by Dr Hayley Watson, Clinical Psychologist
We live in a world full of “perfect” images. On social media we see only the positive sides of people’s lives, and it’s easy to get down on ourselves about how we measure up. And there is nowhere this occurs more than in parenting. Mamas today face an incredible amount of pressure to be perfect. To be perfectly there for their children, to perfectly balance career and family life, to have a perfect home, and to do all that behind an unwaveringly perfect smile.
The good news is that even though this is a societal problem, you can use our own mind to change how much this pressure impacts you. All it takes is practicing NOT listening to the thoughts that feed this cycle. Just like any skill, it takes practice – it may be challenging at first, but the more you flex this muscle of setting a boundary inside your own head, the more freedom and power you have to live your life the way that works for YOU, and know that your faults and imperfections are all a part of your own unique and fabulous journey.
Here are four simple but incredibly effective strategies that will help you change this pattern and put the power of your life back into your own hands.
1 // Feel your feelings
Your feelings of fear and shame and inadequacy are perfectly normal and healthy. We ALL have them. When they arise, STOP whatever you are doing, bring your attention away from the story of WHY you feel this way (eg “I’m not good enough”) and focus on the sensation itself. What exactly does it feel like to you? Where in your body is the feeling located? If you were to give this feeling a colour or a shape what would it look like?
This simple act of letting go of the story and coming back to the sensation stops your mind from turning every difficult situation into more ammunition to beat yourself up with.
2 // Turn your struggles into opportunities for growth
When your life is feeling unmanageable, sit down and write about your struggles. At first you will probably notice that you appear as the victim in your story. Things are happening TO you that are out of your control. Now write the story again but instead cast yourself as the HERO. If your life was a movie or a book and you were facing this hard situation so that you could grow into more of the person you were meant to be…how would that story unfold? How would you feel? What would you do next to overcome this bump in the road? What does this challenge look like when you see it as part of your journey to finding your own power?
Flipping the way your mind sees yourself to be a hero rather than a victim completely takes away the disempowerment that feeds the cycle of thinking you are not measuring up.
3 // Do one thing every day that is purely for YOU because you ENJOY it
You may have to force yourself on this one at first, because all the chores and the expectations will be screaming in your ear every time you take a moment of pause. But do it anyways. Think of things that feel pleasurable to you and practice prioritising the experience of joy over any of the “shoulds” or “have to’s”.
Setting this boundary with your mind forces it out of survival mode and creates a new option for how to live your life – because you WANT to, not because you HAVE to.
4 // Acknowledge your early life experiences
Take a moment to remember the earliest time in your life that you felt the pressure to be perfect. Can you think of a specific time or a relationship dynamic that might have started this cycle for you? Take a few minutes to acknowledge how hard this was for you when you were younger. Try to think what this earlier version of yourself needed at the time and didn’t get. Now imagine you are giving that to her, whatever it is.
Honouring the little girl inside of you who is craving love, affection and acceptance will help soothe these early memories so that they will have less of a hold on how you see the world.