I often hear people talk about being true to yourself. How can you live well while staying true to yourself?
Especially as moms there can be a lot of unspoken expectations.
Going from being part of a mold to being different can take time. At first you will face a lot of criticism.
You are criticized until you make something of yourself and then people finally get it. Or at least you stop caring because now you see it was worth it. You also stop caring because once you succeed even your doubts about you ability to make it go away.
I have had to walk not sure of what I was doing for many years in my life. I knew what I was trying accomplish. Breaking through the difficulties and critical voices inside my head made it extremely difficult.
Here is what being true to yourself means to me and has taught me so far.
Doing what everyone wants you to do and realizing you are not happy…
Sometimes is not that we are making bad decisions for wanting to be different. Sometimes there are principles we believe in, and are just afraid to own up to them. We are afraid to live them. We are afraid to try them and go against the flow from the masses.
But we will never know if others are waiting for US to stand out. They might be waiting because they don’t have the courage to be different or speak up.
Don’t try to be like others, be unique. You be you.
About six months ago I hit a point in my motherhood journey where I finally realized that I had spent many years doing the things that seemed to be what everyone wanted me to do or where societies expectations. As a young mother I often was afraid of people criticism. I would watch how parents would act in public and try to imitate that.
I noticed a lot of parents seemed to be too permissive with their kids behaviors. But as a young mother I was afraid that if I tried to raise my kids differently in public, others would judge me and shame me. For example for saying no to my kids sometimes.
At some point I decided that enough was enough. I wasn’t happy doing things the way others had told me. I also didn’t agree with some parenting books.
I eventually arrived at a point in my life where I didn’t care about being judged or criticized. I didn’t have to keep doing what everyone expected me to do. For the first time in my life, I realized that fitting other’s peoples rules and codes of conducts wasn’t making me happy.
Another example of this was how I spent many years trying to be the super kind mom in public. I was terrified of the mom judgement. I felt as if someone was always watching over my shoulders. But it made me too permissive toward my children.
For example, we avoid waisting food. At our home we have a rule that we finish what is in our plate and we always put some greens on our plates. We also monitor how much sugar we eat throughout the day.
This made it hard when we would be with other people and our kids didn’t want to finish their food. All of their friends weren’t required to finish their food. Other times their friends also didn’t have any limit on how many sodas and dessert plates they could eat. Some of our friends would even tell us not to worry about telling our kids to finish their dinner plate. I have had adults flat out reach to my kids and secretly hand them sugary treats while I wasn’t watching. I received quite a bit of backlash other the years for this.
For me it was very important to teach the kids to eat sugar in moderation. I also wanted them to not eat past full, but sure enough put the effort into not just eating desserts after throwing away their unfinished dinner plates.
It took me many years to finally be ok to say no to my kids even when other kids weren’t doing it. It also took time and effort to start calling my kids back after sneaking away from the dinner table, and other adults would tell me to not worry about it.
Before I started owning up to what we were doing at home already, I was people pleasing.I never once came home and thought: “ Oh, I am so proud that at dinner today the kids didn’t eat any vegetables and then binged on dessert!” I would come home instead and think, “ Man! I am not teaching my kids to stand up for what we believe in, in public. I am also not teaching them to do hard things, even if at their age that means eating their veggies rather than running off to play.”
I was trying to live and fit inside of a mold. That mold that everyone expected me to fit with. Those expectations from our culture, neighbors, friends, and family, that were different than mine.
There is often shaming amongst women for being honest about what one mom likes or may not like. We act as if by sometimes being honest about what is hard or we dislike, we are somehow saying we don’t like being mothers.
I see many moms who often feel the need to explain everything they do just in case someone might think anything bad about them.
Learning to be the type of mom that I wanted to be.
Focusing only on what I thought was important.
Knowing I needed to teach my kids what I believe no matter where we where.
Eventually I learned that I wanted these beliefs to take precedence more than what everyone else might say to me or do.
I ddi know that as long as I was living a life worth emulating. As long as I was being a good example, I could confidently tell my kids to follow my steps and trust what I was teaching them.
Once I realized that, it was as if a light switch came on.
I realized that for so long I was hurting over the years, even though I was doing such a good job at being the perfect and kind mom that everyone expected me to be. That mom wasn’t happy.
That mom wasn’t me.
That mom was too apologetic.
That mom wasn’t confident.
Now, confident doesn’t mean a rude mom. Or a mom who is mean. I do not like being mean mom. That is just not what makes me proud of myself.
I realized that type of life that the world seems to have painted for every mom wasn’t my version of motherhood. The type of life that looks perfect from the outside, truly doesn’t lead to happiness for me, nor for my kids.
I’ll compare this to exercising a muscle and doing it with the wrong form. You exercise and have pain that usually is supposed to lead to stronger muscles in the long run, but what if as a result you get an injury? But you are excising and your muscles are supposed to be getting stronger!
Instead you suffer injuries in return and you are not getting the results expected. So, there comes a time in life when it’s time to make the necessary changes to have good form and obtain even better results.
Life can be like that at times. We are doing something and we have been told we will be happy in return. But we are not. Yet others told us we would be.
It takes trusting in our own abilities and instincts to let go of the manuals and start being true to ourselves. We feel it when something is broken. Eventually we need to trust what we know more than what we are told.
It takes trusting in your capabilities and that we are more equipped to do what is in front of us more than just the manuals and textbooks.
What about when others seem just so happy doing what they are doing?
What works for people is very individual. Some things are just not the right thing for us. At least not the way we are doing it. So we need to switch things up. Do what works for us instead. Find the right form to get the right results.
I recently was able to make peace with the fact that some things just weren’t for me, and I wasn’t going to apologize to everyone every time I did things differently.
Being ok with the mom that I am has allowed me to recognize the following and own up to it!
I can be grumpy at times
I don’t like to go on mommy play dates, because to me I call them “Mommy gets to chat while the kids go haywire and play unattended for a couple of hours.”
We are late to Church every single Sunday.
We love to travel and take our kids with us everywhere.
We don’t eat treats with high fructose corn syrup at our home.
We live the marshmallow test principle with our children by saying no to many things they want. We believe in the principle that postponing gratification raises successful adults.
I love to dress with my own unique sense of style.
My home has very little decor.
I don’t smile when I am unhappy. In fact I hide behind my glasses and prefer not to talk.
I believe that when having children quality parenting is more important than quantity of children.
We don’t need to share the same experiences in order to get along. We don’t need to all have the same number of kids to relate with another mom.
I can finally peacefully say, “No thank you!” I want to do me and I hope that everyone else can feel free and empowered to do what they feel is right for them.