"You should have done more with your kids today." "The TV is on way too much." "Your kids are growing fast! How dare you get annoyed at them!" "Don't you love your children? Why would you be excited for them to go to bed?" "You definitely eat too many Cheetos. Don't you know that you should be eating organic kale instead?" "You're not keeping up with your reading for your book group." "Why aren't you working out more?"
Welcome, my friends, to some of the words of my Inner Critic. We all have one--as a human being, as a women, as a mother. On the sunshiny, smooth-sailing days, Inner Critic's voice tends to be silent or at least incredibly faint. But those other days? Inner Critic has lots of opinions to share and sometimes it just takes so much effort to silence that ridiculous voice within. Where do these thoughts come from? Is there any truth to these opinions? How do I silence Inner Critic or, at the very least, how do I learn to ignore Inner Critic?
I don't have a solid answer for you. I feel like I squash some guilty feeling and then a new one pops up the next day. Parenting is one never ending adventure and learning experience so we are constantly faced with these unfamiliar paths that we have no choice but to navigate. Thankfully groups like FIT4MOM make sure we aren't on these paths alone but nevertheless, new and unknown can be intimidating. I'm a planner. I'm a list maker. I like to know what's ahead. Parenthood has absolutely tested those aspects of my life. Overall, those qualities are something I am very proud of and think have served me well BUT our lives do not follow a straight path. It is not always predictable.
As for Inner Critic, her voice is our insecurities--our insecurities that stem from within ourselves and that stem from outside pressure. "BE everything. DO everything. LOVE everything." Guess what?? NONE OF THAT IS REALISTIC OR POSSIBLE. I'm "yelling" that because it's so very important for me to realize that and for you to realize that. Sometimes I wish my husband lived inside my head because goodness gracious, he does an amazing job of telling my Inner Critic to shut up. We just returned from an overnight trip to Chicago with our boys and visited The Field Museum while we were there. Near the end of our time at the museum, our youngest was on edge because it was well beyond his nap time and I was feeling a bit stressed out because being with crowds of people for hours is draining to me. ("Hey, Lady in the Blue Shirt, you can hold back a few more seconds to see these dinosaur bones. There's absolutely no need for you to be standing RIGHT behind me. And Guy in the Red Hat, how dare my five year old walk in front of you. I'm sure you have never done that to anyone ever before.") I told my husband later that night about how I felt guilty about feeling stressed out while we were doing this really awesome thing together as a family and how I didn't want the boys to have all these memories of their mom being stressed out on trips together. You know what my husband said? "You were stressed out? I mean, I know we were all getting tired but you did just fine. The boys had no clue that you were ready to get out of there. Stop worrying so much!" And that's when it hit me---well, maybe not for the first time but it was just another reminder that Inner Critic significantly amplifies my insecurities. Just because I am feeling something within myself doesn't mean that others have those same thoughts and feelings about me. So how do I plan to battle against this junk? Well, first, I'm acknowledging that sometimes Inner Critic is speaking a tiny bit of truth. Should I choose kale over Cheetos? Probably but...ummm...I just don't see that happening. I know! I write blog posts for a company based around all around wellness for mothers but, ladies, I love cheese puffs. I just do. I'm sorry but not really. Should I be reading more? Yes. Should I be working out more? Yes. But more times than not, Inner Critic simply makes us feel unnecessarily bad about ourselves. (Please note that Inner Critic and our conscience are two different things!!)
The second and most important way to battle Inner Critic is to have an encouraging, supportive environment. For me, that means I'm trying my hardest to no longer mindlessly scroll through Facebook--saves me time and limits the opportunities I might have to compare myself to others. I follow positive people, pages, and businesses on Instagram. When I feel a complaint coming on, I try to find something uplifting to counteract it. I attend church and read the Bible. I pray. I listen to uplifting music. To be blunt: I'm doing my best to punch Inner Critic in the face whenever she tries to speak. I'm not trying to lives a perfect life. It's impossible. I am trying to live the life that God has intended for me to live and that is not a life of comparison or self-doubt or pessimism or insecurity. I believe that it is a life where I am using my unique qualities and strengths to encourage and support others. Make no mistake---I am in the midst of dealing with Inner Critic. I mean, I just admitted I struggled with her this week. I don't think she is ever going away but just because Inner Critic has the opportunity to speak doesn't mean that 1) she needs to be allowed to do so and 2) that we need to listen.
Let's remind ourselves every day that we are enough. Sure, it's always good and healthy to be improving and growing but let's not start our days telling ourselves that we need to be more and do more. It starts with us encouraging and supporting one another and ourselves. If we want to battle the "Mom Guilt" that plagues us all, we need to start somewhere.