First of all, the perfect mom does not exist. She’s a total sham. No one can do it all - especially while also rocking perfect hair, a spotless house, a rewarding marriage, a meaningful social life, and a self care routine that goes beyond actually remembering to floss.


But beyond the fact that striving for perfection is a lost cause, it’s a major disservice to our children.


Wait, what? We’re trying to do it all FOR our children! Why would setting the bar so high be BAD for them? Well…


Studies show that our example is the most influential factor in our children’s development. What we say barely matters when compared to what we DO. And they’re always watching.


“As children develop, their brains "mirror" their parent's brain. In other words, the parent's own growth and development, or lack of those, impact the child's brain. As parents become more aware and emotionally healthy, their children reap the rewards and move toward health as well.” ― Daniel J. Siegel, The Whole-Brain Child

Our children see how we value other people’s opinion of ourselves over our own (which is a big perfectionist motivator when you get right down to it). They see how you burn yourself out and melt down when things don’t go as planned, how you neglect yourself in the name of helping everyone else, and how you are stressed out more than you are at ease. They see how you handle yourself when you mess up, choose poorly, or regret something. And they definitely see you grumpily running around trying to make their birthday party Pinterest-worthy instead of being present and spending time celebrating with them.


They see you set yourself on fire to keep others warm - and even though its our children we're often setting ourselves on fire for, the message is loud and clear: self care isn't important.


And if that’s all they see you do, that’s eventually what they will do too. You’re their example. You’re their everything, and they’re looking to you for lessons on how to live. Teaching them to strive for perfection over authenticity is not what you want them to learn from you, trust me.


When you value perfection and keeping up with the Jones's, they’ll see that impressing others is what life is all about. They’ll start looking outside of themselves for validation and worthiness because you’ve accidentally taught them that their value is in how others perceive them or how much they accomplish.


Imagine your children as adults burning the candle at both ends day after day. Imagine them ignoring their body’s signals to slow down and take care of themselves. Imagine your children stuffing their true feelings or needs deep down inside because they don't want to upset anyone with their authenticity or show the world that they could use some help. Imagine them judging the success of their birthday by how many likes they got on her Instagram photos of it instead of the love and support they felt from the loved ones that chose to come celebrate with them.


And then there’s this: imagine your children pulling away from you or hiding their true messy, imperfect selves because they know you value perfection over authenticity. And then imagine them judging themselves on your behalf because they aren’t able to do it all like you did when they were kids. After all, you were perfect, but they aren’t. Clearly they’re not good enough, right?


You see, even if you manage to pull off the illusion of perfection and effectively hide the toll it’s taking on your well-being, you’re setting the bar way too high. But your kids won’t realize your example was a sham. And they’ll fail trying to fill your shoes. And they’ll be ashamed. Or they’ll rebel, close off, hide.


One of my greatest fears as a parent is having a strained relationship with my children. It is so incredibly important to me to be a positive example of how to be vulnerable, authentic, and imperfect with as much grace as I can muster.


I want my children to see when I fall short, mess up, choose poorly, and fall on my face. I want them to see how I get up and try again. I want them to see a mother who’s not afraid to apologize, make amends, take responsibility, and keep moving forward. I want them to know that I’ll understand when they mess up… because they will, of course. And hopefully after witnessing me pick up the pieces time after time, they’ll see me as a wise ally ready to greet them with a giant empathetic hug and maybe some insight (if they want it, of course).


“Authenticity is a practice, and you choose it every day — sometimes every hour of every day” - Brené Brown

A couple posts ago, I wrote about how and why we shy away from accepting help from the world when we’re struggling. And it's still on my mind. This idea that we should be able to do it all or else we’re failing is incredibly pervasive in our society, and it’s so hard to fully escape it.


Whether you tend to shy away from assistance because of shame, embarrassment, or any of the other reasons I listed in my other post, there is usually an element of caring too much about what other people think. Not only is it none of your business to worry about what other people are thinking (even it’s about you), but it’s a pointless endeavor because you just can’t ever really know the full story behind their opinion. Even if someone tells you what they think -- and they’re actually being completely honest -- you can never fully understand it because you won't ever truly know their point of view and the huge array of thoughts, experiences, emotions and other random baggage behind the opinion being dealt.


What someone thinks of you is actually all about them. Not you.


Sure, you inspired the thought/opinion/judgement, but it’s based on their own perceptions. Two people could witness you doing something and have completely different thoughts on it. One could think you’re the worst because what you did reminds them of something shitty from their childhood. The other could think you’re awesome because they would have done the same thing, and they relate to you. Either way, they judged the situation based on their own experience. Their judgement was about them; you just inspired it.


