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On women, pressure, and inadequacy

The other day, I got a pingback from the Grumpy Rumblings blog, where Nicole and Maggie write.

(One never knows which of the two one is speaking with or hearing from, which is vaguely confusing.   But that’s neither here nor there.)

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Anyway, Nicole/Maggie had read my post with tips for making a great photo book, and doing so had inspired her to write about how in her family, photo books are pretty darn low on the List Of Important Things.

(To wit: they have a wedding photo book that they rarely crack open.)

This got me thinking about how families vary so widely.

Obviously, in my family, we are pretty big on pictures.   I love to take them (as does Joshua), and the rest of the family loves to look at them.

Scrapbooks and photobooks occupy at least a shelf and a half on my largest bookshelf, and interestingly enough, I never find a layer of dust atop the books because they don’t stay still for long.

Zoe in particular likes to carry armfuls of the books up to the sofa, where she settles in and brushes up on our family’s history.   Her interest is not limited to books about her; she frequently looks through the books about family life before her arrival.

(and I know she reads all the journaling beside the photos, because she talks to me about pre-Zoe events I’ve scrapbooked about.)

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The books bring me joy as well.   The new ones are fun, but I think scrapbooks and photobooks become better with age, as the people and events move farther back into history, and memories become more fuzzy.

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Anyway.   All of that is to say that in our home, we love us some photos and scrapbooks and photo books.

BUT.

Please, please know that I in no way, shape, or form think that every household should be like ours.   There are homes where cameras only emerge on holidays and where photos live in boxes in a closet, and honestly, I lose no sleep over that whatsoever.

It’s a little odd for me to say this, given how many photo books I’ve made, but I   just don’t think photo books matter that much in the grand scheme of things.

We love ’em at our house, but homes without photo books are not inferior any more than my household is inferior because I don’t garden (or sew my kids’ clothes or send out Christmas cards….)

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Unfortunately, I think a lot of people (women especially) feel inadequate if they don’t have neatly organized albums.

(Interjection #1- Because women especially tend to feel inadequate if we don’t do All Of The Things that women are “supposed” to do, and because I am a woman myself, I’m going to address this from the perspective of a woman, while recognizing that this struggle is not limited just to women.)

(Interjection #2- I do not feel like Nicole/Maggie were critical of me or are feeling inadequate! Their post just got me thinking about this whole subject.)

Every woman has their own unique strengths and weaknesses, and we cannot expect ourselves to have all of the strengths and none of the weaknesses.

Also?

Every woman has things she loves to do and we should not feel inadequate because we love something else.

For instance, some women rock at packing imaginative, creative Bento box lunches.   For them, the lunch packing is an art form and they enjoy it.   But there is no reason for the rest of us to feel less than for serving up a sandwich in a baggie.

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  (whoa.)

Some women are super great at coming up with fun outings.

Some moms sew fantastic clothes for their kids.

Some women earn a gazillion dollars a year with the business they started.

Some moms do lots of creative crafts with their kids.

Some women have mad clean house skills.

Some moms take amazing photos of their children every day.

Some women are insanely fit.

Some women are awesome at personal style, or at home decorating.

But the thing is, despite what you see on Pinterest, no one person is top notch at every single one of those things.

(and I barely scratched the surface of possible skills!)

I think we mentally take 30 women with various skills, mentally compress them into one woman, and then hold her up as our exhausting and impossible standard.

For the most part, I don’t think the blame for this lies at the feet of bloggers/Pinterest, because it is totally ok to share what you’re good at with the world.

(I do think there’s some onus on us bloggers to acknowledge our imperfections, even if we don’t choose to parade them before the world in great detail.).  

But even if other people are to blame, we certainly can’t control that.   We can only control how we respond to other people’s displays of gifted-ness.

So, when I feel inadequate or want to denigrate another mom’s strong suit, here’s what I try to do.

I remind myself that no one person is all strength and no weakness.

