Once upon a time, I thought I could do it all. I tried to be that perfect image of a woman. The one who could be beautiful and fit, have a spotless house and a happy husband and children, who could be room mom at school, and sing in the church choir, all while still carrying a full-time job.
I’ve been called “wonder woman” on more occasions than I’d like to admit. I used to wear it like a badge of honor, but I’ve come to despise this title as I've gotten older. It’s not something I’m proud of. To me, it means that I don’t know how to slow down, I don’t know how to say no, that I care more about how others see me than how God sees me, and that I must constantly compensate for my insufficiencies, humanness, and for the fact that I’m not perfect.
With this impossible weight in mind, let's discuss five reasons the Wonder-Woman complex is detrimental:
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Sadly, society has taught women they can do it all and should. It’s such an unrealistic expectation and cause of great distress for women all over the world. Emphasis is placed on doing it all, comparing themselves to others, and celebrating being overworked, sleep-deprived, and stressed.
The truth is that the “wonder woman” complex is detrimental because when we strive to be everything to all people, something will eventually give - whether it’s our marriage, careers, reputation, children’s well-being, mental health, and our relationship with God.
God's Word says, “My heart is not proud, Lord, my eyes are not haughty; I do not concern myself with great matters or things too wonderful for me.” (Psalm 131:1 NIV)
It’s only natural to take pride in what we do. After all, we work hard and get little sleep. Sometimes, being a woman can be quite thankless. Pride may be one of our biggest downfalls, not only as women, but as people in general. We work hard to maintain an image of ourselves, and when things fall apart in our lives, so does that image.
As women, it’s easy to get sucked into the trap of pride. We want people to see us a certain way. Hearing the praise of our husband, our boss, our children, and other women only serves to boost our confidence and makes us want to uphold that standard we’ve set for ourselves even more.
Next time someone calls you a super mom, give the credit to the one to whom it is due - God.
“For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned.” (Romans 12:3 ESV)
“If anyone thinks they are something when they are not, they deceive themselves. Each one should test their own actions. Then they can take pride in themselves alone, without comparing themselves to someone else.” (Galatians 6:3-4 NIV)
Women face a huge temptation to compare themselves with other women. Social media makes it easy to avoid authenticity and transparency, enabling us only to show what we want others to see and hide the raw realities of life - the screaming children, the broken marriage, the financial hardships, and depression. The list is endless. What you see on social media isn’t the whole picture.
If you’re like me, and you grew up in a church setting, comparison to other Christian women is no different. Most women would agree that our biggest competition is the Proverbs 31 Woman - and she wasn’t even a real woman! The famous passage in Proverbs 31 was written to King Lemuel by his mother, who had the insight to know that, as a king, he could have any woman he wanted. She encouraged him to search for the most excellent woman.
I love the way the Amplified version puts it: “An excellent woman [one who is spiritual, capable, intelligent, and virtuous], who is he who can find her?” (Proverbs 31:10 AMP). A woman with all of these attributes is impossible to find. Proverbs 31:11-29 is a checklist of the characteristics of the ideal woman.
At the end of the list, the king’s mother summarizes it by saying, just make sure she fears the Lord: “The woman to be admired and praised is the woman who lives in fear-of-God…. Give her everything she deserves! Adorn her with praises!” (Proverbs 31:30-31 MSG)
What we see on social media isn’t real and neither was the Proverbs 31 Woman. Stop comparing yourself to other women, and instead, set your eyes on God.
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“Lord, I know that people’s lives are not their own; it is not for them to direct their steps.” (Jeremiah 10:23 NIV)
Striving to keep up with the Wonder-Woman persona causes us to keep a tight rein on every detail of our life. The problem is that when something doesn’t go according to plan, our perfect image starts to crumble. But the truth is, we aren’t in control. We never have been. When we try to take control, we are standing in the way of God’s plan.
“Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.” (Proverbs 19:21 NIV)
Letting go of your schedule, your children’s future, your marriage, and your career sounds like a sure path to failure, but when you allow God to step in and take control, you will be amazed at how much more peace and joy you have in life.
“Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” (Matthew 6:34 NIV)
Being a Wonder Woman is time-consuming! I used to think that was the only way - to constantly run around and try to keep it all together. And it’s exhausting! The one phrase I would continuously repeat is, “I don’t have enough time!”
Time for what? What are we truly supposed to be doing? I would berate myself because the laundry was still sitting in the corner and dirty dishes were in the sink, but my babies needed me more. I wanted more time to do it all.
I’m reminded of the story, in Luke 10:38-42, about Mary and Martha. When Jesus decided to visit their home, Martha did what most of us would probably do – rush around making sure everything was just right. Get some tea going, warm up some bread, start making dinner… “Oh, is that dust on the mantle?”
Meanwhile, Martha looks over at Mary. Why is Mary over there just hanging out with Jesus? Martha couldn’t take it any longer; she just had to say something. After all, it wasn’t fair that Mary left her to do all the work. Naturally, she felt compelled to say to Jesus, “Tell her to come and help me.”
She didn’t expect his response: “My dear Martha, you are worried and upset over all these details! There is only one thing worth being concerned about. Mary has discovered it, and it will not be taken away from her.” Luke 10:41-42 NIV
I think we can all relate to Martha, a biblical depiction of the Wonder-Woman mentality. We have the opportunity to choose stress and chaos, or joy and peace. We can choose to complete our daily to-do list, or take time to spend with our friends and family.
When you remove your Wonder Woman cape, you find rest, and you’ll find time to just be present in the moment. You will feel an indescribable sense of calm, allowing you to discern what is truly necessary in your life.
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)
When things don’t go according to plan, we feel like a failure and find ourselves empty and unfulfilled. However, it’s unrealistic to expect to get it all done - perfectly - all the time. This image of a woman is detrimental and unrealistic to our gender and our role as women as a whole.
Women were not meant to do it all. In fact, it’s impossible to do it all, especially to do it perfectly. Rather than beating yourself up because you’re not perfect, accept that you are a work in progress.
“I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection. But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me.” (Philippians 3:12 NLT)
Trying to be flawless in all ways is not in our design. Rather, we were each made to serve a particular purpose, which means we are good at certain things, and not so good at other things.
“For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.” (Romans 12:4-5 ESV)
Instead of beating yourself up about your imperfections, try to see yourself as God sees you:
“The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” (1 Samuel 16:7 NIV)
Women Have A God-Given Purpose (and It’s Wonderful)
Let’s keep in mind why God created women. After He created the whole world and everything in it, including Adam, God decided it wasn’t good for man to be alone, so He said, “I will make him a suitable helper.”
The word “helper” in this passage is the same word for “help” that is used in Scripture several times to describe the kind of help that comes from God - ezer. God created women to be the same type of helper (ezer) that He is for mankind. When you find yourself seeking to conquer the world with your Wonder Woman agenda, ask yourself: are you being an ezer, or are you trying to live up to society’s expectations?
God has called women to be wonderful, but not in the way that the world teaches. Rather than letting the world dictate who we are to be as women, we must turn to God’s Word.
“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” (Romans 12:2 NIV)
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Originally published Friday, 13 May 2022.