Who

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What will Everybody think? How often have you uttered those words, or some form of them? I recently read Martha Beck’s fabulous ‘Finding Your Own North Star’, a must-read for anyone who is trying to live with a greater sense of purpose and freedom. No matter how far down this road you are, you’ll get some great tools, tips and insights in this irreverent but wise book. Beck spends a couple of chapters focusing on exercises to help you figure out whether you’re overriding your own sense of judgment and inner knowing in order to fit in, get approval, or avoid the disapproval (or worse) of others. The bad news is most of us do this and miss opportunities to move ourselves forward to greater self-awareness and empowerment, simply because we are worried about what ‘Everybody’ will think. The good news is once we start to take a look at who that Everybody really is, we usually find out that we have nothing to fear.

So who’s your Everybody? As moms, many of us worry very much about how we are perceived and judged as we make the thousands of decisions, from the relatively small, minor choices (What’s for dinner?) to the more difficult, sometimes gut-wrenching decisions (Does Jimmy need therapy?), that come with the territory when you become a parent. It seems that EVERYBODY out there knows how to make all the right decisions with relative ease, the ones you’re agonizing over daily, and worse still, if they knew how inept you were....

The truth is, of course, that most moms feel inept at least some of the time, and the ones that are judgmental towards others are seriously lacking in the empathy and compassion department… and probably dealing with some pretty sizeable insecurity issues too. No-one you would really worry about impressing, right? When we really look at who this Everybody is comprised of, it’s invariably a bunch of idiots we’d never look to for advice anyway! Maybe your Everybody is your mother-in-law or your great-aunt Ida or some random stranger who was rude to you on the subway. On some level you’ve internalized their disapproving glances or snide remarks about your choice to breastfeed over bottle-feed or whatever… but somehow that fear of disapproval and making waves that is so much a part of human nature can weave its way into our decision-making and our ability to make empowered decisions based on our own personal sense of integrity, values and freedom.

Take some time to recognize who your Everybody really is. Once you’ve identified these demons you can take back your own power, and feel more free and at peace with your own decisions and choices as a mother.

The Essence Exercise

Next time you feel insecure or self-conscious about something you’re doing or a decision you’re trying to make, try this simple exercise. You’ll know you are deferring to your Everybody if your decision doesn’t sit quite right with you, you don’t want to discuss it or you’re secretly hoping no-one will ask you about it.

1.Try to identify the person or people you’re worried about. Say, for example, you’ve chosen to keep your child out of pre-school for another year, and you’re avoiding the topic with the moms at playgroup. Is their one mom in particular you feel uncomfortable around? Is there a history of unease here? Remember the person you’re trying to identify may be someone from your past.

2.Once you’ve identified the person or people, make a list of the attributes of that person that you admire. You may be surprised to see that the list is very short. In fact, you may not be able to think of any at all. This should get you one step closer to realizing that your values are at odds with this person, and that his or her approval should have no bearing on what you choose to do.

3.If there is an incident or situation in the past that is causing your current unease, put it behind you. This may involve seeking closure in some way either by confronting the person, or simply visualizing a situation where you feel complete and at peace. Either way, try to find a way to get clear of the past.

4.Identify some people you do admire and list some specific qualities. This person doesn’t have to be someone you know personally, but it should have some relevance to this situation. For example, if you think Brooke Shields is a fantastic mom, jot down a few notes about why you think so. Remember, you don’t have to justify your sources of inspiration to anyone. If Marge Simpson is your idol, that’s fine too. Just try to identify why.

5.Now sit with the original decision or situation you felt some unease with once again. Does it feel any better? Why? If you feel more at peace and at ease, then your choices are consistent with your true essence. You’ve taken a great first step towards living in integrity and building a great personal foundation that will serve you as a parent.

Eithne Egan is a life coach specializing in helping women navigate life transitions such as pregnancy, new motherhood, and special needs parenting. She also coaches women around work/life balance, career changes, coping with divorce, and single parenting. http://www.trueessencecoaching.net
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