From My Journal: Sept 4th, 2015-
As I sit here at my desk, I find myself repeating the words: I am enough. I am enough. I am enough. This has become the silent mantra I have said to myself countless times today.
It slowly begins to crowd out the other voices in my head — the familiar critical voices that sit looming in the dark shadowy world of my mind. They whisper to me, "This is just not good enough Michelle." "Did you really think you could do this?" "Who do you think you are." "Look at her- that bright and shiny woman over there- she is doing it right." "You will never be her."
In this moment, my mantra is enough to soften my inner critique. I can feel myself moving into the light I have created within my awareness. I begin to soften around the edges of the expectations I have set for myself. Today- I choose to love my imperfections. I belong in this world just as I am. I am perfectly imperfect.
I sit with so many moms in my practice that courageously share feelings with me of not being enough.
Not good enough.
Or important enough.
Along our cold and damp Spring morning hike, one mom shared with me her most recent breaking-point. She shared that she felt overwhelmed by her family life. Everywhere she looked seemed to be filled with chaos and drama. During one particularly chaotic morning, she found herself stopping and scanning around her: Kitchen sink full of dishes. Pile of week-old unfolded laundry in a basked on the kitchen table. Boots, shoes, coats, and bags piled by the door (beside the closet-organizer that took her an entire weekend to install). Children rushing to get out the door to school. Yelling at each other about who got to sit in the front seat. Lunches packed with- yet again- the unhealthy packaged snacks she had been meaning to replace with the homemade recipes that littered her Pinterest boards.
She beautifully described to me that from an early age, she felt as though she had these "mountains of expectation" ahead of her. And so anything she did- against the backdrop of those mountains of expectations- always left her feeling inadequate and like a failure. Years later, her perceived failures had become internalized, and now translated into a critical-dialogue she had with herself; and it regularly whispered in her ear, "you just aren't enough".
We sat in silence for a moment. Breathing in the scene she had just laid out- allowing the weight of her shame to be felt, and come fully into the light of her awareness.
In an interview with The Mothers Movement, the wonderfully-wise Brene Brown reminds us that
" Women most often experience shame as a web of layered, conflicting and competing expectations. These expectations tell us who we should be, what we should be and how we should be. At their core, these ideals are products of very rigid social and community expectations. They present very narrow interpretations of who women are “supposed to be” based on demographics (i.e., their gender, race, class, sexual orientation, age, religious identity) and/or our roles (i.e., a mother, an employee, a partner, a group member). The expectations are often born in our larger society, then filtered through our various cultures and communities." Read her entire interview here.
When we can bring our critical-dialogue - the little whispers that say "you just aren't enough"- into the light of our awareness, we can then start to soften them.
By becoming more self-compassionate with ourselves, we as women and mothers, can begin to untangle ourselves from the web of shame our expectations that keep us locked within.
"Instead of mercilessly judging and criticizing yourself for various inadequacies or shortcomings, self-compassion means you are kind and understanding when confronted with personal failings – after all, who ever said you were supposed to be perfect?... Self-compassionate people recognize that being imperfect, failing, and experiencing life difficulties is inevitable, so they tend to be gentle with themselves when confronted with painful experiences rather than getting angry when life falls short of set ideals.". Kirstin Neff (one of my most loved Teachers of self-compassion)
5 steps to breakthrough your fear of not being enough:
- Develop a mindful-relationship with your inner-critique. Become aware of your critical thoughts, and see them for what they are: "Stories I am telling myself that may not be serving me any longer"
- Evaluate your expectations regularly. Most moms I sit with our juggling work, housework, and childcare. And so we need to get creative with our gender roles, and really explore the expectations we have for ourselves (we have lots of work to do here culturally too, as many of our beliefs come from the places we are raising our families in)
- Meet your feelings and fears with compassion. Talk to them as you would a dearly loved friend. "Hey Lovely- You are being so hard on yourself. You are doing the best you can."
- Practice being vulnerable and share your insecurities with others. The dark shadowy world of shame cannot exist in the light. So find your village, and hold them deeply in your heart.
- See that your imperfections make you human. Look around you everyday- below the glossy surface of social media- and see the beautiful imperfections in us all. Because our humanness is what makes us all perfectly imperfect.
MEET THE AUTHOR
Over the last decade Michelle has helped hundreds of children and families move from chaos to connection. Michelle holds a Bachelors in Psychology, Masters in Counselling Psychology, and is a heart-centered Writer and Speaker on Holistic-Integrative Child & Family Wellness Practices. She is the Fonder & Clinical Director of Counting Butterflies, where she is leading her team and community in developing sustainable private-care solutions for child & family mental health. Michelle lives with her husband, daughter, two dogs, bunny, 5 chickens, and horses, on their ever-growing homestead in rural Ontario, Canada.