Question: How can writing improve self-esteem, self-love, or self-care for a mom?
If I had to pick the house chore I avoid most, I’d say ironing clothes. I’ll go as far as pulling a sweater over my wrinkled shirt just so I don’t have to get out my iron. It’s sad that I don’t even need to find an ironing board and steady it on the ground, and yet the simple act of ironing still feels so extra. Extra, aka superfluous—I just want to emphasize how annoying it is, particularly for a mom of three boys (who shove their clothes into drawers). But when it comes to writing, this is the practice where I enjoy ironing: I can iron out my illogical thoughts, irrational reactions, and series of options before making big and small decisions, and anything else that would appear blurry if all I did was think about it for too long.
There’s something to banging a keyboard in search of the truth behind the truth in several life categories, hence I write. I write quite a lot, especially when something is eating at me or bugging me. In this episode #153 of Unimaginable Wellness the podcast for moms who read/or want to write nonfiction, I want to help you understand how by creating your own writing ritual, you can improve your self-esteem, love yourself more, feel more cared for, and certainly better understand how complex you really are. Here are three ways you too could benefit from what is often a hard thing to do at first.
Writing creates some distance between your words/emotions and yourself.
Imagine having a conversation with a friend in which you complain about a family run-in. Someone said something you found inconsiderate, and you’re hurt. This one-day event has now turned into months of feeling pretty terrible. Even if your friend is totally aware of your family dynamics and a great person to turn to, the conversation with her, through the magic of audio waves, merely pours out of you and into the ears of another party. The pathway is memory to memory. In listening to her response, your ears get an earful. But, you can’t SEE a transcription of what comes out of your mouth or hers. If you could SEE the words you use, then you could create distance between the event and yourself. You could make your thoughts visible. But this transcription would still be filtered if you were sharing it with a friend. A helpful alternative? Bring your most honest self to a blank page to document your grievances so that you can see both your truth and your BS. We all have some BS inside of us that interferes as we glue our experiences together, so that they mean something. It’s only when you write out your experiences or emotions that you then begin to see that they do not need to stay buried inside of you. When you externalize them, you can look at your writing in all sorts of ways—even upside down, so you can imagine new approaches, from a myriad of different perspectives. When you write about a moment, you can change the main character from being you to anyone or anything else. What’s bugging you today? A boss? A teacher’s complaints? Write about that source of being bugged. You just might uncover a solution, too.
Writing helps you identify assumptions faster, especially if you write logically. I’d like to think I got something out of studying for the LSATs and sitting through one semester of Fordham Law School. To make myself feel better about that expensive life choice, of attending and quitting, I remind myself that it gave me the ability to pick up on the assumptions required to keep an argument intact. In my writing escapades, I have bullet-listed accusations, rationales, and thoughts to recognize the sometimes-false assumptions I’ve made. Other times, this style of writing has helped clarify what I really wanted to know. So many of our ideas rely on assumptions, and if you can catch them ahead of an argument or decision then you can cut to the chase and stop wasting so much spit arguing. Imagine if you were a lawyer who put together a glorious legal case for a client and all of it relied on your client’s name being on a tenant lease. What if you found out in the courtroom that her name wasn’t mentioned? Wouldn’t you feel like a dunce? Life is not just a series of arguments, however. As meaning-making machines, when we write out our accusations, rationales, and thoughts—clarify our assumptions—it can pay off in strides. What are you making an event mean? What assumptions might you be making? How can you be sure those assumptions are fact?
Writing helps you pick up on patterns that can be overridden. There are so many journals out there. Some have prompts that if I’m honest seem like they were written by shiny, happy 1960s people on acid. As a mom who tends to be in her head often, I try to pick up on patterns that do not serve my family or me. Your kids might hate writing, like mine do because of their age. But we are capable of writing—we can handle our own stuff. Therapy might be expensive or intimidating or uncomfortable. Yet if you’ve ever found yourself saying unhelpful things that your mom would have said, then my dear, the key to rescuing yourself could be in taking to the pen. Some of you might be voracious readers. But to figure out your patterns, try becoming a voracious writer. I don’t keep my notebooks, aka journals. I toss them. But the times I’ve found an old one and actually been able to read my own handwriting, I’ve detected that I have patterns—from the things that irk me to whatever is on my mind. To find yours, I suggest that you freely write for 30 days. You can commit to five minutes a day or 50—it’s up to you. Follow your gut here. See what you spew. Maybe you could ask yourself: What moments in recent memory have I felt like a great mom? Then you could move on to thinking about the moments where you felt like you could have been better, for whatever reason. Address both. You could also write about a moment in recent memory where you felt like a healthy you. If you only have five minutes, just one to three sentences will do. Otherwise, let your pen lead the way. If you ever get stuck, you can ask yourself and write out your answer to this question (or one like it): When did I last hit the fridge to emotional eat my mom stresses? This question always helps me—it assists in remembering a difficult time, or what might have motivated that coping response. For you, it might be, “when did I last drink at night to take off the edge?” Or maybe it was a moment when you gave your kid a mega time-out that was extra hard to navigate. Think of the moments when you didn’t feel peace about how you’d parented or about how you’d behaved in general. You’ll see a pattern in 30 days’ time.
In my life, writing has been both my nemesis and my most consistent path to victory. It was so damn hard to iron out my thinking early on in my life. But as an entrepreneur, I often feel like an email-writing maverick by the end of the day. My hope for you is that you’ll see the benefits of ironing out your thoughts for yourself, too.
You might not have the luxury of what you imagine writing looks like: waking up at 4 a.m., lighting a candle (one named by those 1960s high-on-life psychedelic users), placing your tush in an ergonomic chair during a one-hour stretch of time without a peep from your kid/s. But if you’re a mom like me, while that would be the BOMB, it’s not essential. What is: that you have a way to make sense of your emotions, feelings, and behaviors so that you can evolve into being the best mom and you that you can be.
Writing is the ultimate tool for developing a self-awareness that can heal, soothe, and make sense of what’s really behind our decisions and insecurities. As moms, it’s helpful to iron these things out for ourselves, so our kids won’t have to. And as for ironing in general, it’s a conspiracy, I tell you. I vote for wrinkle-free fabrics all around.
Your turn: send me in your questions as it relates to writing / journaling rituals for moms, creative / immersive experiences for moms in a rut, or on the topic of wellness / mental health / mindfulness so that I can answer your question next on Unimaginable Wellness the podcast for moms who read/would someday like to write their nonfiction book.
You can see my contact details in the show notes where you are listening to this episode or follow me on Instagram @melissallarena today and send me your question (I’ll keep it anonymous) via DM. Not on Instagram then email me Melissa [@] MelissaLlarena.com
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