Let that sink in for a minute.


Let's say on separate occasions, you ask two different friends to babysit your kids while you go get an oil change (because three kids chilling in the Jiffylube waiting room is just not happening). One is offended you’d ask because she’s so busy, and you should be able to handle your own kids out in public. The other friend says she’d love to, and you should also get your nails done while you’re at it.


It would be so easy to fixate on what the friend that didn’t want to help said. Maybe I should just take them with me even though we’d all be miserable. I suck at managing my kids. She’s right; I chose to have these kids, I should be able to take them with me anywhere. I suck.


OR you can accept that your friend just expressed her boundaries (however rudely), and you should not go to her for that kind of help again. She has her reasons and opinions, and that’s ok.


You may choose to tell her that her reaction hurt your feelings (which is expressing your own boundaries about how you expect to be spoken to), but you don’t need to internalize her opinion of you, you don’t need to get defensive, and you don’t have to go down the rabbit hole of trying to understand it either. She didn’t want to help. She expressed that. Next time seek help elsewhere. You could never ever fully explain her motivations for responding to you that way, and unless you plan to ask her directly, you won’t ever understand it by spinning your wheels, inventing stories, and ruminating.


This is not to say you shouldn’t have heart-to-hearts and try to address conflict directly and respectfully; that’s certainly an option, but you shouldn’t put the ‘judgmental friend’s’ opinion of you higher than the ‘accepting friend’s’ opinion of you or -- more importantly -- your own opinion of yourself, which is actually what this blog post is really about.


Your opinion of yourself always trumps anyone else’s opinion of you, whether it’s good or bad. If someone comes at you with an opinion of you that resonates with you, it will affect you. Period. If their opinion doesn’t reflect your own opinion of yourself, it won’t even register.


Silly example:

Someone says they hate your Parks & Rec tattoo. Internally, you’ve been regretting ever getting it. Their opinion devastates you because they’re right; what were you thinking? How much does laser removal cost?


Someone says they hate your Parks & Rec tattoo. Your tattoo is the best tattoo in the history of tattoos. This person is obviously delusional for not agreeing. You don’t give their opinion any merit.


Serious example:

Your kid is having a ridiculously dramatic meltdown at Target over a toy you said he can’t have. You’re feeling inadequate, ashamed, and embarrassed.  A stranger looks you right in the eye and gives you a dirty look. Your shame and embarrassment quadruple, and you want to crawl into a hole.


Your kid is having a ridiculously dramatic meltdown at Target over a toy you said he can’t have. You know your kid is having an off day, and tantrums are just a normal part of childhood. You think you’re handling it pretty damn well.  A stranger looks you right in the eye and gives you a dirty look. You ignore it because they’re just being rude for whatever reason. Maybe they need a hug just as bad as your screaming toddler does.


My point is that the only way to transcend the negative opinions of others is to manage your own opinions of yourself. If someone’s judgement triggers you, get curious. Why does their opinion bother you so much? What internal thoughts are sneakily being validated by their judgement? Is that opinion of yourself fair? Can you change it? What can you do to minimize the effect of that limiting belief about yourself?


When we let the opinions of others affect us we give them all of our power. Our thoughts and actions are driven by the motivation to avoid or change their judgements, and we end up acting in ways that serve them and not us. Which (surprise!) takes us back to the topic of asking for and accepting help.


If we’re beholden to all the random reasons we don’t want to ask for help (see my last blog post), then we are probably putting the expected judgement from others before our need for support. Which is silly, hurtful, pointless, and -- honestly -- just really hard to stop. Our brains are so hardwired to try to belong, be accepted, and be loved that it is extremely hard not to care what other people think. But it’s a worthy goal. Carefully crafting positive opinions of ourselves and being vulnerable around the people we trust is imperative if we expect to live life outside of survival mode. If we can manage to do that, then asking for help wouldn’t be so excruciating.


So get curious. Next time you’re afraid to reach out for help, ask yourself why?. Wonder if your reason is valid, or if it is based on an insecurity. Are you asking the right person in the right way (upfront and honestly)? If they decline, are you spinning a story around it? Are you internalizing their answer? What are you making their answer mean about you? Is it true? Or can you just accept their answer without falling down the shame spiral?

Things I Need To Stop Saying, Like, Yesterday.


I am tired.

We are broke.

Etta doesn’t sleep.

