Brene Brown has given many famous TED talks, written books, and been interviewed about her research on shame, courage, and vulnerability. Her interview with Tim Ferriss (here) was so inspirational I listened to it twice in a row.
I have long sense thrown in the towel for trying to be the “perfect mom” (I wrote about why I don’t want my kids to have a perfect Mom in this post) but I figured I should probably shoot for being a good mom, right? Well, after listening to Brene Brown I realized I shouldn’t shoot for being a good mom. No, that is not the goal. I should just know with my WHOLE heart that I am a good mom. That is the goal.
I desperately want my boys to know that no matter what they do I believe they are good. Shouldn’t I give myself that same grace? I yell at the kids, and my self talk is often, “I am so impatient.” I hear other moms talk about things they do for their kids and my self talk is, “I am not enough.” I don’t always measure up to the “good mom.” This feeling is shame, and it sucks up all the light in my heart that would remind me that I am good and smothers it with darkness that defines me as bad. Dr. Brown says, “Shame is the most powerful, master emotion. It’s the fear that we’re not good enough.”
Although knowledge is power, this knowledge alone does not help me much. I feel like I more or less understood this when I wrote my first post on forgetting perfection. However, I didn’t know that there is an emotion very easily confused with shame. It doesn’t leave you lost in darkness. “Guilt is just as powerful, but its influence is positive, while shame’s is destructive. Shame erodes our courage and fuels disengagement.”
Guilt gives you the power to mess up, own it, and keep going strong knowing your are a good mom. Guilt is saying, “I yelled at the kids. That was a dumb way to handle the situation,” or “I don’t play that way with my kids. I shouldn’t be so distracted.” But guess what? I’M A GOOD MOM. No momentary bad behavior defines me as a mother.
Dr. Brown shares this quote as changing her life, and I think yesterday it changed mine. I have heard it before but never as a mom who is constantly trying to measure up to the daunting task of raising good humans that each come with their own rules and quirks and obstacles:
The Man in the Arena
“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better.
The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood;
who strives valiantly;
who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming;
but who does actually strive to do the deeds;
who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause;
who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.” (you can find it on her blog here)
Most people are parents and feel they have earned the right to be your critic. It may be easy for them to point out where you are stumbling, where you could have done better. More importantly, it seems impossible to not be your own critic and feel the pain of the stumbles and see the aftermath of the not doing better.
But after all the criticizing and stumbling and wrong doing you are still in the arena with another human that has never been created before taking the blows, feeling the heat, planning your strategy. The credit belongs to you, Mom. Your face is marred by leftover food and images of mad teenagers and battle wounds from tantrums. And there you are striving, trying. That is valiant. You are messing up, again and again because you are a mom every second of every day, and each new day brings a new challenge you have yet to overcome, and anyone who does that much striving with that much devotion is bound to fail constantly. And you just keep standing back up after every bad move. You just keep showing up after every failed attempt. And with all that failing you still know that your cause is the worthiest. Yes you have failed, but you have gotten up each day and dared greatly. And that is courage. On your worst day, you still have shown up and tried.
Next time you mess up, have guilt and not shame. Stop striving to be a good mom. You are a good mom. The moment you know that truth is the moment you can realize how badass you really are. And trust me…. anyone with this much dirt and food and crap all over them by 9 in the morning every day truly is bad.ass.