"People are like fun house mirrors, they reflect a distorted image back at you. Sometimes they are flattering, other times they are not. But ultimately, their observations have more to do with their own insecurities than you. We all tend to take other peoples perceptions of us way too seriously. There are always going to be people who think you could be dating a different guy, dressing better, or following a different career path. Maybe their right, maybe their wrong. Who cares? This month, decide that while you'll listen to what others have to say, you'll focus on what you want. That is, after all, what's most important."
~ An excerpt form Shape magazine written by Jared Matthew Weiss, a life stylist.
I read that this month and there was a click, and I thought, yeah, that's what I can do to stop this madness. But then, can I really undo a lifetime of this thought process in a month. I realized it will take a new way of thinking and lots of discipline to fix this obsession with what other people think of me, but one that has to be done. After all, I have 4 children who at one point or another, despite my best efforts to keep it in when their around, will be exposed to these insecurities. My favorite place to talk with my husband is in our packed full of kids mini-van. Honestly....it the only place my kids are all tucked securely into their car seats, not allowing them to dart somewhere that I have to run off to to keep them out of mischief, thus losing my train of thought every nano second. Of course there are interruptions to tattle and requests for the book on tape to be changed or turned up, but I can sit in one spot and unleash my emotions to a listening ear and get it all out. Every now and again, one of the kids will say, "why are you mad at so-and-so mom? And I downplay it best I can and usually just say they made me sad. Because it does make me sad when people say things insinuating I'm a certain type of person when they've gotten the wrong impression and then I wonder what gave them that impression, or think maybe I am that person they think I am.
I think like most mom's, my biggest area of insecurity is my parenting. What if I'm doing it all wrong? If I dress my kids.... shirt, pants, underwear, socks, shoes, hat, gloves, coat, scarf.... and before we get to where we're going on of those items disappears into thin air off any one of my 4 kids, I worry people will think we don't have those items or we didn't have those items clean and were fine for our kids to go without. If they get dirty before we arrive, or once we arrive I notice a stain that I hadn't noticed before we left again I worry that people will think we don't do laundry around here (we do A LOT of laundry, and for the record never start out with dirty clothes on the kids) or that all we can afford is stained clothing, rather than whet they probably think...kids don't stay clean no matter how anal their mom is about it. My husband thinks I'm insane when I get like this. Like, who cares if the baby's in a blue outfit and has a green pacifier? People aren't going to care for one thing, but do you really think they'll know we had a blue one and still grabbed the green one? Again, most people don't care if their kids nuk matches, so they sure aren't going to care if my kids nuk matches.
If you want to kick me where it counts, suggest...insinuate...hint at....verbalize...shout out, your observation of my bad parenting skills. Nothing scares me more than to be perceived as the bad mom. Nothing makes me worry more than that my kids will think I was a bad mom all those years from now when they tell their spouses about their childhood. Nothing makes me cry harder or longer than when people say things to suggest I'm intentionally doing something that's just convenient for me and not the best for my kids. No matter what notion you have in your head about my intentions on anything pertaining to my kids, I have the best interest of my kids at the forefront of my head all the time. No matter what you think. I would sacrifice for any of them in an instant. I love them more than life itself, and I would never do anything or not do anything knowing it was better for me, but not for them. I do what I think is best for my kids all the time barring nothing no matter what. I'm not saying I don't make mistakes or that I don't look back sometimes and think I should have done something different, but I intend to do what's best fro them all the time.
So the question of the day is if I know I am doing what I think is best for my kids no matter what, then why do I care if you get the wrong impression? That's just how I'm wired, that's why. I can blog about my family life and if I leave one detail out, or assume people remember certain things just because I've blogged about them before, and don't mention it again, then they can get the wrong idea about why I do certain things the way I do them, but it rally doesn't matter because I know I did what needed to be done to keep them safe and who really cares if so-and-so didn't get that? My closest friends and family will know the circumstances and they know me and my intensity when it comes to my kids and they get it. I love them, I do the best I can for them, I would never do anything intentional to hurt them or scar them, end of story.
(I realized what a run-on this sentence is when I proof read, but I left it to give you an idea of how the thoughts flow through my brain. Never really a period at the end of the sentence, it goes on and on and on.)
So then we go from the topic of my parenting skills and on to my wardrobe. Or my zit. Or then fact that this Sunday, I wore a brown skirt that matched my tank top, with a black shirt that matched my tights. They really didn't match each other, but I was tearing around trying to make my kids cute and didn't have time to do my normal 8 outfit rotation. All day I commented to people, "just so you know...I know that this doesn't really go, but I was in a hurry and couldn't get my whole outfit to work. Surprisingly, I went with this, it's so not like me do do things like this..." and on and on making excuses for an outfit that I got a lot of compliments on and people would say they thought it looked really nice, they hadn't noticed the absurdness of the outfit at all. I even had someone say I looked really pretty that day, they couldn't figure out what it was. I'm hard wired this way, and doubt the obsessing over what I wear will ever go away. But maybe the rationalizing it to other people and apologizing for my bad outfit could. There are lots of things I would never wear, but I don't fault other people for wearing them, so why should I care what you think of my outfit? I shouldn't, but I do. I worry about what everything thinks about every detail of my life, I'm not even exaggerating a little.
And I care what you think if my kids misbehave, and if you'll judge me if I admit to needing time away from them, and what you think of my house, my work, my blog. Additionally, I care about what you think about me breastfeeding in public, until what age, how long before my child is potty trained, how well they read, if they sometimes don't brush their teeth before bed, if they color all over their body time and time again. The list is endless.
So then someone makes a comment that insinuates something that wasn't the case, and I lose sleep thinking everyone got the wrong impression. What if? Will the world end if I made the "mistake" someone thinks I could have, although they weren't there so how could they possibly know?
It never rolls off my back, it always nestles itself into my heart, right where my insecurities lie, and no matter how much I say I don't care what SHE thinks anyway, I still can't shake the shame? Why am I ashamed about things that never actually happened, someone just nonchalantly slipped it in where everyone could hear that I may have done this that could have done that to my kids. If I know I did the best I could and everyone came out fine, then why do I care so much about the impression you got?
I especially love the part of the quote that says that other peoples observations have more to do with their insecurities than us. Because Jason tells me that. He says they just feel better about themselves when they make other people look bad. Or they don't know who I really am, and why do I care what they think? And that the people who know me, know me. They know my intention, regardless that someone got it all wrong.
Also, I loved that it says we tend to take other peoples perceptions of us way too seriously. First off, I love that word perception, because it's what people think they see, not necessarily what's actually there. But if he is writing this in a magazine that thousands of women read, it means I'm not alone in my insecurity.
So here starts the path of forgiving myself when others make a wrong diagnoses. Here's to not taking their perception and punishing myself as if that's how it went down, when I know better. Here's the time in my life when I stop wasting energy on worrying over other peoples opinions on my life and instead wrestle with my family on our living room carpet, because that's best for all of us.