Becoming Super Woman: A Simple 12-Step Plan to Go from Burnout to Balance

Becoming Super Woman: A Simple 12-Step Plan to Go from Burnout to Balance

by Nicole Lapin


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Do you feel daily pressure to keep pushing yourself even when you’re stressed and exhausted?

It’s time to leave Superwoman in the movies, where she belongs, and say hello to being a Super Woman—the best, most productive and balanced version of the hero you already are.

For years—maybe your entire life—you’ve been told that success means having it all and doing it all. But working more and harder is holding you back, not moving you forward. In Becoming Super Woman, New York Times bestselling author Nicole Lapin redefines what it means to be a woman who “has it all”—and shows you how to find lasting success by your own definition, on your own terms.

Nicole candidly shares her own story of career burnout and an emergency hospitalization that prompted her to take her mental health seriously for the first time ever. Along the way, she discovered that not only was this priority shift not a defeat, it was the key to unlocking even greater achievements.

In her third and most personal book yet, Nicole lays out an actionable, 12-step plan to guide you in taking control and becoming the hero of your own story, with the skills it takes to be a real Super Woman—skills we should (but often don’t) learn growing up, from productivity hacks to boundary setting. She makes the case that the real secret to success doesn’t hinge on the hustle or degrees you have but in “putting on your own oxygen mask before helping others.” In fact, self-care is the biggest asset or liability in our careers—when it’s on-point it can help us soar, and when it’s neglected it can bring us down faster than anything else.

Entertaining, honest, and life-changing, Becoming Super Woman shows you how to banish burnout, ward off a breakdown, and achieve true balance … finally.

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781946885937
Publisher: BenBella Books, Inc.
Publication date: 09/17/2019
Pages: 340
Sales rank: 371,349
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.20(h) x 1.10(d)

About the Author

Nicole Lapin is the New York Times bestselling author of Rich B*tch: A Simple 12-Step Plan for Getting Your Financial Life Together . . .Finally and Boss Bitch: A Simple 12-Step Plan to Take Charge of Your Career. Nicole is no stranger to breaking down complex business principles for all to understand, utilizing her signature sassy style. From anchoring business shows on network television, including on CNBC, Bloomberg and CNN, to contributing money reports to TODAY and MSNBC, Nicole has a long history with speaking the language of money fluently, and using that language to empower an entire generation of women to take control of their lives and their finances.

Star of the CW’s business competition reality show Hatched, Nicole helps a fresh wave of entrepreneurs to get their businesses off the ground with smart advice and actionable feedback on their products. She was the first woman to be voted "Money Expert of The Year" and Redbook magazine’s first-ever monthly money columnist. Nicole graduated as valedictorian from Northwestern University.

Read an Excerpt



One Woman's Problem Is Another Woman's Superpower

"I'm going to take your vitals and then take you to meet the team," the nurse said.

I had no idea where I was. The room had a generic wood dresser and desk that looked like something you'd see at summer camp. That is, if summer camp had been on the tenth floor of a building with windows that didn't open.

Before I could form a complete sentence, a blood pressure cuff was velcroed around my arm, and a thermometer was shoved under my tongue. I was in a hospital gown, and I had a laminated bracelet around my wrist.

"The team?" I asked in a crackly voice that didn't sound like my own.

"Your doctors will meet you down the hall with your social worker and your attending nurse."

"But you're a nurse," I said deliriously.

"I'm the morning nurse for everyone, but you'll have a designated nurse on your team."

I'd determined that I was in a hospital, but the bed I was in wasn't the big, bulky kind with plastic handrails. It was a normal bed, not quite Ikea quality, with a mattress that felt like cardboard and a super thin, itchy, mustard-colored blanket laid over an even thinner sheet.

"I'm going to walk you down the hall," said the nurse, prodding me up.

I was so tired. All I wanted to do was sleep — in that crappy bed, on the floor, anywhere.

My eyes were sore and barely open as I walked down the long hallway, lit by blinding fluorescent lights that felt like they might swallow me up. The nurse guided me into what looked like a sterile white classroom, with four chairs arranged in a row like a panel and another chair facing them. I guessed I was supposed to sit in that one, as the four across from it were already occupied by four people with clipboards. They were in normal clothes, and I was in a hospital gown and pink socks with little white treads on the bottom. I've walked into some intimidating rooms in my life — boardrooms at Wall Street banks, greenrooms at major TV networks — but none more intimidating than this.

"Hi, Nicole," said the man in the first chair from behind his clipboard.


"Do you know why you are here?"

"No." But, as I said it, I realized I did know why I was there. I looked down at my hands. They were trembling uncontrollably.

I was in the psych ward.

"Actually, yes," I said.

"And why are you here?" the man asked in a monotone.

