Being a mom is one of the toughest, most rewarding jobs there is. The vast majority of women do it, yet so many of us struggle with thinking we have failed or are behind everyone else. It’s this nagging feeling that somehow other women have mastered the job while we flounder in insecurities and self-doubt.
For me, it started early in pregnancy. Seeing those “other” pregnant women with adorable little baby bumps, cute outfits and glowing skin while I felt fat, tired and nauseous.
I wanted to get this right. I wanted to be perfect at the most important job of my life, so I used other moms as my measuring stick. I felt insecure and guilty when I did not measure up.
As a therapist now I work with others on self-esteem, guilt, self-talk and help them feel better and more in control of their emotions and feelings. When I started having children I was a sales manager and often coached and mentored others. Yet, advice I had for others was really what I needed to hear when it came to being a mom! It was time to practice what I preached!
Here’s the problem as I see it today. When we compare ourselves to others, we don’t see the whole picture with anyone else. We see ourselves every minute of every day. The good, the bad and the ugly. We are self critical and have unrealistic expectations of what motherhood “should” look like. When we see other moms, we are only seeing what they chose to show us whether it is in public places or on social media.
For example, you go to a party with other families and the 45 minute struggle you just had with your toddler to wear her shoes has got you frazzled and overwhelmed as you walk in the door. The first thing you notice is how put together everyone else's toddlers seem to look. We have this idea that somehow we are failing compared to everyone else and then that is all we seem to notice around us.
We get overwhelmed and form this belief that we are not measuring up and then we start to notice everything around us that confirms our beliefs, even if it is not consistent with what is really going on.
My first step was to STOP comparing myself to others!
All of those are carefully orchestrated points of time that reflect what other people want the world to see. The perfect smiling faces are not reflective of the yelling, crying or whining that most likely preceded the perfect picture.Stop comparing what happens with you to what others want the world to see. You are comparing your entire life to other people’s perfect moments. Let it go. Recognizing that was the start of writing the book Lose That Mommy Guilt for me.
My experience tells me that behind almost every seemingly ideal picture is a mom who feels just like I do.
Feelings of insecurity create this inner dialogue that we are not good enough, not living up to unrealistic expectation. Our self-talk becomes harsh and negative as we try to compete with a false reality. Imagine you were sitting with a dear friend who was telling you all the things you tell yourself about being a mom. She feels insecure, like her kids are out on control, her house is a mess and she can’t seem to find herself. Sound familiar?
What would you tell her? Perhaps you would tell her she is doing a great job. You would point out all the positive moments you have witnessed her with her kids and the things you admire about her. Right?
So why can’t we do the same for ourselves?
Somehow we can see the accomplishments and the positive aspects of others but miss them when it comes to ourselves.
When you are feeling insecure and as if you just don’t measure up, ask yourself what you would say to a friend and then tell it to yourself.
Remind yourself that you got this! Treat yourself with the same kindness and compassion you would give anyone else.
Start by making a list of all that you have accomplished that day. Start looking for those good moments we seem to discount too often.
We seem to be really good at noticing the good in accomplishments everyone else seems to make and noticing only our failures. Turn that around, start to look for the good and the bright spots in your kid and your day.
If you start looking for the good you will start to find it.
Try keeping a journal at the end of your day. Do it with your kids. You can identify the bright spots that went well and pat yourself on the back for all the awesome and wonderful accomplishments of the day.
One simple ritual that can be found in the Sleep, Maybe One Day chapter of “Lose that Mommy Guilt,Tales and Tips from an Imperfect Mom” is called Fill Your BAG Happy. Imagine you carry around your insecurities and negative feelings in a BAG and you can empty that BAG out and refill it with the letters B.A.G. Start with B est part of your day by identifying the good and the bright spots that you made happen. Then list your A ccomplishments, what did you get done during the day. There is always something. Finally, what are you truly G rateful for. Identify what your are grateful for and why that is important to you.
It took me a while to get there, but now that I am here I know I am doing great and for any mom out there who feels they aren't measuring up, know that you are amazing