“You don’t look old enough to have a son who is (insert eldest son’s age here).”
Ever since becoming a mom I’ve heard this phrase repeatedly. I’ve always deflected with, “Thank you,” and changed the subject to the weather or something other than my age and my son’s age and the calculation that always follows.
If the person is persistent, they bring the conversation back to my age or my son’s age with, “You really don’t look old enough to have a seven-year-old … fifteen-year-old … thirty-one-year-old.” And then with a tilt of their head they ask the question that I know will allow them to know my secret.
“How old are you?”
And I follow with the same well-rehearsed, tried and tested, this-proves-my-worth statement: “I’m not old enough, but I’ve learned more from that experience than I did from getting my undergraduate or graduate degrees.”
I don’t really know when I became a people-pleaser. I think it was a need I had long before I became a mom. Certainly, becoming a mom at an age that was far from pleasing to anyone around me just seemed to heighten my need of people’s acceptance even more.
If they accepted me, I could dodge the hard work of accepting myself.
But I’ve come to believe that true self-worth—the belief that I am a good person who deserves to be treated with respect—comes from within.
I re-launched this blog with an emphasis on my experience as a teen mom because over the last few years I’ve watched friends and family—people I care about deeply—also struggling with their worth because of some “bad” decision they made, or because of some comment someone made about their weight, or their teeth, or their hair, or a scar, or a limp, or their lack of a degree, or the size of their house, or, or, or …
We all share the core need of acceptance. Being part of the tribe is how we survive. No one wants to be banished, but being controlled and manipulated by others (sometimes even consciously and willingly) will never help us achieve true self-worth.
What will? I believe the answer lies in self-awareness, which can lead to self-forgiveness, self-acceptance, and self-love.
What I’m really talking about here is building a foundation based not on an outward focus, but on an inward focus that creates alignment with our core beliefs and values. When we learn to understand ourselves, embrace ourselves, love our whole selves, this grants us permission to be our most authentic selves and live our fullest lives.
I’m a huge Brené Brown fan. I keep a notebook filled with many of her quotes and phrases about wholehearted living and embracing our vulnerabilities, fears, and insecurities. But my favorite phrase of Brené’s was collected when she was interviewing one of my favorite authors, Katherine Center.
Brené and Katherine have known each other for a while and are fans of each other’s work. During this interview, Brené was talking about Katherine’s latest book and her love of Katherine’s novels in general, but especially the empowering heroines in Katherine’s books and the deep wounds they face. I didn’t write down the whole statement Brené made about the impact these characters had on her, but I did write down this phrase: “Gather all the orphaned parts of me and bring them home.”
Self-love has a similar impact when we allow it. We each have some parts of ourselves we wish we could change. Some parts we may have even orphaned in an effort to fit in, be liked, feel accepted. I think it’s more than time to bring those orphaned parts of ourselves back home. I think it’s time we take off our people-pleasing masks and learn to love our whole be-YOU-tiful selves, even the parts we’ve previously let someone tell us were not worthy of being seen and loved.
Yes, I’m forty-eight.
Yes, my oldest son is thirty-one, my other son is twenty-one, and my daughter is seventeen.
Yes, I was sixteen when my oldest son was born.
But that’s not all of me. I’m also a writer, and I live in a 1901 farmhouse with a windmill. I have two dogs, five chickens, and a rooster. It’s not perfect, but it is all right.
More to come …