Then came the longest pause. They were waiting for me to answer. And I couldn't. I couldn't believe how I had gotten to this place.

Oh. My. God, I thought. I'm never going to get out of here.

"I am here because ... because ..." I started to cry. I couldn't finish the sentence. I could only cry and say "because" over and over.

I couldn't say anything else because I didn't yet believe the words that were to follow. From what I could remember, I had been admitted to the emergency room around midnight after police picked me up on a street corner. I'd had nothing in my stomach for days except alcohol and coffee. I had no cell phone. No money. No keys. No ID. Just cigarettes in my pocket, even though I don't smoke, along with matches (because to this day I don't know how to use a lighter). And a full bottle of Ambien.

"Do you remember what brought you here last night?"

"S ... I," I said slowly, remembering the clinical term I'd heard throughout the night before. I had probably talked to ten doctors, nurses, and EMTs between midnight and 4 AM when I'd been taken to my camp-style bedroom. "SI" stands for "suicidal ideation." Somehow it felt less embarrassing to say the acronym instead of the actual term.

"And why did you plan to kill yourself last night by taking an entire bottle of sleeping pills?" the same guy asked. The other three scribbled notes without looking at me.

At that moment I knew I needed to dig deep, rising above what felt like the worst experience of my life, to show these people that I was okay now and healthy enough to go home. (Even though deep down I knew I wasn't.)

"I was really sad and really stressed," I said steadily. "I wasn't taking care of myself and I slipped. I'm sorry, is it possible to have my clothes back?"

They looked at me like I was a zoo animal.

"Not yet," the man said. "We need to monitor you for a while."

"What's 'a while'?" I asked, trying hard to sound calm and composed even though I was shivering. I was shivering partly because I was freezing but mostly because I was scared.

"We'll keep checking in with you, and then make a determination. Do you have any suicidal thoughts right now?"


It was true. All my thoughts were focused on trying to communicate with my usual poise, charisma, and energy so they'd see that I didn't need to be there. But I couldn't find that Nicole. It wasn't just that I didn't feel like my usual self; I felt like a stranger in my own body. I wanted to yell for someone to help me, but I knew the only people who could hear me had a totally different idea of what helping me meant.

* * *

In the three days that followed, I went from despondent and depressed to humbled. I hate when actors say they are "humbled" when they win an Oscar. Um, that's not "humbling," that's fucking amazing. Spend some time in the psych ward with a whole different cast of characters, and then you'll really feel humbled.

At first, I was that girl sitting in the corner, drinking black coffee by herself. There was no phone or internet; I didn't remember any of my friends' numbers so I couldn't make calls from the communal landline in the cafeteria. Even if I had remembered anyone's number, I didn't know how to explain what had happened yet. I was alone and acted like a loner.

Slowly, I began talking to others and signing up for the group classes, like horticulture and music therapy. I started treating it like the camp I never went to. My fellow "campers" ranged from a musical theater star to an eighty-year-old orthodox Jewish man. There were no padded rooms or screaming in the middle of the night, just a bunch of people who were suffering like me and needed to get better ... as one does in a hospital. There were homeless people and there were CEOs, patients from all walks of life. I came to appreciate the psych ward as a great equalizer, like the subway or the flu.

The day I was discharged, I walked right outside onto First Avenue in New York City, holding a plastic bag of my belongings. No one was there waiting for me, and I didn't have my phone when I checked in, so I couldn't call anyone. I didn't really want anyone to see me like that, anyway.

I was alone. But at that point I didn't feel lonely anymore. I knew the journey to come would be largely a solo one, so I might as well get down with that on Day 1.

I walked all the way home. It was a few solid miles, but I felt like I could have walked outside forever, more appreciative of being outside, walking, that day than any other. I had no phone to look at like I usually would have, so instead I looked around at the city, grateful for every little thing I saw. I looked at the people I passed like I never had before when I'd walked with my face staring at a screen or my mind obsessing over my to-do list. They had no idea where I'd just come from, and I had no idea whether they might have been there once, too.


"But you seem so put together!" you might think after reading my story. I know, I've heard it a million times.

The thing about feeling crappy on the inside is that you can look totally "put together" on the outside. You can't see the emotional wounds someone might be carrying like you can physical scrapes or scars. Often, we see someone who looks like a kick-ass warrior on the outside and have no idea of the inner war she has fought — or is still fighting.

I thought I was Superwoman. I'd wrapped up shooting for the second season of my TV show and had just finished touring the country promoting my second book. I was a badass New York Times bestselling author who preached badassery to other women. I was, from all outward appearances, at the height of my career. The top of the world.

And then, I fell.

Trying to be Superwoman nearly killed me. So, I needed to kill the idea of her to save myself. I set out to become a Super Woman, a woman who takes care of the inside as much as or more than the outside, a woman who feels as "put together" as she looks.


