.
Being Superwoman may be good for the ego, but it’s bad for the health. Now’s the time to take stock.
We build a reputation as successful solution-finders because we give all our time and energy to organizational and family crises as they come along.
We skip meals or take a quick bite of something convenient (and unhealthy) as we rush between meetings or between home, school and office
We prioritize everything but ourselves. School fees, the kids and hubby come first.
We collapse in the face of societal and peer pressure.
We have to look good. That doesn’t mean looking like a super-model. It should mean looking good and healthy. But health takes a back seat.
To pull in more meetings we cancel doctor’s appointments. Instead of having an annual physical, we make time perhaps once every three years, if that.
If we have a bad case of flu, we buy OTCs and pop pills. Our body cries out for bed-rest but we don’t have time for that.
We should plan better to ensure we have me-time for relaxation and reflection. Instead, we dive into our day and bounce from one problem to the next.
We tell ourselves we are multi-tasking and are successfully keeping 10 balls in the air at once. We feel no satisfaction in this because we see no end in sight.
There can be no satisfaction because each quick fix gets in the way of the sense of accomplishment you feel when you take on a job, work it through and bring it to a successful conclusion.
We deny ourselves this natural high only to absorb more and more pressure.
The result is stress and burnout. I know because more and more female achievers tell me they feel constantly tired. They should be exhilarated by their progress. Instead they feel fatigued by it.
It is a hollow victory on the road to equality, but we now approach men in the heart disease indices.
According to a recent article for Centers for Disease Control, heart disease – once regarded as a man thing – is now the leading cause of death among US women. In 2017, 299 578 US women died of it (almost as many as the male fatalities),
Here’s another disturbing statistic: 42% of women who suffer heart attack die within a year, versus 24% of men.
So, we get the warning, but fail to heed it. Perhaps we’re too busy, putting everybody else first.
The message has to be that even Superwoman needs a sicknote occasionally. It’s worth thinking about, assuming we allow ourselves just a little me-time on Woman’s Day.
*Mosima Selekisho is a Director at Signium Africa (previously Talent Africa), a leading South Africa-based executive search and talent management company servicing sub-Saharan Africa.