“Way to go!”
I’ve had people high-five me and pat me on the back. I’ve had people tell me they’re proud of me. I’ve had people tell me they admire me.
That I could be doing better. I worry about whether I’m doing enough. That I’m not good enough. There are days where I know I’m busting my ass, but I still feel like I should be doing more…
And I finally figured out why.
Other writers. Other students. Other moms. Comparison is a huge confidence killer.
I see other writers on social media share showers of 5-star reviews and news of literary agents and book deals and can’t help but feel twinges of inadequacy. I see writers with huge followings on social media who somehow manage to find the right balance between original content, support of other colleague’s work, and a healthy dose of self-promotion and wonder how the hell they do it all… and still manage to work on the next book. How do they keep up with their blogs and their giveaways and their promos?
I sign on to my classes twice a week and have to force myself to speak up, constantly in awe of the great minds that I share my online classrooms with. You’d think that being in front of my computer in my home office in my pajamas rather than in a classroom of 20 other people would make it easier, but no, it’s still a form of public speaking, and I hate it.
I would much rather write out my responses in the chat box or send a peer review letter, because when it comes to participating in class, I always feel like a stammering, stuttering fool. Someone always says what I want to say, before I can figure out how exactly to say it, and they usually say it more eloquently than I would have managed in the first place.
Still, I make myself chime in. I try to take a minute to form an answer in my head, or even jot a few notes down on paper, before I speak up, and even then, I still probably sound like a blathering idiot. Why do I get so nervous? Why is talking in front of a room full of my peers so hard when other people do it like it’s no big deal?
How do y’all do it? How do you get up and go to the gym and come back and straighten your hair and put on makeup and dress cute and take the kids to school and get shit done at work or around the house and look good while doing it? I am lucky if I can make myself roll out of bed in the morning to take a walk around the block. I consider the day a domestic success if I can unload the dishwasher before my husband comes home.
I constantly feel like I am struggling to keep it together as well as the other moms I know, and I am definitely not doing it with a blowout, a cute outfit, and a full face of makeup. (Concealer, maybe, and some mascara, but that’s about it.)
So how are we ever supposed to be more confident when we’re always trying to see where we measure up next to our coworkers, classmates, and friends? I have been mulling this over for a few days… I literally stopped in the middle of this post to try to figure out how to stop comparing myself… how to stop bashing myself… when I really am trying to do my best and be a good writer, a good wife, and a good mom. I KNOW that. Other people know that. They tell me so! But why is it so hard to believe?
It comes from a book called The Danish Way of Parenting by Jessica Alexander and Iben Sandahl, and let’s face it, the Danes are constantly ranked as the world’s happiest people. So, what do they have to say about reframing?
“Our reality and understanding are created with the language we use. Therefore, all changes will require a change in the language. Think about whether you speak to yourself or your children in a supportive or inhibitory way. Words like “he is so…” or “I am too…” Are generally negatively defining and stigmatizing phrases that only intend to suppress a positive and supportive self-image. Reform, redefine or reframe. It’s about shifting the focus from what we think we cannot create an opening for possible change.”
So what would that look like for me? I grabbed some of my negative self-talk from above and tried reframing those words and phrases that could use a more positive spin.
“…and can’t help but feel twinges of inadequacy.” could be reframed as, “I am constantly looking for ways to improve myself and do better.”
“…and have to force myself to speak up… Still, I make myself chime in.” could be reframed as, “I take time to think before I speak so that I am making a thoughtful contribution to the class, and I do it even though it scares me.”
“I constantly feel like I am struggling to keep it together…” could be reframed as, “I have a lot going on and am doing my best to juggle motherhood, family life, school, and a career.”
As Jessica Alexander says on TheDanishWay.com:
“We develop when we believe that our hope and dreams can succeed. We also grow when others believe in us and give us confidence. Once we master the ability to reformulate or redefine our inhibitory/definitive language usage, we must gather the positive stories in which we succeed. It’s not about eliminating negative events (that’s often misunderstood) – they all come true – it’s just about seeing the same subject in more shades than in just one color.”
As moms, we have a lot going on in our lives. We’re parenting, wife-ing, working, traveling, cooking, cleaning, playing, arranging, scheduling, and on and on and on… A lot of us wrestle with the fact that we’re not where we want to be yet. But we’ll get there. We just need to change the way we think about ourselves.
Jessica Goodwin lives near Washington, D.C. with her husband, son, and their two cats. She’s written four novels and her work has appeared on Scary Mommy, Baby Gaga, Chocolate & Chaos, Tribe Magazine, Mamalode, and in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Sleep when the baby sleeps? Nope, she’s writing. Follow her on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.
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