The first step to becoming a Super Woman is admitting you aren't Superwoman, like I eventually did. Embracing it, even. We all have problems. And it doesn't matter if your problem is feeling depressed or an occasional case of sleep deprivation — if it's causing you distress, then it's serious, and it's time to get serious about taking care of it.

"Wait a minute, Lapin," I hear you saying, "my problems aren't anywhere near the Girl, Interrupted level of yours! I'm a little stressed, but basically fine!" Well, guess what? If you don't take care of yourself, you still run the risk of breaking down like I did, burning out, or at the very least, falling short of the life you want and deserve (and that outcome should be unacceptable to you, too). We all have something going on that threatens to knock us off-balance. So, what's your "something"?

If you've ever thought personal stuff has nothing to do with work — whether it's a mental health issue, an eating disorder, relationship drama, or plain-old everyday stress — you've thought wrong. In the end, what do you think was more detrimental to my career: not responding to every single email within an hour or having to bail on obligations and cancel projects because I was in the damn psych ward? Exactly.

To be clear, the psych ward sucked. It really fucking sucked. But it was also one of the most rewarding places I've ever been, because going there forced me to get serious about taking care of myself for the first time.

I used to pretend like my trauma didn't exist so that it wouldn't get in the way of my success. I was certain that it would be the kryptonite that would eventually bring me down. But just as I was killing the idea that I was Superwoman, so, too, did I kill the idea that my biggest problem was my biggest weakness.


Before you can unlock the power of your problems, you have to know what they are. Give them a name and you take away some of their power over you. Are you not feeling like yourself? Are you feeling far from ... super? How so? Be specific.

If you're like the women I surveyed who feel like they are on the verge of a breakdown, you might be experiencing burnout-like symptoms. Burnout often coexists with or acts as a "gateway" for other, clinical conditions, namely depression and anxiety.

• Burnout is a state of physical, mental, or emotional exhaustion — when the demands of your job or life in general have become so overwhelming that you don't feel like you can cope. It's often caused by extended stress but feels like its opposite. Instead of feeling "up," you feel empty and unmotivated. A quick way to tell if you've ventured into burnout territory is by noticing how you feel after you go on vacation: Do you feel reenergized and recharged after returning to work? If so, you just needed a little time to step away and rest. But if you still feel exhausted, cynical, and inefficient within days (or even sooner) after your return, you may be experiencing burnout.

• Depression is a feeling of helplessness and hopelessness. Some people feel sad and tired if they are depressed, while some feel on edge and can't sleep, and others just feel flat or numb. One common sign of depression is being unable to enjoy the things you usually like to do. Depression can be situational, like after a bad breakup or a death in the family, or it can be a chronic issue (as in you feel shitty even when things are good).

• Anxiety is a strong sense of worry, nervousness, or unease. You might feel jittery and emotional, or have physical symptoms like nausea or headaches. Anxiety can also be situational, and it's totally normal to feel anxious about an upcoming event, like a big presentation or a medical procedure, especially if the outcome is uncertain. But if you're feeling anxious nearly all the time, whether there's a big project looming or not, you might have an anxiety disorder. Anxiety disorders are the most common mental health issues, affecting almost one in five adults, and the prevalence among women is roughly 2.5 times greater than among men.

We tend to use these terms interchangeably. But the words you use matter, especially when you are describing yourself — and especially when you are seeking help, whether by tackling the problem yourself or by getting support from your community or a medical professional. A broken bone shows up on an X-ray, but only you (and your psychiatrist) can tell when something is wrong with what you are feeling inside.

I know that you are more than a label and so am I. But labeling my problems has allowed me to reframe them in a way that works for me. The label has been a jumping-off point for me to change their narrative and connotation in my life.

Your problems are nothing to hide or be embarrassed about. Nor do they make you weak. Quite the contrary. Your power lies in the fact that no one else is you. And, by "you," I mean all of you.

After my breakdown, I finally confronted my PTSD diagnosis and all of the symptoms — good and bad — that came along with it. The truth is, I wouldn't be who I am today without dealing with the depressive episodes or times of hypervigilance and arousal (not the sexy kind) that came from the diagnosis. Without them, I probably wouldn't have worked so hard and might never have had the opportunities I received as a result, including being able to write this book for you now. And if that part of me is what got me to where I am now, then I have to consider the possibility that it might just be the last thing I ever expected it to be: a superpower.

My mission was to find the power in facing my problems, not to change myself or be problem free (problems are a game of whack-a-mole anyway: as soon as you tackle one, another pops up for you to attack). You can do the same thing. Lots of the issues and personality traits we view as holding us back can also push us forward.

