Help! I’m such a crap mum, everyone else is coping better than me, what can i do to stop feeling this way?
The Supermum Myth
Modern mums have to do more on their own than any generation of mums before them: we’re expected to be perfect mums, perfect partners and friends, have the perfect career, not to mention a perfect body…this huge unrealistic expectation means that we are always feeling like we’re failing at SOME part of our motherhood experience.
Often this sense of failure becomes an immediate comparison trap with other mums about the particular thing you’re worried you’re “failing” at: and we judge on a snapshot to decide that she’s doing a much better job/she’s finding it easier/she’s coping better.
Take one scroll through Instagram, I’ll bet your internal dialogue runs a bit like this some days:
“Oh she has it all together, how does she find it so easy?”
“How does her baby sleep so well? My baby always naps on my chest, argh I’m a failure”
“That’s her on a bad day? I’ll never look as good as that even on my best day!”
“Why can’t I just be a happy mum like she is?”
“She’s doing so much more with her toddler than I ever do, I struggle to even get to the park most days”
We all do this. Our brains are TRAINED to do this, we are hardwired to seek comparison with other people, to judge how well we’re doing compared to others, it’s a key survival mechanism, to compare our “performance” helped us to navigate the social tribal world we evolved in: we needed it to choose the best partners and build allies. Trouble is, nowadays we don’t need it for physical survival in the way we did thousands of years ago but our brains haven’t changed in this time. So we need to change our understanding of our inner dialogue rather than take it seriously all the time.
I can’t just tell you to stop comparing, as your brain’s built to do it and it will continue to do it whether you want to or not: but now that you know it’s happening, you can choose whether to listen or to gently second guess what your inner critic has decided based on this comparison. Choose to question the reality of the judgment or assumption of yourself.
Pass the mike to your inner cheerleader rather than your inner critic, at least by asking “is this assumption definitely true?”
Often our judgements aren’t actually true, particularly when they are made through social media, because of our inner critics, assumptions based on a snapshot, and biases and beliefs that affect our judgment without us realising. Everyone finds something in the motherhood experience hard, that’s a guarantee. It may be that it’s not always what YOU find hard, but someone probably thinks you breeze through certain things that they struggle with.
So when you find yourself comparing your life through social media, notice that thought and remind yourself this…. it’s probably not an accurate judgement, it’s based on a glimpse of someone else’s filtered experience, not on their 24-hour reality. You are most likely only seeing part of the story, and you really shouldn’t judge someone else’s final performance against your behind the scenes.
I feel like others judge me for my choices about feeding, sleep, routine. How can I feel more confident?
As soon as you become pregnant, women are laid open to judgements from all corners. And generally, women are conditioned to be people pleasers, to have people like us. So the discomfort of having someone challenge or question your choices can really touch on deeply held feelings of not being liked or approved of. But – it’s not your job to make other people like you. And this is one of the hardest lessons in life and is particularly hard in motherhood.
When meeting new groups of friends – NCT, playgroups, nursery and school gates, we just want to fit in, to make friends, to have approval. If you feel that your choices are different from others, it can be so hard to find the confidence to just be wonderful YOU and own your decisions with confidence. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ But there is so much freedom in knowing that the only approval you truly need to seek is your own: learning to trust your gut is the most fundamental skill for inner peace that we can learn as mums. What do YOU truly want to do in this circumstance. What does YOUR baby need to thrive, and for you to feel that you are in harmony and that (generally) life is in flow and decisions feel right? The only way to tap into this inner sense is to drown out the many voices that we often find in social media and in life by taking time to tune into what you feel inside. You can do this by committing to journalling: free writing from the heart, once a day, for 5 or 10 minutes. It’s amazing what you can uncover if you allow yourself to commit your thoughts to paper. And conscious focus on your inner landsape through meditation – “meditation” can mean even just 5 minutes of slow deep conscious breathing, and noticing what thoughts are coming up. Filter out the inner critic thoughts, and tune into what your deep gut is telling you.⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ You will never please everyone. For example: first time round, I “failed” to breastfeed, I had a traumatic birth and my baby was very low birth weight and colicky: we tried our very hardest for weeks and weeks, but it was always a struggle. I mix fed formula and breast from then on, and felt judgements for “giving up” even though my mental health was really suffering. With my second: I had a much calmer birth experience and breastfeeding was established “easily” (I would’ve hated my second time self in comparison, first time round), but then, I continued to breastfeed him for an extended time, into his preschool years. Which is “too long”. So I went from failing to breastfeed, to breastfeeding for too long.
You JUST CAN’T WIN. So the only person you need to please is yourself.
Of course I still worry about what people think from time to time, but (and here’s the key…) it no longer determines my mood and behaviour. I no longer value my worth on whether you like me or not or approve of my decisions. I value it on whether I like myself.
How do you feel, does comparison drain the joy out of your motherhood experience? I’d love to hear from you x x x