Being a mother can be difficult, particularly when it is your first child. Many of us struggle with feelings of inadequacy for the awesome responsibility that this new part of life presents. But it is important to recognize that new mothers can feel more confident, resilient, and supported in their parenting journey when they know how to deal with motherhood imposter syndrome.
What is motherhood imposter syndrome?
Motherhood imposter syndrome is the ongoing sense that you are failing your child and children by not being an adequate mother to them. You may think that however hard you try, you will never be able to properly meet their needs and provide them with a good upbringing. This can lead to constant self-doubt and pursuit of a mythical standard of motherhood that is unachievable rather than reflecting on and valuing your many positive abilities and achievements.
Motherhood imposter syndrome is when things go a step beyond occasional self-doubt to become an all-pervading worldview that dominates most or all of your thoughts about motherhood. Even when you do achieve something as a parent that is objectively successful, you may tell yourself that you are inadequate because you found it much more difficult or took a lot more effort than you perceive other mothers use to achieve the same result.
Tips for overcoming motherhood imposter syndrome
Recognize it for what it is
The most important step in dealing with motherhood imposter syndrome is recognizing that while your feelings are authentic, they may not be accurate. You can acknowledge feelings of being an imposter as a mother without crediting those beliefs as being true.
While recognizing that you are dealing with imposter syndrome in motherhood may not in itself make the feelings ease or go away, by doing so you are putting yourself in a position where you can start to address them rather than letting these feelings control you.
Share your feelings
Once you have identified your feelings, it can be enormously helpful to share them with others. Something that makes perfect sense in your mind can seem very different when spoken out loud.
Voicing your feelings also allows others to support you when you are struggling. While they may know that you are finding things difficult, being more specific can help them to provide the reassurance and assistance that will help you the most.
Motherhood is exhausting. However well you are doing, you cannot be a good mother while being completely burnt out and exhausted. It is essential, therefore, that you take proper care of yourself and do not sacrifice your own physical and mental health in trying to be a better mother. There is nothing wrong or selfish in taking time for your own well-being and letting your partner or family take care of your children while you get some much-needed time to yourself.
Accept mistakes and imperfections as a normal part of motherhood
We all regularly make mistakes in every part of our lives, so do not expect motherhood to be any different. There is no “right answer”, and what may work brilliantly for one child may be entirely inappropriate for another, even in the same family. Motherhood is a journey of learning about your children and finding out what is best for them, and you, as you go.
Set realistic expectations
In our world of social media and celebrity mums, it is very easy to expect far more of ourselves than is reasonable or even possible. Do not compare what others seem to be achieved with your own experience. Their circumstances may be very different from yours, and you are only seeing part of the picture. What is realistic for you to achieve could seem less than one other mother, and an impossible dream for another. Follow your own path and be kind to yourself.
It is very easy to come up with a list of things that we have failed to do at the end of any day. What is much more beneficial is to reflect on and celebrate the things that we have achieved. Remember, taking care of children is a full-time job, so if you have got through another day keeping your children fed, safe, and occupied, that is a huge achievement. Celebrate what you have done rather than obsess over what you have not.
Reframe negative self-talk
We all have negative thoughts at times. What matters is how we let them affect us. Negative thoughts may become a problem when they start to overwhelm us and have an impact on our wellbeing and behavior.
One way to deal with these thoughts is to consider what you would say to a friend who was having the same thought. It is generally much easier to see solutions in someone else’s situation than your own, so by disassociating in this way you can address these thoughts and stop them from dominating your thinking.
Connect with other mothers
You really are not alone, and the strength that can be gained from sharing experiences and challenges with other mothers cannot be understated. Do not seek to compare yourself with other mothers (positively or negatively), but share ideas, strategies, and solutions. Sometimes just knowing that you are not the only one struggling with something can be a huge help in itself.
Recognize that many mothers experience imposter syndrome
It would be wrong to enter motherhood thinking that you had it all cracked from the outset, and some level of imposter syndrome is incredibly common. You are not weak or doing anything wrong to make you feel this way, nor does it mean that you are in any way a bad mother. You simply want to do the best you can for your children, and that is a good thing.
Seek professional help
While feelings of imposter syndrome are often manageable using these strategies, in some cases professional help is needed. If you find yourself continually feeling overwhelmed and unable to cope, do not be afraid to seek support. It is no different from asking for help from a doctor for any other health issue and is not a failure or weakness to do so.
In some ways, feeling that you are inadequate as a mother occasionally is a positive sign of your commitment and recognition of the importance of the role. No mother is perfect, and all struggle at times. But where imposter syndrome begins to have serious detrimental impacts on mental and physical health, it is essential to seek support.