My boys are crazy.

I just need more time.


Why? They’re true, so why does it matter what I say? The short answer comes straight from my favorite, Jen Sincero:


“What comes out of your mouth comes into your life.”

The long answer is that our current reality is simply our interpretation of what we’re experiencing. Yes, there are factual, concrete, actual things happening all around us, but we rarely, if ever, interpret reality simply for what it is. We run every single moment, every color we see, and every word we hear through a complex system of filters that are made up of our individual and highly interpreted experiences. An argument you had with your husband is never simply about the words that were said. It’s about the tone he used that reminds you of your mother, the fact that you were hangry, the memory of the argument you just had with your boss that very morning, and that he said the one word you hate the most because, to you, it triggers your deepest feelings of self doubt. Your husband, or even a totally impartial witness, would describe that argument very different than you would based on their own filters. Our perception of reality is hugely subjective.


Now take into consideration the fact that language is one of the most common ways we define our reality. We think, imagine, and interpret the world with words. If our words describe a situation in a negative light, then the perceived reality of that situation will be negative. Again, I know that facts are facts, but it is incredibly hard for our brains to see past our filters in order to see reality as it simply is. Our words matter. They create the reality we see and the actions we take in response to it.


So back to Sincero’s quote: “What comes out of your mouth comes into your life.” When we define the world with limiting language, we believe that perception is the truth. It becomes a part of our beliefs. And then our brain goes into auto-pilot defining reality with those filters. And then-. we DO things. We take action based on those interpretations and our world starts to take shape.


Don't believe me? Brain science! When our brain comes up against anything that doesn’t fit in with our beliefs, it does one of three things: deletes, distorts, or generalizes.


For example, imagine you’re always talking about how much your kid hates vegetables. When you repeatedly say your kid hates vegetables, either to yourself or out loud, your brain believes it. Its gospel. So if you see your kid eat a handful of baby carrots at a birthday party, your brain will twist that reality to fit into your beliefs.


If your brain deletes the situation, you may simply forget or not even consciously notice the carrots. It literally happened -- your kid ate a damn vegetable, its a miracle -- but your brain deleted that fact because it doesn’t fit into your belief system.


Or your brain might distort the incident to fulfill your expectations. You saw your kid eat the carrots, but you also think you saw him grimace, so you ‘know’ it was a fluke. Reality still is that he ate a vegetable, but you're still able to define him as a veggie hater.


Or perhaps your brain generalizes the situation so that you saw your kid eat the carrots, but you also saw him eat copious amounts of pizza and cake. The memory of your kid eating the veggies gets lost amidst the memories of him eating junk food because you dismiss the out of character behavior.


So why is all of this important? Well, if you believe your kid hates vegetables, would you bother putting carrots in his lunch box? Would you ever bother offering him a bite of your salad? Which came first, the kid hating veggies or your actions telling him he should hate veggies? When we believe something, we act accordingly.


THOUGHTS/WORDS -> BELIEFS -> ACTIONS -> OUTCOME

Watching what you say changes your reality because we are literally able to see what is happening around us differently and respond in ways that generate more intentional outcomes. Imagine how the above example would change if you found a true statement that was more empowering. Maybe your child is a good sport about trying new foods. He may still dislike most vegetables, but if you believe he will try any food at least once, you’d offer him way more vegetables, and he may eventually end up loving a few of them. (And bonus, if you say that new statement out loud around your child often enough, he will adopt that belief about himself too).


We all say things that limit us, but with a little awareness, we can change our words and our lives for the better. Below is some clarity I gleaned from a recent journal entry. I had just fessed up about some limiting phrases that kept falling out of my mouth, and I wanted to call myself out. Maybe reading my process will help you discover some of your own limiting language so you can clean it up. (Also journaling is awesome. You should totally do it. I lay it all out here if you're interested in learning how to journal with more ease and intention)


I AM TIRED. Do I get a lot of sleep? No. Could I go to bed earlier? Yes. So I’m complaining about something I’m not really actively trying to fix? For one, that’s annoying. Two, I’m acting like this is who I am. And that's no good. If I start identifying as a tired person, no amount of sleep will make me feel rested. I will always feel tired because thinking that thought will become such a habit that I may actually lose the ability to notice when I’m feeling rested. If I stop the habit of voicing how tired I always am, maybe, just maybe, I will be better able to prioritize the kind of self care that will make me feel better, even when I’m lacking sleep. Think about it, if feeling tired is unavoidable, would you prioritize going to bed earlier if it seemed pointless? Would you become dependent on coffee because you always NEED it? Would you habitually avoid exercising, playing with your kids, running errands, etc. because you just don’t have the energy? I would, and I do. So “I am tired” is getting kicked out of my vocabulary.


