Updated: Nov 13, 2022
I returned from a week in Morocco a few days ago. While I didn't travel alone because I went as part of a poetry retreat, I did go without my family. So, for one week I got to remove all the hats I wear and just experience a new place, with new people, as myself, for myself. I didn't have to compromise what I wanted or needed to be deemed a good mother, wife or community member. I got to be unabashedly self-first.
Perhaps the hardest part of parenting and marriage for me is continuously sacrificing what I want or need in lieu of what I feel like I should do for my family. Notice how I said should do. Just a short time ago I would have said what I have to do for my family. But as I've worked on myself I've realized that I don't have to do anything. I get to choose how and when I show up for my family, my friends, my community, for myself- for my life. Shoulding all over myself is exhausting and self-deprecating, but in my eyes it's better than feeling like I have no choice.
In the past I got a temporary high from self sacrifice and all that I had to do, only to come crashing down to feelings of resentment, bitterness or disconnection from myself. So when "mom guilt" or these feelings would arise, I did what we Mom's do best: do more. More work around the house, more decorating, more cooking, more volunteering, more carpooling and more shopping. I topped all of the "doing" off with some numbing since I could never actually do enough to feel whole- drinking wine at night and watching tv shows, gossiping, and eating comfort food.
Now the discernment between what I should do and what I have to do, (never mind identifying who it's really for) is of course easier said than done. I don't always get it right either, because you know, I'm just a human with her stuff. Sometimes my desire to protect my children (aka my fear) prevents me from doing what's best for them or for me. Sometimes my desire to be liked prevents me from saying whats on my mind. And sometimes my imposter syndrome prevents me from pursuing my big, hairy, scary goals. But as I've stopped seeking my worth through others', especially my kids', happiness and success, I've found it's easier to make decisions that are in everyone's best interest.
I used to hinge my worthiness on my kids- how they presented themselves, what they wore, what things they had, what teams they were on and if they had good grades. If they weren't hitting all of these social markers, I was a wreck. My worthiness was a heavy load for them to carry and it really showed in their behavior. They were more anxious, whiny, insecure and overall less present. Frankly, I would have been too if I was being micromanaged and being held to someone else's standard of being. For this reason I've become so passionate about creating a life of my own while supporting them as they create lives of their own. This also goes for my husband, friends, and family.
Now, the shitty part is that even though I believe all of this to be true, it's hard. When I make a choice that's honoring who I am and what I want, it can feel so wrong because I've been programmed to put my family up on a pedestal and abandon myself. I'm going against the cultural norm of putting your family and frankly everything above yourself. So, even when I've done what's in my best interest, I haven't always been able to fully immerse myself in the moment due to feelings of guilt or shame. In the past the feelings of "mom guilt" would have prevented me from pursuing my own health, happiness and purpose. But I have to say, I was all in on my trip to Morocco and I think it's because I've seen the power of being self-first over the last few years. There is a major trickle down affect....I now know that if I get better, the people around me get better. Everyone I encounter gets better because the energy I bring to them is better.
Because women are told that our worth is measured by how we serve others, we think if we just do one more thing that we'll feel like we're enough or that some how we'll find ourselves in all the-self sacrificing. What no one tells us is that we won't feel whole, or worthy until we begin to serve ourselves first. For me this means prioritizing my sleep, eating well, exercising regularly, writing, meditating and only spending time with people who are working on themselves too. This means saying no to anything that doesn't allow me to truly honor myself. When I do this, I feel better able to show up as myself. This means I'm sharing the best version of me with my kids- not the bits and pieces I've managed to salvage. Most importantly, I'm no longer giving from a place of scarcity and lack; I'm giving from a place of compassion and abundance.
It's so important for women, and frankly everyone to create experiences where there are no distractions from self. Where you can reconnect with the part of you that existed before the world told you who or what to be. The you you were before you started a family, a social media account or gave yourself to your career. The part of you that feels inherently worthy of giving and receiving love without conditions. I've said it before and I'll say it again and again until collective healing has been achieved: the world needs more happy, fulfilled people. Your job is not to fix other people or do all the things, your job is to work on yourself- to be self-first.
When you become self-first you give the people around you permission to do the same. When you become self-first you're able to share the best version of you with your friends, loved ones and the people you meet on the street. We all just want to be seen and heard, not for our accomplishments or caretaking, but for who we truly are. So, let's all decide that we're ready to start showing up for ourselves so we can show up as ourselves.
Thank you for reading,
There's a song for that: "Come As You Are", Nirvana