I am about to get very real with you, mama. You may not like what I’m about to say. But it’s important, and I am frankly tired of biting my tongue.
You are beautiful, important, and wonderful just as you are. You do not need a heavy filter on that selfie. It does not look like you. Your skin is not perfectly ironed silk, and your eyes are not the size and shape of the eyes of anime or manga characters. Your eyelashes are not a mile long and your cheekbones are not that pronounced.
See, when you take a selfie with a feature-altering filter on and you post it on social media where countless people can’t help but comment on how gorgeous and beautiful you are, your perception that you are not enough is confirmed. It’s a vicious cycle. You feel like you need the filter: You use the filter, people compliment you, and you are trapped — unable to go without the filter.
This is about you, mama. And the “masks” you and all of us wear. (And I’m not talking about the much-needed face coverings to stop the spread of COVID — please keep wearing those.)
The real you is enough.
Why is it that we think we must alter our appearance, be it for social media, for the outside world, or even for our own approval? Let me be clear, this is not about getting our hair done, putting on make-up, and wearing flattering clothes. This is about altering ourselves to fit into some expectation created by unreasonable societal stories and narratives of what a good mother and a professional woman are supposed to look and act like.
The photo filters are one of the social media “masks” we wear in order to show the world we’ve still got it. We’re still young and beautiful (whatever that means), and we’ve got it all together.
The problem is, we also wear “masks” in the real world. When we talk with friends or acquaintances, we keep things very superficial and pretend everything is OK. We might use acceptable buzz phrases like: “Things are crazy busy” or “Everything’s great — I mean, the kids are driving me crazy, but what else is new… ha ha ha.” But for the most part, we keep things safe and prevent ourselves from getting vulnerable.
When we do bring up typical parental struggles, we often disguise our overwhelm by making jokes, which makes us look like we’re “real” but fails to address possible underlying issues that a friend could actually help us through. Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m all for using humor as a coping skill, but it has to be one coping skill in our toolbox. Not the entire toolbox.
So, a public service announcement:
The majority of us are not keeping it together 24/7. Most of us struggle, most of us feel inadequate as parents, most of us worry that we will ruin our kids, and most of us are pretending like it’s no big deal. And guess what? It’s going to take some of us being brave enough to be honest, to break this cycle, and to change the way society expects us moms to look, act, and feel, while our lives are completely transformed and we’re becoming different people than we were before we became moms. Because that’s what’s happening.
From the moment we become mothers (through whatever means that happens for each of us), a process begins where we shed parts of who we used to be and develop into new, oh-so-amazing versions of ourselves. The motherhood journey is long. It may never end. And it is up to us moms to rewrite the way society views it and us. We need to be honest and ask for help. We need to be open to offering help to fellow moms when we’re doing OK and can give some support.
And we need to stop pretending. In person, on social media. Everywhere.
And, a disclaimer:
Please know I am not trying to imply that everything about being a mom is hard or that we never have “it” together. I’m talking about the fact that there is no perfect way to be or image to aspire to. Our reality is good enough with its amazing ups and its difficult downs. And I firmly believe we need to honor that in each other and stop trying to fit into a story that isn’t ours.
So I’ll say it one last time. (Just kidding — I will keep saying this stuff until I’m blue in the face!)
You are enough. You are beautiful inside and out just as you are. You are loved. You are appreciated. You are important. You matter. Your needs matter. You are enough. You are enough. You are enough!
Will you pledge to show up to social media without heavy filters? Will you pledge to show up in real life without pretending motherhood is easy or under control?