Do you have a Wonder Woman complex? You’re not alone; I too have a super hero complex and like anything, it can be healthy in moderation. However, your desire to do everything can become unhealthy for you and those around you.
Celebrate your strengths and recognize your challenges.
I feel like I can or should be able to do anything. You’ll never find me diving out of airplanes; I’m not exactly a thrill seeker. While I’m sure others express their super hero complex in this way, my strength is my ability to multitask. Successful multitasking does not require doing multiple things at one time. Rather, it means someone can shift focus between multiple things in an effective and efficient way. I see this as an important strength that allows me to lead a team and manage several projects.
Admittedly, I do have some unhealthy tendencies. For example, I’ve been known take on more work than any one person should at any given time. I don’t usually have problems saying no, but there is a part of me that knows I have a desire to prove that I am a very capable woman. Saying no has always seemed like an admission of weakness. That’s a rather confusing predicament and it doesn’t make sense why I would knowingly do this to myself, but I’m not alone in this strange behavior.
Know where you’re coming from.
I share this struggle with other women, many of them leaders and some are women I respect a great deal. I can’t explain why we all suffer from the same super hero complex. I believe my issues stem from being born to an Asian mother who expected perfection at every turn, but believed a woman’s greatest accomplishment in life would be to serve her husband and bear his beautiful children. I wanted more than that, and I was determined to prove to her that I didn’t need to be trapped by that glass ceiling.
In 1986, only three years after my family moved from the Philippines to America, Corazon Aquino became the first female president of the Philippines; she was also the first female president in all of Asia. She led her country into democracy, and whatever her faults she was a strong woman with great ideals. She proved that women could and would make a difference in the world. When Aquino rose to power, my mother started to see that I could become more than just a subservient housewife. However, to this day she still asks questions that probe to see if I’ve been a good wife and mother. It’s okay; I value these qualities as much as she does.
My mother taught me the importance of a good work ethic and I wish I could say that I am where I am because I worked hard to make her proud. Sadly, I think a bit of it was my own desire to prove her wrong and show her that the world really had changed. Granted, I had a lot of rights and opportunities being an American that I most likely would not have had in other countries. I was fortunate that when I started working, I didn’t need to seek equality for my skin color or gender. I know this would not necessarily have been the case if I were raised elsewhere. I understand her “way of thinking” is not as old fashioned as I would like to believe. I’m grateful for the chance to push boundaries and break glass ceilings and so I have embraced my super hero complex despite the knowingly unhealthy aspects that I continue to overcome one day at a time.
Understand where you’re going.
What’s most interesting is that I didn’t have to ask for leadership. If I’ve learned anything from watching great leaders (male and female alike), it’s that they often did not ask to be in charge. They served others, worked hard, and when they had ideas on how to do something better, leadership came to them naturally. This is probably the biggest differences between being a manager and being a leader. Working as a manager is something you do, while being a leader is someone you are in every part of your life.
I hope that’s how leadership has found me, naturally, through service and hard work. However, it feeds my Wonder Woman complex. Now that I’m in a position of responsibility, how can I say no? My mother’s lesson on work ethic would have me working myself to death to do it all, but I have to realize that her idea of doing it all was keeping a clean house, cooking, and caring for my family. She had no illusions of me leading any organizations or working to solve poverty issues around the world. I’ve relented to the fact that I need to delegate and not only for my own sanity, but to help those around me learn, grow and have opportunities to lead. After all, Wonder Woman and other super heroes only took on one arch-nemesis at a time. Did you ever wonder why they didn’t all attack at the same time? It wouldn’t make for a very good story if our heroes failed.
I can do it all, but I’m choosing to focus on doing it better.