Finding Self Worth And Baking My Cake

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self worthI should warn you; this post is not, in fact, about baking a cake… sorry, but I feel like I should get that out there. Now, what this post is about is finding your self-worth. Valuing your own being and being ok with that. Hearing that inner “you go, girl!” And leaning into it.

I looked around the room, full of Indianapolis Moms writers, a safe space, feeling vulnerable, hands poised above the keyboard. We were gathered for our quarterly writing workshop, and I sat there, reflecting on the prompt before us. How can you harness positive energy? How can you remind yourself you’re an amazing mom? And how can you reduce your contact with those things (social media, particular people, etc.) that are life-draining?

This has been a struggle for me my entire journey through motherhood: self-worth as a mother.

There’s no benchmark for motherhood. No grading scale, no annual review, and no process for feedback exist when you’re a mother. This has been the mountain I’ve been climbing for the last five years as a mom. Thankfully that has also led me to countless hours of self-reflection and self-awareness. I am so thankful I’ve honed these skills, and while I still do things that annoy myself, I am more aware of the why.

Pick your set of personality assessments; they’ve all confirmed what I already know. I have high standards for myself, and I expect to meet them. I am a goal setter and a go-getter, but I have a very planned out and efficient way of working towards those goals. I focus on and prioritize facts, numbers, and results. And most importantly, I love a good challenge.

So how does that translate to motherhood? For the first time, I have a huge responsibility sitting in front of me where I have to make the rules, judge how I am doing, adjust where needed, and move forward. There’s no rubric for being the ‘best’ mom or doing things the ‘right’ way. It sounds so obvious, but it’s something I really struggled with, and honestly, on many days still do. How can I find my self worth in something so ambiguous?

Am I a good mom? Some days, I don’t even know.

What makes you good? Are my kids safe and warm, and well-fed? Well, usually. Sometimes they demand to wear shorts in winter or skip meals in favor of goldfish crackers. But does that make me a bad mom? If I yell at them for misbehaving or lose my patience, am I a bad mom? If my kid throws a tantrum in a home improvement store and I have quickly cart him out, am I bad mom? Did I just have a bad day? How many bad days can add up before I’m no longer a good mom?

I know comparison with all those famous social media moms isn’t realistic, that’s never been my problem. But what about moms around me? Friends or family members that have kids? I compare myself to all of them. I found myself clinging to the comments and opinions of others. So and so’s kid is so calm! This other friend never raises her voice! Her kids just listen! And at a particularly low point of my life when we were in the midst of a terrible newborn phase, I thought to myself, “literally the entire world is full of women who had babies, and they can all figure it out, why can’t I?!”

In the last couple of years, I’ve started to adjust my expectations, but those feelings still lie there just below the surface, waiting for a rough day or that exact moment I lose my patience. Bubbling up and making me wonder, am I a good mom?

When it was my turn to share at the writing retreat, this is what I shared – that I place a high value in others’ opinions and lack self-confidence, specifically in regards to motherhood. Lauren, our Communications Director, shared a blog post with me that captured this in a beautiful way. Emily, a writer from the blog Cupcakes and Cashmere, wrote the following, “Compliments, I realized, should feel like icing on the cake—but you should bake your own cake. For me, compliments had been the entire cake and frosting. I felt like an empty plate without them.”

Few words have ever rung so true for me. This is what I had been feeling in those early days, that continues to seep into my motherhood journey. I was storing up all those compliments as “points” I was earning against some arbitrary grading scale. And worse than that, I was letting poor behavior or negative comments tear me down and deduct from that total. It’s a losing battle—a goal I would never reach.

As with so many things, recognizing the issue or naming the thing, is the first step. And while I have already started to realize these feelings and begun to work on it, I have now spoken it aloud and put a name to it. 

I am working on baking my own cake. I am trying to find self-worth and value in my ability to mother and give myself credit, and a little more grace on the bad days. Layer by layer, I’ll build up this cake, building my confidence with it. I’ll still take the compliments, but I’m trying not to define myself by them (or lack thereof on some days) and to be honest, I’ve never like frosting much anyway.

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