You know those voices that dwell in the negative and flourish in the harmful? The ones that creep into the forefront of your mind when you stand in front of the mirror or prepare for a presentation or finish the last sentence of an article? The ones that whisper your greatest fears and highlight your undeniable shortcomings and cultivate your burdening self-doubt?
Yeah, I’m listening to those voices today.
And while I’m aware that standing protocol is to burry the negative and hide the skepticism and ignore the potentially detrimental; I think it’s important that, from time to time, we do the exact opposite.
We need to revel in them.
Especially if we’re mothers.
I’ve quickly learned that the overwhelming pressure nearly every mom faces is more self-inflected than societal. A mom spends, while not scientifically proven, approximately 87.24% of her time judging herself and her actions and her decisions. She worries if her child is thriving at full capacity or if some, seemingly minuscule choice she made on their behalf has somehow repressed their potential.
Which is why mothers spend - again, not scientifically proven - an additional 12.93% of their time on the defense.
The extreme defense.
When a woman is told her parenting is wrong or her parenting is different or her parenting isn’t the same as, say, anyone else’s; she attacks. She is hurt and confused and enraged that she would be questioned instead of supported. Tempers flair and theories clash and words fatten to inflated proportions. They squish friendships and trample relationships and crush even the best of intentions.
And while the overwhelming need to defend oneself is about as animalistic a tendency as they come, it is also misplaced.
Yes, mothers - hell, women - should support one another; regardless of their differences in faith, friends, parenting and overall life choices. Yes, it is frustrating when that doesn’t happen. Yes, we have the very real right to feel slighted or upset. We’re human. We have feelings. Those feelings get hurt.
But if we took the time to slow down, we would see that the real reason we’re upset isn’t because a friend was hurtful or a fellow parent was judgmental or we were made to feel less than.
It’s because those voices that dwell in the negative and flourish in the harmful and creep into the forefront of our mind, have been amplified.
It’s because the doubt or judgement or disagreement of others isn’t exclusive. It’s ours as well.
We have thought what others have carelessly said and said what others have carelessly thought and have exhausted ourselves in the attempt to be perfect and right and absolute.
We don’t like to face the fact that we could be wrong. We hate staring doubt and insecurity in the face because it highlights the very real possibility that we've failed. Admitting that you aren’t the best version of yourself is difficult. Realizing that, in turn, you've let someone else down is painful. It’s debilitating. It's agonizing.
But if you can humble yourself enough to take a look, every once in a while, and investigate your doubts and insecurities on the off-chance they hold even an ounce of validity, you give yourself the chance to grow.
The same can be said for those who believe their way is the only way; in parenting or relationships or friendships or, hell, food. If, instead of preaching with deaf ears and blind eyes, you stopped to question your own methods, you give yourself the opportunity to become better.
Even if being better means gracefully acknowledging that you were, in fact, right.
Especially if being better means elegantly realizing that you were, in fact, wrong.
So, today I’m listening to the voices that say I’m grossly mistaken. I’m sinking in the self-doubt and the uncertainty and the confusion.
I’m reminding myself that I am not, in fact, the best mom.
I will make mistakes, despite the greatest, most noble of intentions.
I will do what I think is best despite the fact that there’s a, probably scientific, 95.735% chance there was a better way.
I will fail my son and my partner in parenthood and myself.
The voices that tell me I’m not doing it right will, unfortunately, be right.
And then I’ll learn from my mistakes and I’ll see where there’s potential to grow and I’ll kiss my son, promising that tomorrow I will be better than I was today. I’ll thank the voices for their criticism, annoying though they may be, and then I’ll begin to adhere to the standing protocol of burying the negative and hiding the skepticism and ignoring the potentially detrimental.
Because, while they may be true more times than I'm willing to admit, I will realize they are also a manifestation of fears that have no foundation in fact or reason. I’ll remind myself that, while it is great to judge and criticize myself in the name of improvement, it is equally important to harness the negative so that it doesn’t become overwhelming.
I’ll contemplate the reasons why others judge and criticize, and realize that they, too, are hearing their own set of voices that question their methods and feed their insecurities. I’ll be as kind to them as I am to myself because hey, life is hard and decisions are hard and adulthood is weird and motherhood is crazy.
Most importantly, I’ll have the realistic fortitude to admit that no, I’m not the best mom. I’m sure many would argue that I’m not even a great mom.
But I’m a mom, and even on my worst of days, that’s something to be proud of.
Plus, there’s always tomorrow.