Lou is founder of the blog womanready.com. She says, ‘Many women hold themselves back, doubt themselves, wonder if they are good enough and we want to switch that around. We cover work, career, body confidence, well-being, mind. We are also moving into style and health. We talk to a range of people and organisations as well – business leaders, women who are starting a new career, friends who are wanting to share their experiences, consultants, hypnotherapists, coaches, organisation who are advocates for body confidence – for example. We also have more and more women writing for us’.
It’s a pleasure to feature Lou’s guest post on regaining confidence after kids.
Motherhood isn’t quite what I thought it would be. I think I had so many expectations from the start. I thought I would sail through pregnancy, but it was tough. I thought I would be a good mum – some days I’m not so sure.
Motherhood is a learning curve. Some days you feel that you have itsussed and some days you feel inadequate and wonder what the heck you are doing!
One thing I hadn’t banked on though, was a loss of confidence, a loss of identity, even. Don’t get me wrong, I love my kids with all my heart,but I wasn’t sure what had happened to me. I began to question who I was and what I did?
I returned to work after 5 months maternity leave. For me, my self-esteem, my confidence and my status were strongly linked to my work and my career. I felt that I had lost the old-me and I wasn’t sure who the new-me was any more. I identified more with the old-me than the new-me as my work-identity had been so strong and so engrained in me; I had, after all, spent the last 20 years of my life at work and only several months being a mum.
I saw this loss of identity with my own mum but I didn’t recognise it at the time as I couldn’t relate to it. I could see that my mum was often frustrated with her life and was losing her confidence but it was only after becoming a mum myself that I could fully understand what she was going through. And it upsets me that I wasn’t more supportive of her.
My body confidence was affected. I quite liked my body pre-pregnancy (am I allowed to say that?) and suddenly it had morphed into a body I didn’t recognised. Again, maybe my expectations had been set wrong? I expected my body to spring back into shape and after my second child, it most definitely didn’t. Stretch-marks, cellulite, droopy boobs….
To add to all of the above, I struggled with juggling everything. It was hard looking after the kids, working and sorting the house out. Me-time was out of the window. I didn’t have any time to focus on myself and maybe that was what I needed a little of; a little time to stop, pause, re-boot.
Over time, things became easier. The exhaustion lessened which helped with my mind. I got older and I think became a bit wiser, more resilient and less caring of what people thought of me. I became comfier in my skin.
It Wasn’t Just Me
A few years into parenting, I got more and more fascinated with women’s confidence. I had this grand idea of writing a book about it. I started talking to many women about how they felt about themselves. I realised that many of us were feeling how I had felt above. I realised that whether you’d had children or not, feeling great about yourself was something that many of us found hard to do.
And it hit me, I did have a CHOICE. Cliché but true. I could continue to self-deprecate, talk myself out of doing things that scared me, not push myself forward or I could MIX IT UP a little.
I wanted to feel more confident, for sure, and I also wanted other women to feel it too. The grand idea of writing a book turned into a blog about women’s confidence and well-being (womanready.com).
The other thing I wanted to tackle was my daughter’s confidence. She is nearly 7 and feisty. I want her to remain feisty (gosh that’s going to be hard work for the next few years!) but I’ve read so much about our girls hitting their teens and their confidence slowly dying.
So, How Do We Get More Confident?
I wanted to share a few confidencebuilding tips with you.
Confidence At Work
If you’re a mum going back to work, it can feel scary, right? Many of the women I have talked to have felt this so remember you’re not alone. Fear tends to take over but the good news is that once you are back into work, the fear tends to trickle away and over time your confidence gets restored.
List Your Achievements – when your mind is telling you that you’re not good, give yourself evidence that you are. Look over your CV, list your achievements, read and re-read. You have probably achieved much more than you give yourself credit for. As a friend of mine said, ‘no-one can take your experience and your achievements away from you’. I think you have to keep telling yourself that you are much more capable than you think you are!
Put Fear To The Back Of Your Mind – a counsellor once said to me, ‘don’t project fear onto the future’. I sat there and thought, how true. Often our minds can take over with an endless spiral of negativity. We worry, we over-think, we over-analyse. Wetorture ourselves! One of the biggest challenges I’ve found, is controlling what is going on inside my head and turning that negativity into something a bit more loving, encouraging and nurturing. It does take practice. A good first step is to try to recognise what you are saying to yourself and to stop any destructive thoughts. You can’t be thinking a positive and a negative thought at the same time so try to veer on the positive.
Another friend who recently returned to work said, ‘many of us have overcome our fears and found that it’s not as scary out there as we thought! Put fear to the back of your mind and get out there!’
Prep, Prep, Prep – I’ll be honest, I find it really difficult to wing it. I much prefer to have some control over a situation. For me, I find that preparing for something helps me to feel more confident and knowledgeable (and quashes my fears). Prep for an interview. There are tons of interview questions online. Research the company you have an interview with. Go over your CV and match up your experience to the job spec.
You can check out lots more tips on the blog. One thing to remember though – you are still you. You haven’t suddenly morphed into an incapable human being. You are still as amazing as you were pre-kids. In fact, you’ve got a lot more skills to add to your list – time-management, patience, multi-tasking, negotiation, not sweating the small stuff…..
Liking Yourself Again After Kids
…Can be hard. If I look back now on the first year of being a new mum, I gave myself a really hard time. I wasn’t kind to myself at all. I still expected to be awesome at work, to manage the house, to be an amazing mum, to look good and get back into shape. Really??!
I’d forgotten that I had just given birth, I was knackered, I didn’t really know what I was doing and was probably suffering from some form of post-natal depression. It’s hard to see all of the above when it’s happening to you.
So, be kinder to yourself. Realise that you’re going to go through some s**t and it’s going to be ok. Just give yourself some time.
Try to get some time to yourself to do something you like to do. Give yourself chance to stop, pause and re-boot. This will help you to re-charge and also help you feel better about yourself. Surprisingly it does help with confidence as it gives you time away from the chaos of life to think about you and what you want.
Ditch Perfection And Guilt
This has been said so many times but it’s true. I felt guilty when I was working, I felt guilty when I wasn’t working, I felt guilty when I had a million things to do in the house and all my son wanted was for me to play with him. Try to ditch the guilt (and the perfection) and let stuff go. Invite friends over even if your house is a tip – they won’t care! Hand in a piece of work that isn’t 100% perfect (I dare you!). Remember, we’re all just trying to do the best we can.
Love Yourself As You Are
Ok, ok, it may be a little sanctimonious but love yourself as you are. I’ve spent way too much time not liking myself as I am, criticising myself, wondering whether I’m good enough etc. As I’ve got older, I’ve realised this is just plain wrong. What a waste of f***ing time!
Yes, my body has changed a lot and doesn’t quite look what it used to but who decided that having cellulite or droopy boobs after having kids is wrong or not normal? Surely, it’s the other way around? I made a decision a while back that I would like my post-baby body, I would like my wrinkles and wouldn’t compare myself to an image in a magazine. Yeah, I love makeup and want to look the best I can and I love clothes but this is who I am (lumps and all).