There was a moment when I was a mom of small kids that I looked at my depleting sense of self-worth and wondered, “how did I get here?”
My early years were confident ones. I grew up with many opportunities to explore and utilize my gifts and grow in my self-confidence. My strengths were in thinking deeply, empathy for others and performing. And in those growing up years, my strengths were allowed to shine. I was confident in my abilities and in what I had to offer the world.
However, I had very little interest in the practical details of life and keeping a routine. Things like brushing teeth and cleaning rooms and practicing the piano overwhelmed me. As I matured, there a nagging question grew in the back of my mind, “What if my value were determined by my performance in the things that I’m not good at? What will happen when I am expected to be consistent, detailed and keep a routine?”
I found out when I became a mom. I needed to focus on details and attempt a routine for my kids. My mind turned from deep questions to practical ones. “How am I going to get poop out of this onesie?” and “How can I keep my two-year-old boy from climbing out of his crib at 4:00 a.m. every morning?!” My empathy, which allowed me to connect with other people, spun me onto a roller coaster of emotions. I felt sad when my children cried, angry when my children were angry, and overwhelmed when I couldn’t help them. Add to that a lack of sleep and postpartum depression and I was left wondering where my sense of confidence went.
I started saying incredibly hurtful things to myself.
How could you let that happen?
I’m so stupid!
I can’t handle this!
I’m going crazy!
The moment I felt defeated, I began beating myself down with negative self-talk. It happened so often that I started to avoid my thoughts. I turned to social media to distract me during the day. When the kids were in bed and my husband was working, I would turn on the TV so I wouldn’t have to be alone with the thoughts that frightened me.
I lost my sense of self-respect and belief in my own dignity. It’s pretty hard to offer extravagant love to others when self-shaming makes you want to hide in a hole.
A year ago, things were looking up for me. My youngest was in preschool, I was no longer depressed and I began feeling better about my contribution to the world. But the same old self-shaming phrases kept slipping into my mind. “How did I get to this place where I talk so hurtfully to myself?” And I wondered what could be more true than my negative self-talk.
I decided to participate in Dressember. It is a movement that encourages women to wear dresses every day in December in order to raise awareness and finances to help fight human trafficking. I signed up and learned that one of the primary tenants of this fundraiser is the belief in our own inherent dignity – that each one of us is born, worthy of honor and respect. It is not something that can be earned or lost. As I thought about how I long to see women in all walks of life be treated with respect and honor, I realized my own hypocrisy. How can I advocate for the inherent dignity of other women if I do not believe in my own?
So I determine that every day as I slipped on my dress, I would slip on an awareness of my own dignity and cease all self-shaming words that run through my mind and fill it with words of hope and love.
This year I recruited a team for Dressember. Our team name is: #YourVoiceMatters because I believe whole-heartedly that your voice, indeed, matters. But today I want to add that your inner voice matters. Let us replace our self-shaming self-talk with words that speak life and love into our own hearts so we can speak more powerfully into the hearts of others.
Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.