Wonder Woman Syndrome: Releasing the Need to Be Strong

 Photo Credit: Oladimeji Odunsi

Photo Credit: Oladimeji Odunsi

“Janae you are strong and you can handle any challenge you may face.”

I have heard this on many occasions. To be honest, I have chanted this to myself as I set out to tackle a goal or a challenge. I have faced much adversity, which has made strength my default setting.

During the most malleable years of my life, I was constantly put in situations that required an immense amount of strength. I came into this world not too long after the death of my sister. Immersed in drug addiction, chaos, and overall dysfunctionality, I bounced from foster homes to relatives homes up until my biological mom severed her parental rights and I was put into the care of my grandmother. Before I was six I was able to identify what a crack pipe was and had a haunting understanding of why I should not touch.

Although I was young and scared in many situations, I remained strong for my younger siblings, calm for grandmother’s sanity, and good to make the lives of the adults around simpler. From an early age, I was conditioned to muster strength for those I cared about. Today I am 24 and I have become extremely aware of how damaging strength in certain situations has been.

How did a woman’s strength go from a pillar of empowerment to a self-damaging anchor? I am not sure how we let strength morph into Wonder Woman Syndrome, but I let the idea of strength smother me. As women, we must care for everyone around us while balancing career aspirations with grace. We glorify being Wonder Woman while ignoring what the pressure is doing to our mental health.

Caring for those around you is not a fault! There are people that I would put above me in many situations. I am saying that it is okay to look out your well-being.

 

My childhood was not anything close to a childhood. My early childhood lacked nurture, and the nature was so unsteady that even today, I feel some residual effects in how I address certain things that happen. At 11, I met my forever family in a McDonald’s. From there on strength shifted from a burden to something I could be proud of. Instead of being strong for the adults my strength shifted to being strong for my siblings. All of us were meeting strangers who one day would become our parents and younger siblings. I was unsure of my forever family but I was very sure that if I accepted them before I was ready then my siblings would follow my lead.

If I could show my younger siblings acceptance, even when I was not so sure, then we could all remain together.

I was finally getting a family where adults were adults and kids could be kids! Right, now let's remember I was 11 with the understanding of a seasoned adult. My new parents made up for years of robbed childhood memories, birthdays, traditions, and so much more.

Being a kid again did not mean I stopped feeling the need to be strong.  A house with 7 kids who are homeschooled and all dealing with an array of antics can be daunting for everyone. My strength shifted from being calm for the adults in my life to be the strong, wise, older sister. I provided wisdom on why mom and dad decided this or that and diffused the arguments about who is next on the Wii. I remained strong when in the face of utter disappointments. I remained strong when my parents needed me to for my younger siblings. I remained strong as being an example to my younger siblings even when I wanted to partake in some serious teen angst.  

I believe I have and will always attract people who need a pillar to lean on. From friends and family to significant other, I have become known as the Rafiki of the crew, filled with wisdom and guidance for those around me. I had many obstacles in my young adult years that made me reevaluate my idea of strength. I believed being strong meant that I had to have a solution, a pearl of wisdom or be the world’s greatest listener. I remained strong for those around me and never wavered in my support, comfort, and care for those I loved.

In the process, I have cried alone, had breakdowns, been depressed, lost my way, lost my sense of self, and so much more. By being Wonder Woman for everyone else I let myself down so much. I took a step and realized that relationships I had were not healthy and that I needed to react to things that were occurring in my life.

Instead of telling myself I was strong enough to handle these problems, I let myself break a little. I had succumb to the breakdowns and to my thoughts. I let myself break and when I was ready to be strong again I had a vast understanding of my limits and boundaries. Through therapy I learned when to communicate and the value of saying no to things that have the potential to diminish my mental health. I learned to invest in relationships that invest in me!

As women, I truly believe we have to let our vulnerability seep through the seams. We have come a long way in our battle for equality, so much that women have become WONDER WOMEN! We are strong women even we when we break a little. We are stronger together. We are stronger when we take care of our mental health!

Let’s trip through life's trials and tribulations!

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Janae Bryson

Founder & Brand Stylist of Auden & Company. I help small businesses build brand experiences they can be proud of & their customer can trust.When I am not helping my clients, I am enjoying the small moments of life. I believe in all things creative & Sundays!

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