Every one of us is a mixture of the two.

(Even the women who are super good at hiding their weaknesses.)

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I remind myself that it doesn’t have to be perfect to bless other people.

I devoted a whole post to this topic a few years ago, but to sum it up:

Don’t give up on things just because someone else does it better.   It’s all right to do just an okay job of cooking or crafting or decorating or dressing or documenting your kids’ lives.

You are in a unique place to bless the people in your path, and you can still bless people with your imperfect skills.

I try to see defensiveness for what it is.

Usually when I am tempted to criticize what another mom does, it’s not because I actually think what she’s doing is stupid.   It’s because I feel inadequate for not doing what she’s doing.

Recognizing that gives me a chance to remind myself of the #1 and #2 above.

I try to avoid temptation.

I used to read a cooking/baking blog written by a mom who seemed to be completely perfect.   She had a demanding job, a couple of small children, still managed to cook and bake ALL the time (with perfectly decorated cakes and cookies!) and she beautifully photographed all of her food for her very professional blog.

IMG_8916IMG_8916Cut-Out Christmas Cookies with Buttercream Frosting (from The Frugal Girl)

(cookie decorating at our house: no royal icing is ever involved.)

What did me in was that none of this perfection was diluted with any disclosure of weakness.   And even though I knew she had to have weaknesses, reading her blog just brought on serious feelings of inadequacy.

So, I unsubscribed.

You guys, if a blog is making you feel inadequate rather than inspired, it is totally okay to admit that you’re not strong enough to handle it.   Stop reading that blog and spend your internet time consuming material that fuels you and brings you joy instead.

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So. How do you handle feelings of inadequacy that come from comparing yourself to others? I’d love to hear!

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Beth Anne

Monday 3rd of November 2014

I love this. You're exactly right. When we're feeling critical, it's often because inside, we're feeling inadequate. All of these pursuits can be great if it's what one chooses to pursue.

(Although I must confess I nearly peed myself laughing at the Mario lunch. Clearly... not my thing. But I've resolved to give kind words of encouragement if I encounter said Mario-face-making-lunch Mom.)

I do, however, feel inadequate about the photo books simply because I know my son needs them. He has one from India that he LOVES to look at, and it really is my job to photo book the rest of his story so he can make sense of it all. For most moms, photobooking or not, generally not a big deal.

And there again, even if we're just "ok" at something, if it blesses those around us, we should do it with gusto :)

Camille

Saturday 1st of November 2014

Amen! This has been the biggest struggle I have had since I became a mom, almost 14 years ago. HIS POWER is made perfect in our weakness, yet we all hate our weakness' Thank you for addressing this.

Victoria Wilson

Friday 31st of October 2014

No profound insight to add, just a fellow blogger and mom who completely relates and is extremely thankful you wrote this post :)

CarrieAnn

Thursday 30th of October 2014

Beautiful! I do take pictures (because it's fun) and I scrapbook because we like to reflect (and it gives me a reason once a yr to go on a 'retreat' that has some purpose). I don't Bento but love the inspiration for my home made lunches :) Thank you; this blog is a delight and helps feed my soul!

Heather @ My Overflowing Cup

Wednesday 29th of October 2014

I love the grace in this post, Kristen! I wrote a post a few months back about how we need grace, not perfection that addressed some of these same issues. I love your analogy of 30 different women all packed into one perfect woman. We are so good at that! I used to feel very frustrated with myself because I couldn't manage to have a ministry and a perfectly kept home and homeschool my kids, be a blogger, and a perfect wife, and cook from scratch, and garden, etc. I then realized that there was no way I could do everything, but I needed to focus on the most important. As a side note, I used to love scrapbooking, but haven't done it in years. It's not that it isn't important to me, but I have chosen other things. It's all a matter of perspective and priority. Thanks for sharing your perspective with us! We need to learn to celebrate the successes and joys of each other without comparing and feeling inadequate. Thanks for the reminder.

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