In the Shadow of Supermom

In the Shadow of Supermom

In my neighborhood, I am surrounded by powerhouses–young religious Israeli moms who balance demanding careers and (generally) rapidly growing families. Today I attended a performance for kids, and (as I tend do on those occasions when I leave my house) I was comparing myself unfavorably with these other moms, who are generally prettier than me, thinner than me, tougher than me, push themselves harder than me, manage far less sleep than me, etc etc.
Usually that makes me feel bad. Like I’m less than them. Why can’t I be tougher and better??
But along with thousands of people around the world, in honor of the 10th anniversary of Brene Brown’s bestseller The Gift of Imperfection, I’ve been listening to Brene Brown’s summer podcast about imperfection and also reading The Gift of Imperfection (learn more at

So instead of kicking myself like I usually do when amongst my neighbors, today I thought about the keys to wholehearted living presented in the book, and how I’m a powerhouse in my own counterintuitive Brene-way:) (take the Wholehearted Inventory at I’m a Wholehearted Brene powerhouse because (and not despite the fact that) every single day I get enough sleep, I make time for myself to reflect, learn, and pray, I do at least 2 things I enjoy, I make time (as I am now) to express myself creatively.

Being tired, overworked, overscheduled, and stressed-out are often seen as signs of status. Of success. Of importance. But Brene Brown is leading a revolution, flipping the definition of what it means to be successful on its head. And that, for me and many, is a welcome relief.

Here’s some of my favorite Brene Brown quotes:

“Perfectionism is not the same thing as striving to be your best. Perfectionism is the belief that if we live perfect, look perfect, and act perfect, we can minimize or avoid the pain of blame, judgement, and shame. It’s a shield. It’s a twenty-ton shield that we lug around thinking it will protect us when, in fact, it’s the thing that’s really preventing us from flight.”

“Understanding the difference between healthy striving and perfectionism is critical to laying down that shield and picking up your life. Research shows that perfectionism hampers success. In fact, it’s often the path to depression, anxiety, addiction, and life paralysis.”

“When perfectionism is driving us, shame is always riding shotgun and fear is the backseat driver.”

“Healthy striving is self-focused: “How can I improve?” Perfectionism is other-focused: “What will they think?”

“If we can share our story with someone who responds with empathy and understanding, shame can’t survive.”

“Worthiness doesn’t have prerequisites.”

“You are imperfect, you are wired for struggle, but you are worthy of love and belonging.”


  1. You may notice that I’m writing with a pseudonym but I think I may be one of those young “supermoms” (working as a doctor while completing a Masters degree and pregnant for the 3rd time in 3 years, with no family help around). What I am finding is that this sort of life is not doable long-term for most moms like me and I will most likely be giving it up soon or at least reducing my workload. The other option for many mums in challenging careers is getting a lot of household and childcare help but that sacrifices time with family and with their kids. I am not sure it is necessarily perfectionism for everyone. Some women just have many passions and talents in life and it is a big challenge to balance them, especially if they have started on a career path before becoming mothers. Although of course it is a very good problem to have, so many people would love to be able to have many kids and a rewarding career! It can also be to do with personality: some women naturally have easy pregnancies and births and more energy so they can do more overall. But this too can change and have disadvantages, eg people who are very driven in some area just may not be able to emotionally engage as much in another. Basically what I’m saying is that from my point of view that perfection you describe is also a bit of an illusion and has many setbacks too. I think all of us need to find out where our own balance lies. Seems like you have found it which is a great achievement.

  2. Mina E Gordon

    There is a wise Yiddish saying אלטץ אין איינעם ניטא באי קיינעם
    Which t believe means that nobody has it all.
    And even perfection is not without great drawbacks’.
    When you see someone doing something admirable, train yourself to feel inspired not threatened!
    You are unique and are doing things that someone else admires!
    The only one who you have to please is the One Above.

    • JewishMom

      thanks mina, I’ve heard this message from you before, to feel inspired by superwomen rather than feel threatened and disempowered by them. And I’m still not sure how to do it!

      • Mina E Gordon

        To be inspired and not threatened one has to recognize that each person has their unique mission in life. No one else is able to accomplish it. You were given the exact tools that you need for that purpose.
        When you notice a good trait in someone else, the reason that Heaven brought it to your attention, is so that you can ask yourself if there is anything here that will enhance your service of Hashem, is there anything here that could help you with your unique mission. Be inspired, don’t feel threatened. You are not her and she is not you.

  3. Shulamis Silverman

    But Chana Jenny, why does that life entice you? It looks exhausting. Just a small example. We used to live in a much more homogeneous neighborhood where the ladies were always beautifully dressed. Like, looking at their outfits made me think, “Wow, she looks amazing! I wish I looked like that.” But then I would picture myself wearing that suit, and I would say to myself, “But I would be so HOT! It’s hot enough already without adding optional layers just to have the look. Yes, I COULD wear those clothes, but it’s just not worth it.”

    It just seems like with any of these comparisons, anyone can do anything, but if it’s not your natural bent (whatever IT is), you’d just be engaged in pretzel twisting.

    Also, I find the reverse exercise to be particularly helpful and chizuk-building. Sometimes I will think about my challenges and then imagine an imaginary Jewish mom/wife in my shoes. There is no WAY she would be able to do my life as well as I can. This imaginary person just can’t hack it. And the people around me who rely on my ability to yes handle these challenges would suffer from this mythical person’s incapability. Imagining someone else trying to live my life gives me such a boost. It’s the reverse exercise of the comparison game.

  4. Having success is having gratitude.

  5. And I’m wondering about YOUR super-powers!!
    Paved your way to yidishkeit, raising a large family in a foreign country and inspiring women worldwide to be the best version of themselves.

  6. I think success is about living your life’s mission to the fullest. If that means being super busy and never sleeping, fine. If that means being well-rested, reflective and creative, fine. At the end of the day, each of us needs to be able to look back on our lives with minimum regrets, and that means something different for each person…

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