essay

Fitting in

Do you feel like you aren’t good enough? That you don’t fit in? That you’ll never quite be able to connect with other people? That you are too different?

We all have those feelings at some point or another.

I just moved from a very tiny town in Wyoming to a tourist town in the middle of a whole bunch of national parks. The vibe here is so completely different. I need to relearn how to drive because there are actually lots of people. And traffic. It’s weird.

There are days when I feel like I don’t fit in. People like adventure here–hiking, biking, camping, rafting, whatever. Outdoor recreation is why this place exists.

And I like small adventures, like going on quarter-mile walk and leaving my house. Right now, I only go on short hikes and short camping trips. I do like to canoe, but I still have no idea what I’m doing and I go in the wrong direction. I usually have to force myself to exercise.

I’m surrounded by off-roading Jeeps, river trips through rapids, and mountain bikes–and I suddenly feel a bit inadequate. I’m a suburban-type of person who keeps ending up far away from the suburbs.

But instead of worrying about fitting in, I can be happy with where I’m at and recognize my own talents. Sometimes when I tell people I’ve written books, they seem impressed–but I don’t think it’s really that impressive. I just have a whole bunch of rejection letters and incredibly low sales. It’s mostly a hobby I’m a bit embarrassed about.

I look at people sometimes and I am so impressed with them: taking amazing photographs, or running races, or owning their business, or putting on effortless and beautiful makeup. Or doing all of the above.

But they probably don’t think of themselves that way. Because there is always someone who does more and does it better.

So instead of comparing and worrying about fitting in, it’s a whole lot better to recognize your strengths (you have them–you have a lot of them) and to learn from others and celebrate differences.

I fit in here. Not because I fit the mold, but because I am who I am and that’s enough.

essay

Having it all

We can’t have it all.

As mothers, sometimes we feel pressure to do everything: work, stay-at-home, go back to school, start a new business, sign our kids up for various programs, do a better job at taking care of our house, whatever.

I know a lot of moms who work–and it’s really hard to balance work with family and home. You often feel like you are always in the wrong place. I know a lot of moms who stay at home–and it’s really hard to feel like you have purpose when you stay at home. Sometimes you battle loneliness, depression, and low self-esteem. And there are a lot of moms who are somewhere in-between.

There is always too much to do.

Motherhood requires sacrifice, no matter what your life looks like. And your life will never be quite the ideal. Something always seems to be missing.

And we are often worried about what others think. No one has the ideal life, really–it’s just a whole bunch of messiness. No one has it figured out in a way that’s right for everyone–we have to figure out our own specifics.

Sometimes that means working. Sometimes that means going back to school. Sometimes that means saying that now is not the right time. Sometimes it means really long days at home with your children.

We need to stop judging other people for whatever choices they make. But more importantly, we need to stop judging ourselves and instead just continue on the best that we know how.

We can count our blessings and help each other figure out how our individual lives should look like. We have to learn to make sacrifices of good things that we want in favor of what is better for us and our children.

And we should remember that our lives are going to be different from we expect, and instead of worrying about having it all, we should worry about having the right thing for us.

Right now, I’m a stay-at-home mom and I’m starting to homeschool my kids. I didn’t choose homeschooling as much as it was simply the right thing to do. With all four kids at home, I don’t have as much time to do some of my own projects. I’m also planning on going back to school in the fall. I don’t know how it will all work out. That’s okay. I’ll figure it out.

I do know that when I trust in what is right for me and my family, things will be all right.

It’s not going to be perfect and we’ll have horrible days and really good days. But we just keep trying.

do something · essay

Praise

From a young age, I have been involved in numerous choirs. I like to sing, but I haven’t had a lot of praise or criticism related to my ability to sing. I’ve some mildly positive comments, but that’s about it.

I am grateful for this. First, I’m not a great singer in the first place. But I’m also not a bad singer. So when I sing, I’m not worried about whether I’m doing it well or not. I’m just singing because I like to.

There are other aspects in my life where I have been much more sensitive to any praise or criticism that has come may way. I built my self-image around being good at academics or writing. The things I received the most praise about became part of who I am. And that wasn’t really a good thing.

Because no matter how good I am, there are always so many people who are better than me. I always have room for improvement. Sometimes, I’m not quite as good as I think I am–I have failed miserably at things that someone once praised me for.

I should never do things just to get praise. Who I am is different from what I do.

If I never received grades throughout school, I would probably be a different person. I would have a different, more resilient view of myself. I might be more willing to ask questions and admit what I don’t know. I would have learned more quickly to seek after learning for the sake of learning, not just to receive top marks.

Praise often does not lead to resiliency. It can lead to increased pressure and an inflated ego. Our self-worth needs to be based on who we are, not just what we can do in comparison to other people.

That doesn’t mean we stop praising people all together. But we need to be careful about the praise we hand out. Instead of saying, “You sing really well,” we can try, “I love to hear you sing.” Instead of saying, “You are really smart,” we might say, “I really am proud of how hard you have worked in school.” I am working on this with my children, but it’s hard, and I often shift back into the easier way of talking about things.

Sometimes we do things whether we are good at it or not–we do it because we enjoy it. In my experience, I find a lot more fulfillment and joy when I do things not because I’m good at them, but because I want to do something for its own sake. I learn to learn. I write to write. I like when I am focused on the work I am doing, instead of focused on myself and my reputation.

I am slowly trying to stop praising myself. I don’t have to be a good writer or a good singer or good at anything. I can just be me, and I can do those things and love them and that’s enough.