Quit trying to be superhuman – Time out!

Cancer Therapist Clare Reed joins us today with an article about life after cancer treatment and why we shouldn’t try to be superhuman, too soon.

Photo by Jake Ingle on Unsplash

I have been observing you. Watching and learning what you are getting up to and I have an observation. What I am seeing is, time after time, you, trying to prove yourself to the world. To your friends, family and colleagues and yourself that you are invincible. Cancer hasn’t broken you or wrecked your life, no Sir! Cancer has given you a whole new lease of life instead!

Ok, don’t worry. I haven’t decided to pack in being a CBT therapist and turn my hand to being a more sedate ‘Ms Marple’ style detective. It really isn’t difficult to see you all running about the place proving yourself to be of superhuman strength. You are all on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, everywhere! All demonstrating to the world your great post-cancer achievements.

What is it that drives you to need to prove yourself after cancer treatment?

Is it because you want to show you have ‘recovered’ and are fighting fit? Is it that you have decided to make the most of every minute as you now understand how precious life is? Is it that you are embarrassed to have ‘had’ cancer and are overcompensating now to prove to the world that you are invincible? Whatever the reason is, stop it. Take a step back and look, with love, at yourself.

In my CBT for Cancer therapy, I work with a lot of clients who come to me for ‘After Cancer’ mind and lifestyle care. One of the biggest trends in my therapy is supporting my clients who are burnt out. On average, they come to me approximately around the 6 months post-cancer stage. That’s when I start getting their calls to seek help.

These clients found themselves on a mission to prove themselves, once their cancer treatment ended. They set off on marathon training, trekking famed walking trails, climbing mountains, getting back to full time, long work weeks without proper breaks and multi-tasking family/friends/housework/work/hobbies/exercise at a more frantic pace than before cancer interrupted them. These people are all on a mission to prove themselves.

But. This frantic pace is exhausting them. In some cases, it is threatening their health and cancer recovery.

I don’t know how the need to be ‘superhuman’ after cancer has come about. I know there are articles and charities who love promoting stories of people who survived cancer and went on to do world-conquering achievements and of course they are inspiring you. Or they urge you to run a marathon for charity – for your health! There is a slight societal pressure to ‘grab life by the horns’ and do all the things you always wanted to do, all at once.

BUT you have had cancer. Cancer is not the flu or a routine operation. You know it is a devastating, physical immune-system-crashing and debilitating disease. You are meant to rest after cancer, while going about life in a moderate way, doing a bit here and a bit there. Moderate exercise, not marathons. Moderate socialising, not multiple weekends away. Moderate amounts of work, not 12-hour work days and skipping lunch. Moderate. Yes, I know that moderate is not sexy at all. The word moderate conjures up a sort of beige cardigan and slippers look, rather dull and not exciting.

Photo by Anthony Tran on Unsplash

Yet moderate can be a comfort blanket, a protector and a nurturer. Enabling you to rebuild your body’s physical strength and stamina by simply looking after yourself.

Listen to your body.

What is it trying to tell you? Can you hear it say, ‘I’m tired’? Can you hear it say, ‘I have to slow down’? Can you hear yourself in response to these whispered messages saying, ‘I know I’m tired, but I have to push on’ or ‘I have to keep going and pick up the pace’? Be honest now.

Normally, with my other clients, who haven’t had cancer, I might be more encouraging of self-directed, motivated communication, but not with my post-cancer clients. I want my post-cancer clients to pick up the self-nurturing, instead of the pace. And instead say to themselves, ‘I know I’m tired, I’m going to pull out of Jean’s 50th tonight and rest up’ or ‘I have worked 60 hours this week and I need to take a break and take it easy this weekend.’

Stop trying to be superhuman and become moderate instead.

Relax more. Metaphorically walk more, instead of sprinting.

Life will come back to you if you let it take it’s natural ‘human’ time.

Eventually you can start to jog and then run at life, but let yourself heal first, at a moderate ’walking’ life pace, and you will be rewarded.

If you think you are burning the candle at both ends, and can feel yourself getting exhausted, don’t hesitate to get some help from Clare. You can book in a free 20 minute call with her to discuss what you need.


  1. Claire
    30 October, 2018 / 7:13 pm

    Such wise words

  2. Mary S
    4 November, 2018 / 12:02 am

    It’s as if we aren’t “allowed” not to be positive every single second of every single day. It’s ok to have a down day, but just don’t stay there.

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