We’re all guilty of jealousy when we consume social media–the fake Facebook family, the perfect Instagram pose, the Sanctimommy story of the century–we look at these things and we feel the hot, burning sensation of shame and never measuring up. The questions spin around in our heads: why can’t my kids sit still for pictures like that? Why won’t my husband dress fashionably? Why do my kids always have to be picking their noses in photos? GAH!!! WHY? WHY? WHY?
Comparison is the thief of joy. We look at these pictures, these projects, and hear the stories and we just know that life on the other side must be better because somehow, someway, we have failed and we are not “good enough.” For some reason, our standards as a society have been set by what we post on social media, the stories that buzz by in our feeds.
No one posts the story of preschool drop off with the anxious kid. No mom posts the story of how she walked out of the classroom and her son was kicking the walls with his feet, beating on the heavy wooden door with his tiny fists, spitting on and scratching the teachers, and how later, he threw his body against the glass doors. No, she doesn’t post about that. Nor does she post about getting to her car and thinking, “WHY can’t I take the photo of a little boy smiling and getting ready for school? Why can’t he settle in? WHY can’t I have a normal kid?”
And then it hits, the shame flows in hot tears, streaming down her cheeks, as she clasps her hands over her face for the mere thought of wanting a “normal” drop off, a “normal” child, and it rips her heart out. In that moment, she feels like she isn’t good enough. She feels like she has betrayed her son, betrayed her duty as a mother, and she feels ashamed and guilty.
No one shares THAT story.
But I did. And I do.
I sat in my car that day and I cried. I cried and I felt ashamed and less than perfect. Those hot tears melted down my face. My mascara (which I rarely apply, go figure that I decided to “self care” on that particular day) ran down to the corners of my mouth and I was broken and beaten. But I knew that my story didn’t end there, on that day.
You see, my little boy has a rare anxiety disorder (selective mutism) and that day, on my lowest of lows, I shared my story.
I shared my story of shame. Do you want to know what I found out? The more I shared, the more I found other moms like me. The more I talk about how hard it is to find help for little kids with mental health disorders, the more I found moms who were struggling with similar issues. The more I advocated, the stronger I felt, until one day the shame was gone and in its place, I found acceptance.
I wasn’t ashamed of my son. I was ashamed of myself. I somehow had this vision of being able to magically restore balance to the world, when all I needed in the moment was to accept that I was a good mom and I was doing “good enough.”
But that’s not the story that our society tells us and that’s not what we tell each other when we only post the picture perfect moments on Facebook, striving for perfection down to matching outfits and pasted on perfect smiles.
Breaking the cycle of shame
As ridiculous as this might sound, our world has a low tolerance for truth and vulnerability. Admittedly, I hate being vulnerable because I might get hurt. But in the moments where I have been the most vulnerable, I have found nothing but compassion and community. Did you know that NOTHING diffuses shame as quickly as truth? Go ahead and try it, I dare ya! Share your story. I challenge you to open up and see if you can’t find someone who shares a similar shame story.
Stop posting perfection
As our world shifts its perspectives to online-based communities, we need to keep in mind that we are contributing to the perfectionistic culture that we so loathe as parents and human beings. If we simply skipped the false pretenses and posted the bad with the good, what kind of impact do you think that could have? Or better yet, what kind of impact would it have if we reached out to our village and became vulnerable on a person-to-person level?
Stop expecting perfection
This gets me every single time. I love being perfect. I LOVE being in control, but if I’m honest, it makes me miserable! No one hates a half-hearted attempt more than this girl, right here, but whole-hearted and perfect 100% of the time is unrealistic. I am a better mom, and most certainly a better human being, when I can accept that not everything is going to be perfect all of the time and that the fate of the world will NOT suffer if I am not in control of it. When we set these unrealistic standards and we expect this from everyone around us, we have set unreachable goals and ultimately set ourselves up to fail and feel the failure from others around us. That’s not to say, we don’t set high expectations, but we have to accept the fact that perfect is not always whole and good.
Start embracing “good enough”
When was the last time that you knew your efforts were good enough? Dig deep, because I mean really, really knew, without a doubt that you weren’t perfect (heck you may have utterly failed at what you did), but you accepted it with grace and moved forward, knowing that you were enough in that moment. I think we too often miss this part of ourselves as mothers and humans. We can do everything right and everything can turn out wrong, but we can still be enough and we can still be good, good parents. In our humanity, we can forget that. But in our communities, neighborhoods, villages we can leave the shame behind and collectively accept these stories as our own. We can rewrite our own stories if we choose. What do you say? It’s worth a shot.