Why Am I Hiding Behind My Mask?

“Whilst everyone around me appears to have it all sorted and up together, I’m struggling to meet the high standards and produce the work to the deadlines…I feel like I’m falling apart”

These are real thoughts of millions of working mothers on a global scale.  They never feel they are able to manage two very demanding and different worlds every day – the working world and the motherhood world.

The number one emotion working mums report experiencing isn’t love or happiness, success or satisfaction, but self-doubt.  It’s a silent kind of doubt, because we manage to convince ourselves that no-one else is experiencing this kind of damaging doubt like we are.

If it looks pretty easy for the working mums around us, we should say it’s easy for us too, right?  This is wrong.  The answer is telling the truth.

Appearances aren’t always what they seem, especially when it comes to your colleagues’ or manager’s professional personas.

Comparing yourself to when they are seemingly working at their best when you feel at your worst is like comparing apples with pears – it won’t work.  But it’s normal for us to put ourselves through this mental turmoil.

The truth is that if you saw the fast-speed showreel of your day, you’d look pretty amazing too.  So take that to heart and STOP running that instant replay of what you would see as a failure in your mind and comparing that to others as they’re doing everything ‘perfectly.’   That’s just exhausting and not fair on you.  Here are just a few ideas to help you silence your self-doubt:

  • Silence your inner critic – If you hear your mum friends saying they’re not good enough, you’re probably one of the first to say ‘that’s not true’ right?  But we have no problem saying that about ourselves. What would you say to your best friend if she told you she felt like she was ‘falling apart’ at work?  That’s how you should be talking to yourself.
  • Take off your mask – There is no doubt that the women you’re putting on a pedestal feel just as uncertain and shaky as you do;  perhaps they’ve just got good at keeping it quiet.  Find a working mother with children slightly older than yours and have a chat over a coffee.  Be brave enough to express your own struggles and I bet she’ll match and raise you with her own.
  • Forgive yourself & focus on your strengths – Remind yourself that you are imperfect and that you are going to work every day to get better.  Think of all of the good things about yourself that you can rely on to help you behave differently next time.  Writing a list of your ‘Top 5 Strengths’ (do more if you want), ensuring your list contains things that you really believe about yourself, remembering that no-one gets it right 100% of the time.  Then, if an incident occurs, take a 5 minute break, slow your breathing down, seek support, forgive yourself and plan what you want to do differently next time then review how your list of strengths can help you achieve it.
  • Look at the big picture – Not every email you write is a game-changer and not every presentation is bonus worthy, but you wouldn’t be where you are RIGHT NOW if people didn’t have confidence in YOU.  Now it’s time to really, really believe that, which for most working mothers can be much harder than working towards the next promotion.

Focusing your energy on thoughts that will serve you going forward will ultimately help you fight off those feelings of self-doubt.  There’s a great quote that says “It’s not who you are that holds you back, it’s who you think you’re not.”  So, if you’ve been criticising yourself for a long time and it’s not working out, try approving of yourself and see what happens.