Wow, what a week it has been. Last Sunday I sat down to bang out a blog post without the faintest idea what a big nerve it would hit. We are small, newish blog, so I think it was a surprise to both of us when Bunnies or Goldfish started spreading like, well, bunnies. As of this very second that post has been read 130,000 times! That is amazing, incredible, and hard to believe, and I know, Courtney, you join me when I say THANK YOU to every person who has read or shared that post.
But blogs are short, and there’s something more I’d like to say. Something I couldn’t even put my finger on until a couple of days ago.
In my last post I called parents to stand up under the pressure of judgment, to stand tall and proud in the decisions they make for their families.
It is all well and good to beat a drum and call everyone to give up judgment, to give up defensiveness, to give up the pressure of silent superiority. Some of us will accept the call and move forward with a weight lifted from our shoulders, but some of us (dare I say most?) will ring the bell and cry “here, here”, and then wilt under the critical eye of some stranger in the grocery store after we shriek impatiently at our lagging child.
I discovered this week that I’m in the latter category. When 100,000 people read something you’ve written, a few are bound to hate it, and a few of those are bound to comment– meanly. I had
several one such commenter; she wrote, “Can tell this is written by a woman who’s never REALLY had to worry much [sic].”
Her comment isn’t true. My life hasn’t been some Shakespearean tragedy, but it has certainly been wrought with difficulties, challenges and worries. I have my share of baggage and skeletons. When I read this comment my heart stopped. I felt horrible. I texted you that she “shook my confidence”.
The cold fact is people will judge. No blog or call to action will change that. People will look down their nose. They will feel (and act) superior. Humans are emotional creatures, so can be hard not to internalize criticism.
But why did that women’s comment bother me so much? Especially with the barrage of encouragement and at-a-girls that also came?
I’ll tell you, it’s because, like all good lies, it reeked, just a bit, of truth. My life is good right now. My kids are both healthy (which was not the case a year ago); my husband is employed; we aren’t rolling in the dough, but we’re solvent; no major tragedies have happened recently, and there’s nothing visible on the horizon (knock wood). Right now, I don’t worry a lot.
And so her comment scratched at the insecurity that lies, not so dormant, inside; the voice that whispers, “Who can relate to you; you are too privileged to be relatable.” “Who are you to give advice or call others to action.” “Look at what a petty, trite person you are. THIS is the problem you write about?”
Yesterday my husband handed me the book he’s reading, “Read these pages,” he said, “So we can talk about it.” He does this often, so I wasn’t surprised by the request, but right now he’s reading a book called First Break All the Rules: What the World’s Greatest Managers do Differently. I was confused. It was hard to see what I could bring to a conversation about that book. But it was only three pages, so I agreed. Those three pages were a chapter called “The Third Key: Focus on Strengths”. The big idea of the chapter is that managers should spend more energy exploiting an employees strengths than trying to improve their weaknesses. The book claims that when a typical manager reviews an employee, she will briefly mention the person’s strengths and then primarily focus on their weakness or areas of growth, and this, according to the book, is a bad method.
Blah, Blah, Blah, Blah, Blah.
But then, eureka.
As I read the end of the chapter, where the author discuss the impact of the typical manager’s review, he says,
“…you ended up feeling as though you were being defined by those things you did not do rather than those things you did. And that felt awful.” (emphasis mine)
Hmmm, well I’ll be. Let’s see, if we replace manager with “judgy parent” and employee with “judged parent” know what we get? We get a reason to ignore the judgement, or mommy wars, or whatever you call it, that is far greater than just “doing what’s best for your family”.
That quote emphasizes the trouble with allowing other people’s judgments to infiltrate you. Even when there’s truth behind the critique, when you let it in, you also allow in a lie — the lie that says you as a mother (or wife, women, friend) are defined what you lack rather than by what you offer. That’s a lie. And you do yourself (and your children) a disservice if you buy-in to it.
This doesn’t mean you can’t learn and grow. It doesn’t mean you can’t take constructive criticism and improve yourself. What it does mean is that more than just standing proud in your decisions, you must shrug off judgment to keep it from creating a lie you accidentally start to believe– the lie that says “I am not enough”. That lie will kill you. It will kill your spirit. It will kill your joy. It will put you on a path of failure, as you strive in vain to achieve perfection.
So when you feel judged, whether it is real or imagined, take a moment to sort out what is true what isn’t. Because the sum of you as a mother cannot be defined by a moment or a decision. And it certainly can’t be defined by someone else!
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