Here's how to "let yourself be" without feeling like a failure.
One day, I took my boys to their well visit. I was sick myself. I pulled out something cute(ish) to put on and ultimately put it back. Deciding to commit the ultimate act of motherhood frumpiness, I threw on my sweats instead and called it good.
You know what happened next, right? I ran into someone I know. And, of course, she was dressed adorably and had her three precious kids in tow looking equally as cute. It was an easy opportunity for me to feel like a big loser, but instead, the thought didn't even cross my mind. I said hello, chatted for a minute, and let it go.
It was later, at the grocery store, when I was trying to wipe blue sucker drool off my toddler's face before I got him out of the car, when a young couple (with no kids) was getting in the car next to me. As they were waiting for me to take care of my child business, I stopped and thought, “I wonder what kind of mom they think I am." I looked down at my sweats and kind of chuckled at that thought. To an outsider, I could definitely look like a frumpy housewife that has sticky kids (it's inevitable) and no longer cares about herself (not true).
But, the funny thing is, while I am admittedly having an off day, I feel like I care about myself even more now than ever.
Because, it's not that I don't care about looking nice—it's more about not caring about those around me looking in anymore. They don't know my story. And, right now, it's about taking care of me and my kids. The rest is no one else's business. And, even if that means that one day I leave my house in sweats, because I have eaten toast and Sprite for the last 48 hours—and now have a cold on top of that then—so be it.
But it's been a process to learn to let go of the perfection complex and embrace the idea of simply doing the best you can that day. As a young mom, I felt deflated if the baby had a blowout in her cute outfit and she had to run errands with me barefoot in a plain white onesie. Today, I feel happy if my kids have their clothes on when we leave the house.
Sure, some might think this is a form of “letting yourself go," but I don't see it that way. I see it as a form of “letting yourself be,"and letting myself have an off day if I need one.
Because, I'm allowed to have an off day, too, right? After all, I did just spend an entire day hanging over the toilet like ALL humans have to do from time to time. So, why not allow myself to be human? Letting myself take as much time as I need wiping blue sucker drool off the face of my kid might slow down the young couple next to me, but aren't I important too?
My son's recent birthday party is a good example. I had decided to have a low-key party, pancakes and pajamas themed. The kids would come over at 9 am on Saturday in their PJs and eat pancakes, have a dance party in the basement, and then it would be over.
But, then, I started to feel like that wasn't enough. I decided I needed to decorate and had plans to put cute little toothpick washi tape flags in every stack of pancakes. I even enlisted my 7-year-old to help make them. I also bought some pompoms that I was going to thread, string, and hang for decoration. And I made a cute banner that I spent too much time on. Suddenly, this party had to be Pinterest-worthy and handmade.
Admittedly, I had lost my marbles for a minute. And when Friday night rolled around, I just plain ran out of time. I left the pompoms sitting there. Unopened.
The morning of the party no one cared about the decorations. Four and 5-year-olds care about pancakes and fun. Not decorations.
I could have felt like a failure, but I didn't. I hosted 10 kids at my house and fed them all breakfast. That is no easy task, my friends. I let myself be, which meant I went to bed on Friday night when I was tired, instead of stringing pompoms.
So, how do you get there? How do you “let yourself be" without feeling like a failure?
Ask yourself who's standard are you trying to meet? If it's yours, or God's, then that's okay. If it's anyone else's, then it's time to re-evaluate the pressure you are putting on yourself.
Ask yourself, “Would I expect this level of perfection of my kids?" If the answer is no, then it probably means no for you, too. Would you expect your kids to always say yes to a friend who doesn't treat them equally as well? Then why expect it of yourself?
Be perfect in something. Sounds hard right? Maybe one mom is perfect in always looking cute when she goes out. That works for her. But maybe your perfection is that you never yell at your kids, or you never deny them a hug, or you always read a bed-time story. You have areas in your life where you are perfect, you just need to discover and remind yourself of them when you start the comparison game.
Go above and beyond sometimes. The key word here is sometimes. Don't do it always, but do it sometimes, so that you can remember those times on days when you just can't do it all.
Take care of yourself. You definitely don't want to forget to brush your teeth or put normal clothes on regularly. That would be letting yourself go. Take time to remember that humans need to and can look pretty, too. But, don't beat yourself up if it isn't a daily affair.
It's a process that takes time, and I'm not perfect at it either—far from it in fact. But on the days that I do allow myself to “be" imperfect, I find myself a little more.