Self-Compassion: Building Confidence in Motherhood

Self-Compassion: Building Confidence in Motherhood

As a perinatal mental health therapist supporting women on their journey of motherhood, I’ve worked with dozens if not hundreds of moms throughout my career. As a mom myself, I’ve experienced the joys and challenges of motherhood firsthand. Beyond the doctor’s visits, body changes, and postpartum struggles - the biggest hurdle mothers often run into is the unhelpful voice; one that comes bearing intrusive and critical thoughts: 

  • “You can’t even get simple things done like the laundry and dinner. You’re so unorganized.”
  • “The snacks you give your kids should be healthier.”
  • “Why hasn’t your body “bounced back” yet? 
  • “You just aren’t good enough...”

Before we dive further, it’s important to recognize that the negative voice is lying to you. I’m going to talk about a solution that can diminish these thoughts as quickly as they come -  self-compassion. 


What is self-compassion? 

Self-compassion is the extension of kindness, understanding, and love to oneself in the face of perceived inadequacy. Think of it as the same love and kindness that you’d extend to a child, though to yourself. While it seems simple enough, it can be extremely challenging in practice. There are many reasons why this is, but here are three reasons why I see over and over again:  

  1. Social media pressures  
  2. Well-meaning but judgmental friends and family 
  3. Lackluster societal and political infrastructure

Social Media Pressures Spotlight Unrealistic Scenes 

Social media often exacerbates feelings of “not enough”  by presenting highly curated and often unrealistic portrayals of motherhood.  Scrolling through perfectly edited photos and videos of moms seemingly effortlessly managing their lives with beautiful homes, well-dressed children, and fit bodies is destined to lead to comparisons and self-doubt. The constant bombardment of highlight reels (without the full story) understandably can make it difficult for us to feel confident in our journeys. 

Well-Meaning Friends & Family Can Lead to Questioning

While friends and family often have good intentions, their advice and comments can certainly add to feelings of inadequacy. From breastfeeding to sleep, we’ve all experienced unsolicited advice or judgmental comments about our parenting choices or even things we don’t have control over. Though the intent can be good, the impact can cut our confidence and leave us feeling judged and unsupported. We then either try and change even though it’s not what’s best for us or our child, or we hide away, feeling shame or embarrassment, which is isolating. 

If this is something you face, here’s a quick script to use the next time you receive unsolicited advice:

“Thank you for sharing, but this is what we’ve decided works for our family.”

“I’m glad that works well for you! This is what works best for us. It’s great that we have options.”

“I know you mean well, but by you keep bringing this up, it’s feeling unsupportive and is stressful for me. Please stop.” 

Systems Fall Short for Moms  

Societal and political infrastructure often falls short of providing adequate support for mothers. The lack of guaranteed paid maternity leave places mothers in a difficult position as they battle choices of going back to work or staying home with their baby. Skyrocketing costs of childcare add to financial pressures. And, a disparate and siloed healthcare network can feel like a maze for moms seeking postpartum assistance.  Without proper resources and support, it can be challenging for mothers to find confidence in their roles. It’s no wonder that mothers are feeling overwhelmed and inadequate. 


Our own homes can also be inequitable for workload balance. Mothers often are the default parent, shouldering the mental load, the lion's share of childcare and of household tasks. If that’s something you’re struggling with, Eve Rodsky’s book Fair Play is a great place to start. 


How to Bring More Self-Compassion to Your Life 

While the way people portray their lives on social media, the unsolicited advice of family/friends, and political systems are not in our immediate control, speaking kindly to ourselves is. Here are three ways to bring more self-compassion to your motherhood journey: 

  1. Think about how you would respond to a friend or even to your own child. What would you tell them? Why would compassion and kindness be true for them and not for you? You can make mistakes and still be a good person, and a good mother. It’s true for them, and it’s true for you.  
  2. Sometimes our goal can be neutrality, rather than positivity. If feeling great about something feels too far away, try to reframe your self-talk as neutral. For example, if you’re struggling with body image, think about ways your body is working or serving you, and thank it for that. Then go to my third point:
  3. Walk away–figuratively or literally. Sometimes we need to walk away from the mirror. Or shut down social media. Or have more distance with a family member. Or distract ourselves with something healthy like a walk, a phone call to a friend, spending time with a pet, or enjoying a cup of tea. Filling up our time and energy with something positive pushes out time for the negative, and helps us reset. Our feelings are temporary; you can move through them. 

In closing, I will leave you with one important message: 

You aren’t just enough. You are more than enough. 


Tune In To See How to Embrace Your Authentic Self 

Watch Laura’s recent presentation in collaboration with Momcozy. 

 

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