I want to talk to you about self-shaming today, because I have worked with women and moms in all kinds of capacities over the years and I know how much self-shaming is going on.
I've seen and heard it all, trust me.
Women who are trying to conceive and have had a hard time, shame themselves for being "infertile" and often even believe that maybe they don't deserve to be moms.
Women who are currently pregnant and not feeling well or gaining weight quicker than others, shame themselves into feeling "fat, ugly, and tired" (these are not my words).
New moms shame themselves for having a hard time breastfeeding, for having "saggy skin" and not losing the pregnancy weight as quickly as they thought. They shame themselves for being a working mom or being a stay at home mom (we cannot do it right, can we?), being unproductive, being an angry wife, having a baby that isn't a "good sleeper," or feeling like a "hot hormonal mess" (again, not my words).
The list of self-shaming goes on and on and honestly, we need to end it.
All of us.
And with each other.
To make this whole topic a bit less touchy and uncomfortable, I want to share with you my own story of self-shaming and what it took to finally make me stop:
For as long as I can remember I have always been a care-taker, people pleaser, make-others-proud-of-me type. As the oldest of three kids, this behavior is actually pretty typical for first borns when we look at the research that exists on sibling order and personality type.
Being that way has done many good things for me: it feels pretty natural for me to take charge and initiate things, I can feel other people's emotions, connect and listen well and am solution oriented, and I get a ton of satisfaction from helping others.
On the flipside, I also have a tendency to feel overly responsible and as a result sacrifice myself for others, think that unless something is perfect it's not good enough, and am afraid of criticism and judgment.
This latter part has led me to experience a good amount of self-shaming throughout my life.
Hey, it's easier to reject yourself and put yourself down before others can do it.
In my teens and twenties, I self-shamed my way through all the "stuff:" my weight, how successful I could be, how worthy I was etc.
Naturally at that time in my life, nothing was working out because my whole inner world was consumed with keeping myself small.
It wasn't until I had a back injury that required surgery that I hit rock bottom and, as a result, finally turned a page.
During my recovery weeks, I read a book that my mom had given me that talked about the mind body connection and how pain, injuries, unhappiness, and discomfort aren't things we should try to merely overcome, but that they are important messengers telling us that something needs to be addressed on an internal level that we have been trying to push down and ignore.
It asked me to ask the question: "What is your injury/ circumstance/ pain/ discomfort preventing you from doing?" and "What is it forcing you to do?"
The answer was that it prevented me from running; physically running as well as running the "perfect show." And it forced me to strip away all the fluff that I thought I should be and instead just be myself; unarmed, imperfect, human, and raw.
Even though this was a difficult time, it ultimately set me free to begin accepting myself on a level that I had never experienced before.
I stopped shaming the crap out of myself.
I stopped judging myself so hard and feeling so angry.
I began expressing my real thoughts and ideas instead of trying to please others.
I finally relaxed into my own femininity, creativity and playfulness and ditched the masculine, competitive, "I got it all under control" vibes that made me so freaking tired.
I began to feel free. I finally began to feel like ME.
And oh yeah, I withdrew over 10 medical school applications and instead went to a Depth Psychology Institute for my M.A. to study dreams, the unconscious and the mind body connection in women specifically.
These decisions felt scary, yes! But I cannot tell you how incredibly empowered I felt when I finally began to make decisions for me rather than to please others.
Once I got on my own path and lived in alignment with myself without the constant inner critic on maximum volume, my life totally opened up: I stopped binge eating and lost weight naturally, I met my now husband (it was love at first sight), and, most importantly, I finally liked the woman I was becoming.
These skills of detecting my inner talk and turning it around, helped me again when I discovered a hormonal imbalance that had me fearing that I wouldn't be able to get or sustain a pregnancy and again, a million times over, as a mom when opportunities to feel inadequate are luring at every corner.
No matter what stage you are in and what your inner dialogue currently looks like, I want you to know that self-shaming is something so many of us do and we need to address it courageously, especially as moms!
There is also no greater gift to your child(ren) than a mom who fully approves of herself and accepts and loves herself just the way she is.
I know for myself, that that is a gift I want to give to my sons.