“I’m the worst mom”
I’ve told myself this more than once.
Yesterday, I was on the phone with my mom.
On the road to a Girl Scout leader’s meeting, I complained to her about a fight I had earlier in the day when I said, “I just feel like I’m failing all the time.”
“No,” my mom told me, “You’re not failing all the time. Look how much you do.”
I wiped the tears from my eyes with the back of my hand as I stared at the road. “Yes, but I feel like my kids just come home and stare at the TV and I don’t want to do anything with them.”
“Personally,” my mom added, “I think that moms today do way too much for their kids.”
She is not wrong.
But, it still doesn’t stop these feelings of unworthiness, not measuring up or feeling like we aren’t succeeding as parents.
But, I am not the worst mom.
You are not the worst mom.
These are not feelings of guilt
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At least, not healthy guilt.
In her book, Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead, Dr, Brene Brown breaks down the language behind shame and guilt.
Guilt is regret over something that we’ve done wrong. It can be a very healthy emotion because it leads us to correct our misdeeds and become better people.
It would be appropriate to feel guilty if say you drove while intoxicated and caused an accident. Or perhaps, yelled profanity at a co-worker because they accidentally spilled coffee near your desk.
You can look at both of these actions and say, Yes, totally in the wrong. I need to correct my behavior.
That’s not what we moms are doing to ourselves.
Irrational guilt is when we feel guilty about something that goes against our irrationally high standards.
I admit, I almost did a spit take with my coffee when I read that definition.
That guilt you feel about
- not having afternoon activities planned for your kids
- not being the “fun mom”
- Having a slightly dirty house
All of those come from the irrationally high standards.
Those feelings of guilt are completely unhelpful. They lead us to over emphasize self punishment instead of healthy change.
And then there’s the shame
When we go one step further and cross the bridge from “what I did is the worst” to “I am the worst,” we can stamp our passport because we have crossed the border into shame country.
With shame, we believe we are fundamentally flawed- unworthy of acceptance, a voice or deserving of anything good in our lives.
Frankly, shame sucks.
As Brene Brown further elaborates, shame is silent. We don’t talk about our shame. It stays quiet within us where it causes more emotional damage festering than it would if we let it out.
When we have “I’m the worst mom” on repeat, we start to internalize it.
You need to let it out
That conversation with my mom helped me pull myself together, because I gave a voice to the shame that I felt.
Often, the best tactic against these feelings of “I’m the worst mom” or “I’m the worst friend” or “I’m the worst sister” is to share your feelings with someone who has earned the right to hear them.
Meaning, if you have someone who tells you that your feelings are silly and that you have such an easy life… they are not your person to help you overcome this.
You always have a right to feel what you feel.
To conquer your “worst mom” shame, find someone who will emphasize.
Someone to say, “Yes, that totally sucks” and “I’ve been there too”.
Many times, you will need to talk to more than more person so that you can see the different perspectives.
In my case, I need to hear the reassurance from many trusted people because it’s harder for me to refute claims from multiple sources.
You are not the worst mom
We are all victims of our irrationally high standards. When those standards start becoming our internal monologue, that’s when we need to share our feelings of shame with people we trust.
You’re not alone.
You are a great mom.