WE ARE BROKE. Oh money. I wasn’t very prepared for this maternity leave, but are we really broke? No. It feels like it because we had gotten used to living on more income, but the truth is that we still have a great home, working cars, plenty of food, and enough wiggle room for the occasional splurge. We absolutely look forward to me getting back to work, but in the meantime, we’re ok. So besides the fact that we’re not actually broke, saying we are gets me into more trouble because when I say it, I believe it. And when I believe it, I fall into a grumpy, lack mindset and cope by… wait for it… spending money. It’s really a ridiculous reaction, but oxytocin is a tough adversary, and I just want to believe retail therapy will make me feel better even when I logically know it won’t. In any case, I need to stop saying we’re broke because it’s not true, it feels shitty, and it makes me do dumb things that perpetuate the very problem I’m trying to solve.


ETTA DOESN’T SLEEP. Etta is so sweet and smiley and alert, but I get very caught up in the story that she doesn’t sleep, and it clouds my perception of her. Of course, the truth is that she does sleep. All babies sleep. They just don’t always sleep according to our expectations (or desperate pleas). So she’s not that magical third born baby that can sleep through my boy’s noise or go 6 hours without nursing. She does sleep amazingly well in her carseat while I’m running errands. And she usually falls asleep on her own with a swaddle and a pacifier while I run around the house doing all the things. And when she predictably wakes me up every three hours at night, she quickly nurses and falls back to sleep without even opening her eyes. So yeah, it could be a lot worse, but it’s hard to keep that perspective when I’m constantly telling myself that she sucks at sleeping.


THE BOYS ARE CRAZY. Let’s just say my boys can sometimes be a handful. But whose kids aren’t? So my kids are energetic, competitive, rambunctious, and loud. They’re also loving, funny, communicative, and all around awesome. And while I’m sure many people would call them wild if they stopped by our house on a typical evening around dinner time, it narrows the way I perceive them, and it just doesn’t serve me (or them) well. When I align with the thought that my boys are wild, I shy away from taking them on outings, I grit my teeth and interact with them from a place of defensiveness, I’m less willing to try new things with them, I get self-conscious around new people because I fear they’ll judge my parenting, and I find myself missing the sweet moments because those moments don’t fit into the box I’ve put my boys in (typing that hurts a little). What’s worse is that I also find myself labeling them as wild out loud. And they hear me. They hear me call them wild, and I have to wonder how much of their wildness is purely from them and how much of it is because they’re playing the part I assigned them. Children rise to the expectations put upon them, and I’d rather describe them in a way that fosters a more positive outcome. So instead of saying my boys are wild, I’m going to pay more attention to the actual moment and find a way to view their behavior in a way that is empowering instead of limiting. They’re being rowdy at the dinner table? They’re having fun, but need some guidance. They’re clobbering each other in the Costco shopping cart? They’re still learning how to communicate and respect boundaries. They’re licking and poking Etta? They love her sooooo much and need help expressing their feelings appropriately. When I drop the generic description and stop seeing them as simply wild, I can see the situation on a deeper level, understand them more, be more present and RESPOND instead of REACT.


I DON'T HAVE ENOUGH TIME. This is a big one. We all say it, and no matter how often I try to check myself on this one, the words keep falling out of my mouth. The truth is that my priorities are not in alignment with what I actually want, and there’s a trickle down effect that is compounding the problem. I need to rephrase “I don’t have time” to “that’s just not important to me” and see how that feels. I don’t have time to exercise… more like exercising isn’t as important to me as getting another hour of sleep. And getting another hour of sleep isn’t as important to me as Netflix. OUCH. In my shower, I have a waterproof notepad (yes, that’s a real thing, and you need it) that literally says “if you have time to scroll endlessly on social media, you have time to meditate.” It’s so true. So true! But I still don’t meditate every day… probably because I don’t see that note every day, if you know what I mean. But seriously, I have lots of time that I squander away, and besides bringing more self awareness into my days, I need to stop saying I need more time and start using all the time I do have with more intention.


I'd love to hear what limiting words or phrases have been falling of your mouth lately. We all have so much in common, and can learn so much from each other when we're being open and real. What have you been saying lately that doesn't serve you?

© 2020 AMANDA PATRICE | all rights reserved
Orange County, CA United States
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