Hi friends, welcome to July! I can practically smell the BBQ, sunscreen, and humidity, see the fireworks, and hear “Proud to be an American” in my mind. Ironically enough, on a month marked by a celebration of independence, I admit I’ve been feeling the very opposite of liberated. Turns out, I have placed an enormous amount of pressure on myself to do this mom thing perfectly, and my own expectations, judgements, and self-imposed rules over the last three months have been weighing me down big time.
About a month before I delivered our sweet baby boy, Dave went to a work conference in Orlando. When he got back, he told me that the news he’d soon be a dad had apparently spread, and everybody had words of wisdom to offer. And do you know what insightful advice he got the most (from both men and women)? To brace himself because my hormones would make me crazy the first few months after the baby arrived.
Me? Cray-cray? Oh heeeelllll no. I didn’t know how any of this would go down, but I sure wasn’t going to fit that ridiculous stereotype. Time passed, Lucas arrived, and my world flipped upside down. Committed to staying cool and collected and being perceived as anything but a nut job, I stuffed every emotion I felt deep down and put on a big smiley face and told everyone how lucky I felt that this whole baby thing had been so easy for me. I refused to confide in my own husband because I wanted him to see me as strong and under control, and mostly for him to go back to that conference next year telling people his wife did not go crazy after all. Not surprisingly, it didn’t take long for me to find myself crying alone in my car in the Kroger parking lot. What was I doing? Limiting my own ability to feel, to express myself and to share freely my thoughts and heart with others was downright suffocating. And who was I doing this for anyway? People who I didn’t know or care about in freakin’ Orlando?
It sounds silly, but I believe we all self-edit, tweak, adjust, modify, and control our physical bodies and emotions, our words and actions in order to fit the image of the person we want others to see. We are slowly becoming slaves to the “brand” we want to represent, distorting our sense of worth and losing the ability to connect authentically with ourselves and others. I mean, we have the freedom to share practically anything we want on social media, but scroll down through your feed and tell me how many posts show anything but perfect people in perfect relationships living perfect lives.
Ah yes, perfection…the killer of dreams, the enemy of creativity and joy, the ultimate “humble brag”, and one very heavy ball and chain.
At a time in history when we have an unprecedented amount of freedom – from whom to marry to what religion to practice, to how to dress or what job to do – we are still imprisoned by the ideal of perfection. When was the last time you gave yourself the freedom to try something and fail, to underachieve and be completely unproductive, to engage in an activity that won’t advance your intellect in any way, shape, or form? What about permission to accept your body just as it is, without tucking and plucking and spraying and fixing and needing to look like that model in Shape magazine in order to feel desirable? Would it be so offensive to admit that we’re tired, that we need help, that we can’t do it alone? Would it make me a bad mom to feel depleted and frustrated and scared shitless I’m not doing it right?
One of my favorite authors and speakers, Elizabeth Gilbert, says that perfectionism is fear in high heels, pretending to be fancy (a strength) when all it is is terrified that you will be exposed as not good enough. I tend to agree. My fear of being exposed as a crazy person who couldn’t handle this new change led me to mask my feelings and create my very own little prison. And I’ve come to realize that it’s nobody else’s responsibility to free me from it. I’ve started by coming back to my mat, making time to actually practice the yoga that I teach, spending time with myself and regaining the sense of confidence and trust I lost to what the internet, books, and “everyone else” had to say in regards to being a good mom.
Given tomorrow is the 4th of July, I’ll end on a patriotic note.
Our Constitution promises us the freedom to speak our minds, believe in whatever we choose, protect ourselves and our families, and ask for change as a community. But every time we bite our tongues to fit in, shove our dreams in the closet to pursue what others believe will make us successful, stare at our image in the mirror with disgust, or judge, judge, judge each other, we give up a little bit of what our ancestors fought so hard for. Let’s honor their sacrifice by truly embracing our freedom to show up, interact, and experience life as we are – with our imperfections and quirks, unique thoughts and individual desires, and faith that we are already enough.