Feelings of insecurity can be overwhelming and all-consuming. As a parent, one of the most difficult feelings of insecurity was not being enough as a parent. This fear has taken on many different iterations over the course of parenting.

I remember dropping my kids off at preschool, I’d look around at the other put-together Moms who had children with combed hair, in cute outfits and I’d think, “How did they do that and what is wrong with me that I can’t do that?”

This is difficult to write. It is hard to admit my parenting insecurities. In fact, the only reason I’m willing to acknowledge and share them with you is because I know I’m not alone. Many of us feel like we do not measure up as parents, and that everyone else has it figured out or is doing it better. We often hold ourselves to impossibly high standards, and then berate ourselves when we have not met those standards.

It is possible, for example, that other people looked at me and compared themselves thinking I looked put together with three cute little kids in tow.

The problem was I was comparing my very messy insecure insides to other people’s seemingly put-together outsides. I, of course, had no idea what each of those parents had been through that morning to get their kids to school. If they too had yelled, lost it on their kids, or cried at some point or several times before the short walk to preschool. (It is somewhat easy to look OK for the 10-minute drop-off.) I could not see how they were feeling about themselves as parents. All I could see was that they looked put together, calm, and happy.

Comparing is a dangerous game and we almost always lose, comparing ourselves unfavorably to all those around us.

Looking for support for my parenting insecurities, which were fueling my depression, anxiety, and burnout, I turned to meditation teachers for guidance. I hoped that mindfulness might be a way out of my painful inner loops of thoughts I could not turn off. One of my favorite teachers being Pema Chodron. Pema and other meditation teachers gave the instructions to make friends with my insecurity. This is one of those times I’d roll my eyes. “Invite your insecurity to tea,” they’d say. (Insert eye roll here.)

As my depression grew darker and burnout continued to weigh me down begrudgingly I tried using mindfulness and self-compassion when these painful emotions would arise. After all, what did I have to lose?

When I noticed I was feeling particularly uneasy about my parenting abilities and began to question myself internally, I’d try the R.A.I.N. practice I learned from Tara Brach.

It sounded something like this:

Recognize – “This is a moment of insecurity.”

Naming our emotions is mindfulness. The more mindful we are of our emotions the less we are unconsciously reactive to them. Naming our emotions gives us a little distance and space from the loops of thoughts that can sometimes feel intense and overwhelming.

Allow – Begrudgingly I’d say, “Welcome to the party insecurity.” (Thank you Jeff Warren.) Or more formally, “Can I let these feelings of insecurity be here?”

Often when we feel something painful or uncomfortable we try to push the feelings away or judge ourselves for feeling them in the first place. “I should not feel this way.” “I should be able to get over it” etc. However, the more we try to push difficult emotions away the longer they stay hanging out in the background like dark clouds in our lives. It is true what mediation teachers say, whatever we resist persists.

Investigate – “What do I feel in my body along with these feelings of insecurity?” “I feel uneasy in my stomach.”

“What story is my insecurity believing?”

Possible internal beliefs fueling my insecure thoughts: “They are a better parent than I am.” “I am flawed because I cannot get myself and my kids to school looking put together with ease.”

Need – What do I need when these feelings of insecurity arise? Perhaps to remember my parenting coach’s kind words. “You are doing a great job.” “You are a good Mom.”

I also liked to use my imagination here. I’d imagine an older, wiser, more chill version of myself, 85-year-old Michelle whose life experience has taught her all that worry and comparison was for not and she knew everything was going to work out ok. She could see with distance, time, and perspective that I was just a stressed new mom of young kids doing the best I could. I imagined meeting her on a park bench while my kids played. She saw me, my struggles, and how hard I was trying. She just listened without judgment or advice. She offered a shoulder to cry on. She believed in me as a parent and that it was going to be ok.

Other times I just needed to watch The Office or Friends on my phone for a while to help not think about any of the above and just help my brain get off that mother f***ing hamster wheel of insecurity. I learned from Kristen Neff that checking out mindfully like this is a form of self-compassion.

Yay! This was excellent news. Not only was it ok to totally check out at times but doing so mindfully is a form of self-compassion.

Insecurities can live inside of us for many different reasons. It may be helpful to get curious about where our stories of parenting insecurities originate.

In my family growing up, I was the youngest of three children by 5 and 8 years. I regularly felt intimidated by my confident older brother and sister. At school having ADHD and being dyslexic I felt intimidated by my classmates who always knew what was going on and had their homework complete. These are just a couple of the places where stories of being less than and not enough started for me. It made sense that they got stirred up in parenting, a place where I was learning how to do something new, something I had never done before. It did not however mean these stories were true. It took a long time of practicing mindfulness, getting parenting support, building connections with friends, and taking better care of myself to untangle the chokehold of these powerful messages of not being enough.

Thought for the day:
Feelings and the related thoughts of insecurity can be overwhelming and oppressive. Without mindfulness we can stay in our painful loop of questioning ourselves as parents, harshly and unfairly judging our messy insides to others’ put-together outsides. Noticing our painful pattern of feelings of insecurity followed by harsh internal judgments is the first move to stepping out of this painful loop.

Bringing awareness to our parenting insecurities gives pause to the old automatic barrage of thoughts and gives space for new responses to our emotions.

~Michelle

Michelle Puster M.Ed.

Mindfulness Informed Professional

Helping burned out parents find inner calm and compassion

440 Cobia Drive Suite 1301

Katy, TX 77494

832.361.1547