Looking the Part

Welcome  This is the follow up from last week’s Shame Triggers post.  In that post I shared about a book I recently read and how I have used the prompts in the book to work through some of my own issues.  Of course, I don’t share every personal detail here on the blog, but I try to offer some of my own personal reflection and experience so that I may help others dealing with similar feelings.  So many times I have been comforted reading others’ words, with the reassurance that I am not alone in my feelings or struggles.

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Food For Thought  When I read Brene’ Brown’s book on shame (I Thought It Was Just Me-But It Isn’t; If you would like to check out the entire book for yourself, it is available from Amazon in this link.), it was noted that one of the biggest shame triggers for women is body image and appearance.  NO!  You don’t say!  I don’t think anyone, anywhere would be shocked at that finding.  I’m right there, with apparently the rest of the population, so I worked through the “big picture questions” about appearance.

While addressing these questions, I recalled one of my biggest shame triggers, being perceived as a “good mother.”  I was looking through this “good suburban mom” lens when answering these questions.  From my personal experiences and expectations, I came up with the following five points.  Just to note, I added “suburban” to my perception label, because, like it or not, the environment and social circle that surrounds me dictates appearance expectations.

1 Moms are supposed to look “put together.”  If you don’t believe me, you need to join me in the car rider drop-off/pick-up lane at my daughter’s middle school.  It’s 7 in the morning and moms, whatever job title they hold, are in full make-up, stylish (often blond) hair, fashionable clothes, manicures, pedicures, trim and toned.  Arriving in the line with a 40K car, most likely an SUV, with the requisite stickers on the back glass announcing the “elite” teams all 3.2 children participate in outside of school.  And everything is coordinated and matching, right down to the backpacks and binders of the kids exiting the vehicle with perfectly straight, white teeth.  And nothing looks cheap.  Except my 12-year-old SUV with the ceaseless windshield wipers and peeling national park stickers.  Nothing about our appearance fits the “put together” expectation in this line.  It all comes down to my appearance affects others’ opinions of my kid!  To my daughter, I’m so sorry, mommy will never fit this image!  (Luckily, my kid’s pretty resilient.)

2 Media portrays stylish, not frumpy, moms, even the stay-at-home crowd.  If you don’t believe me, check out a Macy’s TV ad or pick up any women’s magazine in the check-out line.  If society says this is what moms are supposed to look like now, shouldn’t I?  If I don’t, am I failing as a mom (and wife)?  It’s easy to see where this becomes a huge shame trigger for not just me, but a lot of other women.

3 The expectation in 21st century society is, even if you’re killing yourself or going into debt, you MUST look the part.  The perception is if you fail to look the part, you must indeed fail at doing the role.  If I am completely bedraggled dropping off my daughter at school, geez, what must my house look like?  My vehicle is old and falling apart, my life might just be falling apart, too.  If I look out of shape and, uhm, fat, then I must be lazy and spend my days eating and watching TV, right?  While I know the truth behind each of these appearances, how I present myself to the rest of my fellow suburbanites dictates their opinions about me, my family, and my home.  Again, it’s no wonder women have so many issues with depression, anxiety, and alcoholism.  We are allowing shame triggers to determine our worth and success.

4 Moms form cliques or groups.  Yes, just like the middle school crowd making their way from the “exotic imports” car line into a truly wonderful school.  As a whole, women haven’t matured much since our preteen days of junior high.  Sorry, ladies, but I’m just keepin’ it real here today.  Actually, I know some that have done well moving past these stereotypes, and good for them!  I’m so pleased when I see or hear women comfortable in their own skin, just being who they are without regard to expectation or labels.  But when it comes down to it, and I have honest conversations with other women, I find they are experiencing the same things I am.  Many of us know all too well about the “cool mom” group, and we all know if we’re in that group or not.  Anyone can recognize it by where you sit at school events and what jobs you are selected for at the PTA event, meaning, do they want you out in the public eye to be “seen,” or do they have you doing behind the scenes work, intending on keeping you there.  The kids know too, based on activities and parties they are invited to, or not.  I worked a school event last year where a kid literally said, “Yeah, I’m a popular kid because my parents are kind of famous here.”  To my daughter, again, sorry, your daddy and I are just too shy and quiet to be the “famous” parents!

5 The only ones that actually benefit from all this labeling and appearance expectation is, SHOCK, the retailers and credit card companies!  They have figured out that the biggest shame trigger for women is appearance.  They have figured out that women will literally pay the price to look the part.  They are playing off of our low self-esteems and desire for acceptance.  But they will continue to raise the standard for what it means to look the part so we are constantly scrambling to keep up with the Jones’s or Kardashians or even that family in the Lexus two cars ahead of us in car rider line.

This might all seem pretty negative.  But I want you to know, if you’ve ever dealt with any of these feelings, you are NOT ALONE.  And don’t just consider yours truly as your only company, but the hundreds of thousands of other women all across the world that share these some musings.  As it turns out, I’m personally tired of the suburban mom life and expectations.  I don’t want to be defined by this role anymore, but there’s an even bigger take-away I want for you today.

Here’s the big newsflash, on behalf of myself and all the other moms that fit the “Joanna average” description: WE ARE AMAZING MOMS!  We balance schedules, checkbooks, and on one foot in tree pose.  We run to pick up our kids, run to get to work on time, and run the vacuum cleaner.  We check homework, check the toilet paper status, and check off our to-do list.  We get up early to exercise and stay up late to clean the toilets.  Our hair might be a mess, but our kids have clean clothes.  We might have had Kraft macaroni and cheese last night for dinner, but more importantly, we had meaningful dinner table conversation.

It might appear that my life is falling apart.  I may look completely untogether.  But my heart is in tact, full of love for this family I care for, day in and day out, no matter what I look like.

Today’s Scripture  Ladies, if we clothe ourselves with anything, let it be dignity!  Do not be ashamed of your strength!  And speak kindness, always.

Bible Journaling  This is a page I completed to use with this verse.  Unfortunately, this would be a page where you can see the journaling on the opposite side.  It didn’t exactly bleed through, but I used dark-enough pens that they show through, which somewhat detracts from this page.  And drawing the human figure is definitely not my forte’, but I wanted a woman’s figure to be on this page.  In Bible journaling, it’s the process, not the product.

Bible Journaling Proverbs 31:25
Bible Journaling Proverbs 31:25; colored pencil and black marker