Within the daily struggle of parenthood, being me has become my biggest battle.
Last week, I was looking at my children playing at my feet when I had a sudden moment of realisation. I spend an inordinate amount of time with my head down. Watching the girls, looking at my laptop or phone, preparing food. Always with my head bowed, hunched forward. A posture that, to an outsider, might suggest that I was sad, shy or lacking in confidence.
The power of body language
Years ago, a social psychologist called Amy Cuddy gave a TED talk on body language. It was about overcoming imposter syndrome and techniques she used to build her own confidence. Acting as though she were powerful and self assured for so long that she convinced herself. Cuddy advised using power poses to make yourself look and feel more confident.
Some of Cuddy’s research has since been discredited. But the fact remains that we can tell a lot about a person by their body language, and the likelihood is we are reading our own body language too. It has been proven that if we force ourselves to smile, we naturally feel happier. So, is this constant tendency to look down having a detrimental impact on my confidence?
Losing my identity
I know it’s not for everyone but when the children came along, giving up my established career was the right decision for me. And with it, I waved goodbye to aspiration, achievement and validation. Along with work socials, companionship and lunchtime drinking with friends.
Instead, I signed up for loneliness. Hours spent in front of the laptop, alone at home with only the dogs for company. It brought opportunities too. Being with the children all the time. Never missing a sports day, parents evening or school production. And that was what I wanted. It still is.
But somewhere down the road that led me from working lunches to lonely days at home, I lost my way. The competitive, energetic person who did triathlons and socialised was replaced by something else. An imposter trying to have it all and failing horribly. Someone who feels uncomfortable in their own skin. Incapable of having a conversation with strangers, shy around friends and a complete social reject in big groups.
Head held high
It doesn’t really help to know that I’m not the only one, or that plenty of parents fall into the same trap. But perhaps that body language expert has a point. Perhaps forcing myself to walk into a room looking straight ahead instead of down at my children – or my feet – would be helpful.
Maybe the people who retain an air of confidence do just that. Force themselves to keep their heads held high, embrace difficult situations and go out of their comfort zone. Until the air of confidence they exude convinces even themselves.