As leadership coaches who work with parents, we meet a LOT of amazing, wildly successful women whose lives on paper look fantastic, but they find themselves in over their heads in self-judgment, besieged by comparison, drastically over-committed, and mired in maternal martyrdom. They become shrunken versions of themselves unable to see their own successes.
Maybe you feel like you’re not enough and riddled with guilt because you can’t be everything to everyone? (It’s true. You can’t.) Perhaps you lay awake at night, awash with anxiety, while the evil critics in your head run color commentary on your perceived failures.
At LUMO, we call this Mom Kryptonite. Not unlike the elemental rock that drains Superman of all his power, Mom Kryptonite saps women of their strength and sense of competence.
Here are some of the most typical forms that plague our clients:
- Comparison: Comparing the reality of your life to the appearance of other parents’ lives. Someone else’s storefront may look fancy, but you don’t have access to their messy stockroom. Comparing your life to a curated Instagram feed is a false equivalency, and a brutal self-punishment.
- Judgment: Assessing yourself against some arbitrary measure of what a “Good Mom” does, wears, creates, or whips up for the school fundraiser, robs you of joy and awareness of your accomplishments. All you see is what you haven’t achieved, rendering you a skinny greyhound chasing a fake rabbit on an endless track to nowhere, while you bet against yourself.
- Shoulds: Do you find yourself “shoulding” all over yourself? “Should” is a cruel splintery stick you beat yourself with. A delivery device of shame that rarely, if ever, drives one towards success. Most often, the “shoulds” that plague us are based on someone else’s goals, not our own desires.
- Perfectionism: A wise person once said that “the road to perfection is paved by lunatics.” There is no such destination as “perfection” and folks who try to pave a road there will drive themselves mad in the process. Aiming for perfection sets the bar so high that it becomes impossible to achieve, leaving us unsatisfied in perpetuity. When we make perfection a condition for others, it erodes trust and love in relationships–especially if you see your way as the “right” way.
- Overcommitment: A packed back-to-back schedule, a never-ending to-do list, and no time for yourself. Overcommitment is a great place to hide while avoiding your own unmet needs. Or your feelings. (“Ewww. Feelings?! Gotta go flip the laundry.”) If you’re the one holding it ALL together, taking time for yourself may seem selfish. A different perspective? Chronic busyness points to a lack of clarity in priorities, wobbly boundaries (stay tuned for #6!), lack of support, a bushel of resentment being held at bay, and self-avoidance masked in selflessness.
- Boundaries: (Or more precisely, lack thereof.) Maybe you don’t set boundaries because you don’t want to upset others? Perhaps you have a hard time saying “no?” Good gravy, maybe you don’t even know what boundaries are! Dr. Brené Brown has a simple definition of boundaries: “sharing what’s ok and what’s not ok for us and the people around us.” Boundaries are most challenging for people who value the needs of others above their own.
- Martyrdom: Martyrdom is selflessly sacrificing yourself on the altar of motherhood and then silently waiting for the flowers of gratitude to be laid at your feet. Your main source of meaning comes from the meager alms of recognition you receive for your devout dedication to your family, to your job, to the service of others. You’ve set your own happiness aside so you can be witnessed as “Saint Mom.” It’s a wobbly altar, and tribute is slim.
Do any of those sound familiar? Recognizing your personal form of Kryptonite is an essential step to building up immunity. Mom Kryptonite doesn’t simply steal your power; it derails your joy and pleasure–as a mom, a partner, and a human–and you (yes, YOU!) deserve joy AND pleasure.
If that’s tough to wrap your mind around, know this:
If mama suffers, everyone suffers. And it’s the Kryptonite that brings Super Mama to her knees. But you’re strong enough to diffuse the power of your nemesis. Step one is identifying your weaknesses from the above list, and the second is reframing your relationship with them.
Ask yourself the following questions:
- What’s the most important thing to me?
- How do I want to be in the world? As a person, a mom, a partner.
- What am I grateful for?
- What do I love about myself/my life?
- What are the qualities people like about me?
- What do I desire?
- What do I need?
- Is this my “should” I’m “shoulding” on myself, or is it someone else’s?
- What is working in my life?
- What’s keeping me from celebrating my successes?
- How can my A++ become more of a relaxed B+?
- What are the three things I am most committed to?
- Where do I need the most support?
- What am I avoiding asking for help with? (Dig into the why.)
- Where did I learn selflessness?
- What am I teaching my kids when I dismiss my needs?
- How can I take better care of myself in service of caring for my family?
Motherhood is a mélange of messiness and awesomeness, and the ratios are ever-shifting. There are days where we are faster than a speeding bullet and stronger than a locomotive, and there are days when our Kryptonite renders us powerless. Being willing to reject suffering as a given and reframe the lens you’re looking at your life through will help you experience more joy and pleasure.
Build up your immunity to Kryptonite, mama, and plug into your superpowers.
LUMO is a collective of certified executive and leadership coaches and trainers. We use the tools, principles, and philosophies of leadership coaching to empower parents to become leaders in their careers, their relationships, and any other areas of their lives where they are feeling unmoored, disempowered, or not living up to their full potential. We provide companies the training to support their parent employees in a radical new way.
To learn more about us, visit our website at www.lumoleadership.com or follow us on instagram @lumoleadership.