You're Always More Than You Think You Are

There was something about being a mother that, in the early part, made me feel really unsure of myself, that I had no idea what I was doing. People said well done and that I was doing great, but I never believed them or gave myself credit. I could only focus on how I should be happier and how my baby should be crying less or sleeping more or whatever.

I had no connection to the mother's intuition everyone kept talking about. Go with your gut, they said, but I didn't know WHAT my gut was saying (except that it was up for another slice of carrot cake).

Later on I realised that not going to work every day (and a transition to motherhood, and sleep deprivation) meant that my self-confidence had taken a big hit. At work I got praise and good results, I did well in appraisals, and there was constant office chatter to keep me occupied.

With a new baby, days can feel long and lonely, full of unpredictability and emotionally but not intellectually challenging. I realised my self-worth was linked to external validation - people telling me I had done well or was good at something. I didn't have a steady centre of self-belief, I kept falling back into the same patterns of not thinking I was good enough.

With hindsight of course, lots of hard things are a blessing in disguise, or at least in life-coach speak, "an opportunity for growth". More and more I have realised that motherhood is a reckoning, an initiation of sorts, and that you can't expand as a human without struggle and difficulty. If we all stayed in our box we'd never change for the better, right? And if my maternity leave made it clear how shaky my own sense of self-worth was, then later on I had the chance to bolster it up so that it wasn't so reliant on getting a compliment or people telling me I'd done well or they liked what I was doing.

Of course it's all a work in progress, and most of us have some feelings of inadequacy so ingrained in us that it takes a lot of work to spot them then try and change them.

Here's a little exercise for you, inspired by a training I did with the brilliant Clare Waters:

  1. Write the words "I am a great mother" ten times (or instead of mother swap in "partner" or "woman" or "astronaut" or whatever is relevant to you).

  2. Each time you hear your inner critic protesting - saying "I don't do enough" or "I lose my temper too much" or "I'm on my phone too much" or "I don't know what I'm doing", write these counter-assertions down too.

  3. First of all notice if just writing them down makes them seem more like negative beliefs than "the truth". And then flip them into positive statements, even if you don't believe them right now - so the first statement could become "I do more than enough to look after everyone brilliantly", and the second could become "I'm doing my best to stay calm under pressure and get better at this every day."

I used to think that affirmations were as cheesy as hell but now I think they're necessary to counter the constant chatter of our minds and our propensity to think the worst of ourselves. 

And lastly, a rule of thumb, which I came to believe when I noticed nearly everyone I know has a negatively skewed opinion of themselves is: you are always more than you think you are. 

You can just call that to mind and assume it's almost certainly true if you're feeling inadequate.

You are always more than you think you are.

You are always more than you think you are.