Fear & Loathing & Motherhood
I have always been a really fearful person. I can’t even remember a time when my thoughts and actions were not dictated by the fear of other people. I learned very early that vulnerability is often confused with weakness, and protective walls were built brick by brick.
If you didn’t like something, I didn’t like it either. I remember that game being exhausting, but I must have found comfort in it because I played it well into my thirties – even after a decade of sobriety – even after I knew I had choice.
Over the years I have become aware of two main self-centered fears I love to cling to. The first makes me extremely socially awkward at times, and has caused the most trouble.
I am afraid of what you think of me.
If it were not for great women in my life, I might never leave my house because of this fear. It’s most often coupled with an over-exaggerated sense of importance.
You are thinking about me…obviously, because I am so important. You’re probably sitting in your house right now, talking to your friends about me – how weird you think I am – how crazy I act sometimes – or the nerve I had wearing yoga pants to your baby shower.
Before I got sober, these thoughts consumed most of my waking hours. The anxiety they provoked was the reason I drank; at least that’s what I believed. When I drank, I convinced myself that I didn’t care what you thought of me, and acted accordingly. The following day, I would tip-toe around to see if anything I had said or done offended you enough to consider never speaking to me again; especially if I couldn’t remember.
This fear has caused me to do and say many things in preparation of your judgment and/or perceived hatred of me. I have started heated arguments with others at sensing even a hint of disdain in their voices – because it was obviously about me. It’s completely
possible probable that most of the fights I started could have been avoided if I had just asked the other person what they were thinking, instead of playing mind reader. It would have allowed me the opportunity to learn sooner that not everything everyone feels all the time has something to do with me.
My second favorite fear is that I’m not “good enough.” You are better than me. To be fair, both fears might be Siamese twins, so perhaps they are tied for first place. I have spent much of my life pretending to be, think, and believe all sorts of things because I was afraid to be just me. I have spent years afraid my secret would be revealed, and that you catch a glimpse of my nothingness. I have lied, cheated, stolen, gossiped, judged and verbally attacked others to avoid this humiliation – the humiliation I have convinced myself I would feel if you only knew. Even years into sobriety, I chased outside things to fix who I thought you wanted me to be. It wasn’t until I met a woman who saw clear through all my bullshit and begged me to let her love me, that I finally let the rest of those walls down.
Maybe these fears stem from being bullied and teased as a child. Maybe they’re just human nature or societal pressures, or maybe this fear is the result of early childhood trauma. I don’t really know.
I don’t think it really matters.
We all deal with shit every day that we can’t control, and we all have a history. I cannot go back into my life and change what broke, but I can decide not to allow it to determine my future. Regardless of the reasoning behind the fears I refuse to let go, I have control over how I respond to them today.
These fears pop up all the time, especially during conversations with other women. It’s possible they don’t ever fully go away, but just sit dormant, waiting for the perfect, inconvenient opportunity to present themselves in my life.
One of the conscious decisions I have learned to make in my recovery is active awareness of my feelings – active because just knowing I feel like shit doesn’t always cut it. Thanks to a ton of practice, I’m pretty self-aware, and can usually determine what will trigger certain feelings. I have also had the unique pleasure of seeing the repeated patterns in my behavior when it comes to these freak-fests. My typical automatic responses are usually to lash out in the form of ‘I’m smarter than you and here’s why’ OR ‘Actually, *Sarcasm City*.’ I don’t like myself very much when I get that way, and I suppose that’s a great sign. In the past there was no limit to my attempts to be rid of the perceived cause of my fear and/or the constant reminder that I would never add up. These days, I turn much of that inward, or address the fears with a trusted friend and allow her to talk me off the preverbal ledge.
As many of you know I write for another blog – a humor blog. There are times on its facebook page, I get a little snarky – mostly about my own life, but sometimes about things I see and don’t appreciate. Mom Wars have come up a lot lately, and I’ve made it clear I’m not a fan. I’m not honestly a huge fan of women judging other women, period, but the mom judging gets shared so much. We as a society seem to love the drama involved with debating just about anything, and it’s exhausting to watch; especially having been on both sides of hate.
Because I understand fear the way I do, it’s not difficult to identify with the motivation behind the bickering, but that also makes it more painful to witness. I don’t want to associate myself with any kind of hate, and I also wish to be active in my intention to avoid it.
So, I’m making a commitment to do my part in ending the noise. I’m joining with other moms to stand up and say, “ENOUGH.”
I’m declaring my commitment to other mothers, and promising to not partake in any activity that is intentionally harmful or offensive. I am committing to show love and compassion in the face of judgment and anger, and to be the change I want to see in the world.
I don’t pretend that my action will change the universe, however, imagine if we all stood up and made a commitment to be kind to one another. Just imagine that.
I hope you will join me.
Click on the picture, sign the petition, and make the #Mommitment to do your part and be kind.
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If you are a blogger, and would like to share your commitment on your blog, please do! Please join this movement by writing a post stating why you’re making the decision and include the hashtag #Mommitment in your title and/or social media shares. Please also feel free to grab this button to share your commitment on the sidebar of your blog to let your readers know where you stand on the issue and invite them to join the movement!
photo credit: j?? ?
Julie Maida has been in abstinence-based recovery since May 2, 2000. She is fiercely determined to advocate for and connect ALL women with the appropriate support and resources necessary to achieve their personal recovery goals. She writes about mothering with mental illness at juliemaida.me.