Take a problem we've all had: stress. I don't need to get all clinical on you here because I'm pretty sure you've been in (and might even currently be experiencing) a state of stress, where your emotions and adrenaline are in overdrive. We tend to think of stress as bad, and it definitely can be, like if you're stressed because your boss is yelling at you or you're worried about making rent. But, physiologically, stress is neutral. What makes it positive or negative is how you respond to it. Just like there is "good" fat (like avocados) or debt (student loans) and "bad" fat (like fried food) or debt (credit card debt), there is good and bad stress. There is actually a word for good stress: "eustress." It's what makes working on a big-deal project you are passionate about so exciting. You can't get rid of all stress, and you wouldn't want to. Life without stress would be pretty boring. Plus, you wouldn't want Tom Brady to block out his eustress during a big game and be super mellow, right? No. (Unless you're not a Patriots fan.)

And because you're the quarterback of your own life, it's up to you how you play a "problem" like stress, or perfectionism, or sensitivity. It can drive you down the field or it can make you fumble. So, what's the call gonna be, QB?

I have problems; you have problems; we all have problems. The point is, the only problem that truly is career kryptonite is the problem of ignoring your problems. So look those babies right in the eye, give them a wink, and make them your new best friends. A mental health professional once put it to me this way: If oysters can take the sand that creeps into their shells and turn that into something as beautiful and valuable as a pearl, then so can we.


We learn how to solve for the angle of a triangle or the speed of a train in school, but we don't learn the skills we need to deal with our personal problems and take care of ourselves, which will get us a lot farther in life than the Pythagorean theorem ever will. Once I taught myself personal finance, I thought that it was the number-one thing I would have kids learn if I were in charge of the world. That's until I learned about the importance of a set of behaviors and qualities I call "Emotional Wellness."

Let's run a quick equation:

Emotional intelligence + Mental wellness = Emotional Wellness

where emotional intelligence is your capacity to be aware of, control, and express your feelings and manage relationships, and mental wellness is your mental, social, and emotional health.

You've likely heard of emotional intelligence, or EQ, and its effect on getting ahead in your career. It is connected to both better workplace performance and higher salary. People with high EQ excel at perceiving, understanding, using, and managing emotions. Studies show that when people have roughly equal IQ and skill, EQ accounts for 90 percent of what makes some of those people more successful than others.


Excerpted from "Becoming Super Woman"
by .
Copyright © 2019 Nicole Lapin.
Excerpted by permission of BenBella Books, Inc..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents


Step 1: Killing Superwoman
One Woman’s Problem Is Another Woman’s Superpower
Step 2: “Self” Is My Favorite Four-Letter Word
Behind Every Super Woman Is Herself
Step 3: Have Your Cake and Eat It, Too
Define What Success Is, Then Devour It
Step 4: In Balance
Create a Points System to Measure the Weight of Your World
Step 5: Boundaries, Bitch
Just Say Yes to Saying No
Step 6: Hacking Productivity
Work Less, Do More
Step 7: Put Down the F-ing Phone
Go on a Digital Detox
Step 8: Be Mindful—Not Mind Full
Make Mindfulness Your New Superpower
Step 9: Master the Mind Game
Get Down with Meditation and Mindset
Step 10: Find Your Tribe and Love Them Hard
Super Women Fly Best Together
Step 11: Check Yourself
Self-Care Reality Checks, Rituals, and Routines
Step 12: Be Your Own Hero
Putting (and Keeping) Yourself Together

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

"Nicole is the real deal. Her influence on women to get their financesand career in order is unparalleled. Now, she is helping a generation of women whose working-like-crazy is driving them crazy."

—Rebecca Minkoff, cofounder of Rebecca Minkoff

Becoming Super Woman shows you taking care of yourself is not just OK but the only way to succeed.”

—Bobbi Brown, founder of Bobbi Brown Cosmetics

“Want it all? Who doesn’t?! Nicole provides the secret sauce in Becoming Super Woman. It is a must-read for women looking to thrive in the workforce.”

—Barbara Corcoran, founder of The Corcoran Group and investor on Shark Tank

“To become super, we must first take care of ourselves, setting our own goals while setting aside unhelpful doubts. Becoming Super Woman reminds us that we can only define success from within.”

—Payal Kadakia, founder and CEO of ClassPass

"Taking care of yourself isn't just important for your health—it's crucial to your success in your career. Nicole Lapin understands this firsthand, and the steps she lays out in Becoming Super Woman will help you become your most heroic self.”

—Julia Hartz, cofounder and CEO of Eventbrite

“Like a confidence-boosting best friend, Nicole Lapin guides you through her own mental health journey while showing you how to channel your inner badass and still save time for yourself. Becoming Super Woman reminds us a hero lives inside all of us—even if we don’t know it yet.”

—Paige Adams-Geller, founder of PAIGE

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