Pressure to achieve overwhelms many women

PORTLAND -- A new book explores how much pressure has been put on women today to reach impossible standards and why many are reporting feeling stuck in an endless quest for perfection.

It s been nearly 100 years since American women won the right to vote, and more than 40 since the women s movement made gender equality a household conversation. But in Wonder Women: Sex, Power and the Quest for Perfection, author Debora Spar argues that women today are trying to do far too much.

Spar, the president of Barnard College and mother of three, used herself as a case study in the book.

We thought we could just glide into the new era of equality, with babies, board seats, and husbands in tow, she wrote. We were wrong.

The release of Wonder Women comes a year after Anne-Marie Slaughter s influential essay, Why Women Still Can t Have it All, was published in The Atlantic and stirred a national debate of whether women can achieve professional success and be good mothers at the same time.

Spar also published a similar essay, Why the Woman Who Has it All Doesn t Really Exist, on last month.

In her essay, Spar urged women to stop trying to meet the impossibly high standards of careers, marriage, and motherhood set by society.

Because we can do anything, we feel as if we have to do everything, she wrote.

That pressure to achieve can send some high-achieving women into a downward spiral.

Therapist describes 'Overwhelmed Mom Syndrome'

Well-known talk show host and businesswoman Oprah Winfrey's recent admission that she suffered a nervous breakdown during the filming of The Butler showed that the pressure can be overwhelming for anyone.

Portland therapist Kathryn Bereman Skelly said she often sees women with what she calls Overwhelmed Mom Syndrome.

It can happen to anyone when you have too much responsibility, Skelly said. You're ignoring the symptoms that you're overwhelmed, and you have these incredibly high standards that you're trying to meet.

Skelly said symptoms of Overwhelmed Mom Syndrome can include foggy thinking, trouble sleeping and feelings of depression.

She recommended women who experience these symptoms should practice healthy sleeping and eating habits and participate in activities that allow them to think and have fun.

As for Spar, she said women should just give themselves some slack and enjoy life.

Wonder Women: Sex, Power and the Quest for Perfection hits bookshelves Tuesday.


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