Fighting Back From Invisible - Mae Updegraff MotherHustle
“While this strategy of invisibility may have served me well as a child fighting for her very existence, I realize now that this strategy no longer serves me. More importantly, this strategy is no longer needed.

Isn’t it ironic that I’ve intentionally made the decision to write about mistakes? In many ways, I’ve been trying to cover up a doozie for the greater part of my life.

While most of us will do anything to avoid making them, my experience with mistakes has shaped my perspective to be a bit different from what may be considered ‘the norm’.

Here’s the thing — I was born out of a coma because my mentally ill mother tried to commit suicide when she was pregnant with me.

Some would argue that my very existence is a mistake. In the wake of this epic ‘mistake’, my strategy was to become invisible. If I were seen less, perhaps I would be tolerated more.

I was good. I was quiet. I became nothing.

(Until sports. It was in the safety of sports that I stood my ground and kicked some serious ass, but that’s a story for another day. Boo-yah!)

When the parents that I tried so hard to please failed to show up at my high school graduation, that’s when I became less concerned about how much space I was taking up in their life.

It was also exactly when I decided to take up more space in mine.

I didn’t just graduate high school. I graduated as freshman class president, varsity all-star player, recipient of scholarships. I was good at being good. And the very people who were placed on this earth to be responsible for me failed, in many ways, to ‘show up’.

Unfortunately, many more years passed before I realized I had wasted years of my life chasing perfection and being careful. In the very pursuit of perfection, I was chasing the unobtainable – and constantly judging myself harshly for falling short.

While this strategy of invisibility may have served me well as a child fighting for her very existence, I realize now that this strategy no longer serves me. More importantly, this strategy is no longer needed. As an adult survivor of child abuse, I stand strong in my belief that there is strength, courage and beauty to be found in standing out.

I think our friend Emily said it best when she said, “mistakes allow us to stand out in a sea of sameness”. Standing out takes grit, my friends! Bravery, determination and a bit of fortitude.

I’m not saying you should approach life with reckless abandon. I’m saying don’t be so paralyzed with the fear of making a mistake that you fail to be anything at all.

When I started out in business, unfortunately, I adopted this same strategy that had served me so well in my childhood – I made the mistake of conformity. I was aiming to fit in by trying to become someone else’s version of success.

I’m a party girl – Mae of Custom Mae’d. I create totally awesome party stationery. How does someone from my background (you know, the less-than-ideal childhood) grow up to be chief bossy pants of a kids party stationery business?

It’s my solid belief that ALL children should be celebrated, not merely tolerated.

I’ve made it a priority in my life to do this every day. But here’s the kicker — glitter, unicorns and rainbows actually make me want to vomit a little. It wasn’t until I started creating from the swells of my own heart that the real magic happened and business took off. I attribute this success to realism. ‘Fitting in’ doesn’t align very well with integrity. We can’t possibly all want the same thing, … right? When I was struggling to ‘do as everyone does’, not only did the work not come easy, it felt awful.

When I dropped the false expectations of myself and got real, people could identify with that. They could feel it too. Those of you who know me know that I don’t often ‘practice the pause’. I have opinions and I’m willing to share them. And sometimes I say more than I should. Maybe I even overshare a little.

Here’s the thing – no one needs you to be perfect. And if they do, they are as we say in the biz, ‘not a good fit’!

Our imperfections make us relatable.

Our imperfections make us approachable.

Our imperfections make us US.

Our imperfections are like the gold used in the age-old art of Kintsugi: The Art of Broken Pieces. Using gold to fill the cracks and gaps in a broken object ends up making the piece more beautiful than its original.

This month on MotherHustle, we’ve been hearing all about mistakes – how to avoid them, how to interpret them, how to survive them. My hope for you is that you discover the beauty of freedom found in failure. We’re all going to make mistakes. Don’t try to hide them, friend. Hidden mistakes yield shame. Believe me when I say that LIFE has so much more in store for you!

Mae of Custom Mae’d designs totally awesome stationery and party décor with options to suit every budget. From invitations to thank you cards and everything in between, Custom Mae’d is your one stop party stationery shop. From start to finish, Mae creates personalized invitations, banners, party tags, table signs, cupcake toppers, thank you cards and more. You can find her on Instagram, Facebook and Pinterest.


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  • Cristina

    I am only now just learning to accept that I am successful and can succeed. That it’s ok. As a victim of child abuse (verbal and physical) I was always afraid to crush a goal. I was taught that you get more when you are always working towards it, when you’re good at something (like I am with singing opera) it becomes currency. It’s the only time I was accepted. I love this piece, Mae. Thank you for sharing your heart with so many.

    August 29, 2017 at 7:28 pm

  • admin

    Cristina, thank you for sharing your heart as well 💕

    August 30, 2017 at 9:32 am

  • Lindsey

    This is beautiful! How brave and inspiring. Love this!

    September 5, 2017 at 5:06 pm

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