It was only the second time I had seen my friend since we had both given birth. We carried our daughters in front-packs, walking through the shopping plaza on Kauai in Hawaii, conversing about how much our lives had changed over the past year since we first met on the island.
“I just don’t understand it,” I said aloud, “I know all these women who’ve given birth recently, but no one is opening up and being real or honest about their experiences as new mamas. Am I the only one feeling this way?”
My desperation, isolation, and sense of losing myself were deepening. Even though I was doing what I could to build a tribe around me, I felt I could not find any sort of community within the tiny North Shore town we lived in.
“No, of course not,” my friend reassured me. “You’re just being open about it.”
“Then why does it seem like everyone always has it together? I feel like I’m losing it, but every other mama I see makes it look so easy.”
My friend stopped walking and turned towards me. “Hold on, honey,” she paused. “YOU look like you have it together!”
“What?” I was completely flabbergasted. My daughter was less than a year old and I felt I was losing my battle against postpartum depression.
It was then that I became reminded of a lesson I learned when I first became a yoga teacher: “Stop comparing your insides based on someone else’s outsides.” After becoming a mama, this became, “Every mama is losing her shit — some just hide it better than others.”
There are countless issues an intelligent and independent woman experiences after becoming a new mama: battles with self-esteem as she struggles to “get her body back;” fighting the isolation that happens with postpartum blues, anxiety, and depression; dealing with the strains on a marriage. The list is long with innumerable variations of challenges she often hides in trying to make her life and body look perfect, the way it’s portrayed in the highlight reels of social media.
Even though I openly shared my experiences in the Facebook group I created for new mamas, it was rare that any other woman would voluntarily admit her struggles, despite the fact that when we talked one-on-one, she would let me in on her similar struggles.
Why are we all trying to hide behind this veil of perfection? Women yearn to belong to a community, yet we continually engage in behaviors that bring us further from our tribe.
It’s essential we open up with one another. It’s essential we champion each other’s inner light, especially when we feel at our most dark and dim. Having suffered from bulimia, compulsive overeating, binge exercising, and total body dysmorphia, I never want my daughter to waste a minute of her life worried about her worth based on the number on a scale or on the tag of a dress.
The only way this will happen is if we start to uplift one another through genuine authenticity in the ways we show up. When we’re struggling to love ourselves and our bodies, it’s vital we can get out of our heads and into a better reality, one where we reflect back kindness, nourishing thoughts, and affirmative truths.
For the sake of our bodies, our minds, and our spirits, we need our creative life force and gifts to be devoted to so much more than how we look. As Clarissa Pinkola Estes shares in her book, Women Who Run With Wolves, it is an offense to nature that we aim to confine ourselves to being small by trying to fit one standard of beauty. That is not how Mother Nature works: there is not one kind of tree, one kind of songbird, one kind of wolf.
There is brilliance in individuality and every expression of this light deserves to be celebrated grandly.
Create a mastermind group of women who you can connect with over the phone, Skype, Gchat, Zoom, whatever modality works for you. Make it an hour that becomes a haven of nurturing one another to shine.
Create your own tribe and empower every woman within it to thrive. This is how we’ll find the freedom to feel amazing for ourselves and for every generation that comes after us.