How I Escaped The Maternal Rabbit Hole of Self Doubt

Clio Wood
Clio Wood is founder of &Breath Postnatal
Karmarise it! Clio Wood has struggled with the same feelings of self doubt as the rest of us but she's found a way through the negative thought loops. Here she explains how...

I’ll tell you a little secret.  They haven’t got their shit together.

Those amazing images you see on Instagram?  They’re more often than not hiding a basket of dirty washing, a mountain of food-encrusted plates, and a carpet of dribbled-on toys.  Those super positive Facebook updates about joyous new births and beautiful new homes? There might be a grain of truth there, but it might just be hiding a sand dune of sadness.

The next time you’re scrolling through social media when you should have been in bed 45 minutes ago (we’ve all been there), remember that not everything is as it looks on the outside.  Because we haven’t all got it figured out, but we still want to tell people we have. Why is that?

We are stuck trying to please people because as women, and then as mothers, we feel trapped into conforming to the images that society creates for us.  The ones perpetuated in glossy magazines; the impossible body standards across film, TV and fashion; the dangerous and judgemental words used to describe celebrities’ postnatal bodies in the press.

And this drips down into the language we hear in everyday life.  How many times have you seen a father praised for changing a nappy or taking his kids to the park?

How many times has a mother done it without thanks?

If you don’t breastfeed, you’re letting your baby down. If you do breastfeed and are on a schedule your child-free friends don’t understand why you can’t make that time; if you’re feeding on demand, you’re making a rod for your own back.  I call double standards.

When I had my daughter, who’s now nearly five years old, I twisted myself in knots because I thought, no I knew, that everyone else had it nailed and I didn’t.

The language and imagery around me, even from otherwise well-meaning friends and family, was so pervasive that I questioned every single thing I did.  And found myself wanting.

There are other, deeper reasons for, and facets to, my reaction and emotions during this period (and my therapist couldn’t be happier that we’re working through them together!)

But I know from all the guests we’ve helped with &Breathe, and through connecting with parents more widely, that my reaction was not unusual.  I wasn’t alone.  Far from it. I was actually in the majority.

My personality type means that I buried my feelings of self-loathing and guilt and turned them into a company that helps parents going through the same thing.

But that didn’t stop it popping out as a touch of, albeit extremely high-functioning, postnatal depression and anxiety.  I still struggle with this.

Recently I had a bad experience with a customer who had completely misunderstood what &Breathe is about and why I founded it.  I lost money, and I also learnt a lot and have improved the product and our processes because of that.  But I also couldn’t let their opinion of me go.

I ruminated on, and absorbed, their negative view of me and my business.   I founded &Breathe, because I couldn’t find a space for the nurturing, no-judgement support for fitness in mind and body for parents.  I couldn’t help thinking that one person’s bad opinion of me was an invalidation of everything I stand for.  Why?

I also recently had a conversation with the team at Nourish App (sidebar – it’s amazing, check it out) which is also founded by a mum wanting to help other parents. Sara, Nourish Founder, and Olivia admitted that they had been experiencing some of the same bad vibes on social media and in real life.  So I’m not alone.

Whatever it is in the water at the moment, be it Trump’s presidency in the States, ongoing Brexit dramas here in the UK, the increasing popularity of extreme right-wing politics globally, and the not-so-slow erosion of women’s rights over their own bodies, it’s an odd time politically.  And I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that its ripples are affecting us all.

So how do you haul yourself out of the Instagram-rabbit hole?  Luckily, the answer can lie within ourselves.  I can’t change what people put out there on social media, nor how people behave towards me, but I can change how I react to it.

It’s not wrong to feel bad, but it can be damaging to continue to do so and to absorb and internalise persistent negative thoughts.  For me this is witnessed by my insomnia caused by negative rumination and thought loops.

I try to remind myself that I am good enough.  It sounds like a little thing, but the more I say it, the more I believe it. It helps when I open up to my husband, family, friends or my therapist.

Getting it out there gives me perspective and means I can understand my thought processes better, and know that I’m not alone.  It also makes me realise that there’s actually a lot of positive in my life, but as humans, we don’t naturally focus on it (didn’t I tell you you are good enough?)

Re-framing my experiences has helped too, or trying to put myself in someone else’s shoes. When I imagine how others might perceive my own social media feed, it’s easier to see that they might also be comparing themselves to me. I will always be someone else’s comparison trigger too.

And finally (and this is the really hard bit) just being nice to people.  Full stop.

It might sound a bit woo-woo, but I’ve found that if you’re nice to people, it will eventually come back to you in spades.  Those people who were unthinkingly mean?  There was a deeper personal reason for their actions. Trolls on social media?  It’s easy to say nasty stuff behind a screen.

Being nice means you’re nicer inside, more positively-minded to cope with the bad stuff you’re thrown.  Being nice means you know you’re good enough without the validation of an audience. Being nice means you’re the one who wins in the end.

5 Ways To Feel Better About Yourself 

  • Know that you ARE good enough. Whatever you might feel like now, you’re doing your best and no-one can ask more than that.  If you can’t remember it for yourself, remember that Clio told you so.
  • If you feel able to – open up to loved ones, or your therapist if you have one. You’d be surprised at how easy it is to get perspective when you put it out there, rather than letting it fester in your head.  Plus, more often than not, you’ll realise you’re not the only one feeling like this.
  • By doing this you’ll also realise that whatever you’re feeling like, you’ll ALWAYS be someone else’s comparison trigger. Whoever you’re covetous of, there’s someone feeling exactly the same way about you.  We’re all in this together.
  • Recognise that you can only control your actions, not theirs. So if you feel negative, it’s only impacting you.  And if they’re being horrid – it’s not your fault.
  • Karmarise it! Remember that what goes around comes around – your positive actions will be positively paid back to you. 
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