Are You Afraid of Judgment?
"Authenticity is a lifesaver in motherhood."
Last Friday, I revealed the truth behind my positively curated online presence and confessed an ugly breakdown.
This was NOT an easy post to share. Shame made me hesitate, but instinct insisted,
You MUST share this if your goal is to help moms. Authenticity is a lifesaver in motherhood.
I took the plunge and clicked, “Publish.”
Then, you liked my post, shared it with friends, left comments, and flooded my inbox with more encouragement. In the wake of that response I thought,
What the heck was I so afraid of?
Judgment, of course; that pesky critical voice in my mind I always assume is echoing your thoughts. However, I'm apparently more negative than you. When I said, “I suck,” your compassionate response inspired healing and growth.
If you are wondering where I found the courage to share, I'll suggest that I am willing to be vulnerable less because I am courageous and more because I am experienced. One thing I have learned in the trenches is the #MeToo moments about our failures and imperfections nourish this Mom's soul.
While it's soothing to know I am not alone, leaning into the vulnerability required to reap that reward does NOT get easier. Sharing my most intimate thoughts with you can be extremely uncomfortable, so I keep my eye on the prize. Experience proves an authentic exchange is healing, and perhaps the greatest lesson I have learned in a decade of motherhood.
I credit Brené Brown for my enlightenment about The Power of Vulnerability. This is wisdom I wish I knew back as a new mom, but everything I needed to learn on my journey. It has taken a long time to find this place of resilience, and I've dredged through a lot of failure.
Yes, I’ve messed up, but I’m still a good enough mom. There are times I have been unhappy, but I always show up with love. Motherhood has not been easy, but it's fostered growth. Just as I can love and hate my husband all on the same day, motherhood keeps me immersed in a dichotomy of emotional extremes.
That's why self-compassion is another helpful tool, which reminds me that sharing from ANY perspective about my blessed life doesn’t mean I am a "bad mom" or even “ungrateful" – it just means I am human.
However, when it comes to the vehicle through which my words connect with you, I feel pressured to show only "what’s good" in the vortex of social media. Still, my positively curated presence has been bugging me since we returned from our exploratory trip to Singapore and Hong Kong. Everyone commented online and in real-life,
“Asia looked like an awesome vacation!”
Indeed, we carved out time for “fun” (a memory of our visit to Gardens by the Bay in Singapore above), but in reality, that trip was an EXPERIENCE complete with nine grueling days of apartment viewings sandwiched in between multiple school tours, in two countries 8,000 miles away, with four jet-lagged children under nine.
Is there an emoji for that?
Ultimately, visiting Asia WAS an awesome experience, but leaving you with ONLY the positive is misleading in a way telling any new mom the gig is ONLY filled with joy.
Motherhood has been hard, but the struggle is what made me into a better, stronger version of myself. This growth inspired my “Yes” to adventure, and the reason I agreed to move to Hong Kong.
Yet for all my resilience, I still had an ugly breakdown. Furthermore, I cannot help but notice moving abroad leaves me feeling like a new mom again:
--I am totally overwhelmed.
--I have to pick a million brains before I make a decision on anything.
--I need a lot of help.
Ok, early motherhood was so much harder you guys, because I was too ashamed to admit I was struggling and get the help I needed. That's the long and short of why I gave my fears about judgment a swift kick in the ass and dared to bare my imperfection. Then, you responded with love and rewarded my risk.
Clearly, if I had been less afraid of judgment in early motherhood, I would have had a lot more fun. Hindsight’s 20-20 but at the very least, comparing motherhood to my journey abroad gives me hope.
See, I spent those first few moments of motherhood (ten years ago this June) on the bathroom floor in disbelief and tears. Motherhood came knocking on my door A LOT earlier than I anticipated. During my "Hong Kong Breakdown," I cried because,
Moving abroad was NOT in my plans.
As a new mom I lamented the independence I was losing, and feared the great unknown. Now I'm sad about leaving a life I love behind to start over in a foreign country.
Before those pregnancy tests confirmed my maternal destiny, I'd heard babies bring immeasurable joy (but it sure looked like a lot of work). While I have searched high and low, I am yet to find an expat who regrets the living abroad experience (and I pray I'll be as strong as these women who adventured before me).
My first “Mom” thoughts:
Can I handle this? I am scared....
Yes, these are the thoughts I’m battling in my mind RIGHT NOW, but I’m less concerned about my persistent fears and imperfection, because I vividly recall picking my knocked-up self up off the bathroom floor and drying my tears. Even though I didn’t fully believe it at the time, instinct insisted,
Alicia, you can do this.
Essentially, I moved on pretending to be "great with child" before I really was. Four kids deep, it appears the “fake it till you make it” approach was a success.
Didn’t I tell you I am "strong enough" for an adventure abroad last week?
You know what, though? I’m not faking it this time. I wholeheartedly believe I can handle the challenge that lies ahead.
Maybe then, the only judgment I should make about my current state of ungraceful resilience is:
Alicia, are you courageous enough to honor your WHOLE self?
Then to my mom friends out there I'll ask,
"Will you push past your fears of judgment to reap the reward of an authentic connection?"