Say Something Good

Welcome to the May Carnival of Natural Parenting: Role model

This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama. This month our participants have waxed poetic about how their parenting has inspired others, or how others have inspired them. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.

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Women, generally, have a hard time saying good things about ourselves.

There’s an excellent reason for this: when we do, we are, invariably, attacked. We are women, and although we are apparently supposed to do all the work that runs the world (except make any of the decisions outside of the house or the market), we are not supposed to be proud. We are always, always supposed to make ourselves smaller (belittling means “to make little”!). We are always supposed to demure. We are always supposed to put ourselves down, beat ourselves up, and point out our shortcomings. We can never be allowed to say something unqualifiedly good about ourselves.

And I know this. I know this, I know this is a function of kyriarchy, I know this is a product of sexism, I know that the crazy in my brain latches on to this social injunction and yells that there’s something wrong with me if I ever so much as hint that I’m good at something without a shrug or an excuse or a “but”.

But I am a woman, and my brain is even more messed up than most women’s, and I find it really hard to say good things about myself. Not because I don’t rock — I do, and I know it — but because saying something good opens me up to accusations of pride (starting with my own damned brain!), to being belittled, to getting knocked down a peg.

So this month’s Carnival of Natural Parenting topic? Is really hard. I want to write about how I’m not all that. I want to write about how I fail so often. I want to write about all the people who have inspired me. At best, I wanted to say “Aw shucks, I can’t do that” and open the thread for y’all to fawn over me and tell me how great I am and how I’ve changed your lives and get you to write my post for me. (Because women are allowed to do that, we’re allowed to blush and say “Aw shucks” and giggle appreciatively when other people say good things about us, but heaven forbid we do it ourselves.)

But y’know what? I am good at what I do. And part of what I do is inspire people.

I figure out what teachers, textbooks, “experts” are saying, and I turn around and help others understand it. I write in language that is engaging, and illuminating, and sometimes heartbreakingly, breathtakingly beautiful. I portray the nuance of life, and this parenting gig, in ways that resonate with people, that show pain without wallowing, that illuminate ideals without shaming, that are, y’know, inspiring.

Y’all sometimes tell me that I’ve touched you. That I’ve made you feel less alone, or I’ve shown you a new way of looking at something, or I’ve helped you understand something that never made sense before. I’ve helped some of you yell less, breastfeed longer, let go of guilt, defy gender dictates, have more fun with your kids, and feel better about yourselves as parents.

And I’ve done it by doing this: sitting here, typing about the crazy in my head and the ideas I’ve gotten from other people, and the ways I’ve failed, and the ways I’ve tried to hate myself less when I’ve failed.

I wish I could come up with a beautiful, specific story of how I inspired someone to nurse in public, or convinced someone not to circumcise their kid, or taught someone to recognize their baby’s elimination signals, or gotten their kid comfortable in a back carry for the first time. And I’m even pretty sure I’ve done most of those things. But I’ve done it by being me, and doing this: I live my life, I parent my kid, and I blog about it. Sometimes people tell me how that’s affected them, but mostly, they don’t. And that’s ok, I’m not in this for the accolades1.

So here’s your homework2, dear readers:

  • One, tell me something good about yourself. No “pretty goods”, no “buts”, no “other than”, no “comparatively”, no qualifiers of any kind3. Tell me something that you do well. Parenting, business, school, personal, whatever. It all counts here, even if our culture tells us only some achievements matter.
  • Two, tell someone else how they’ve inspired you. No, not me — I already know I’m the bee’s knees. If there’s someone out there who has inspired you by being themselves, by parenting the way they do, or by writing about it — tell them. Tell them in real specific detail, with quantifiers and adjectives and dates and numbers, so that they have a great story to tell that makes them look and feel as good as they are. So they don’t just think they’ve done some good in the world, they know, and next time someone asks them to tell a story of when they inspired someone else, they’ll find it that much easier to just do it and skip all the “aw shucks” and “but I’m not that greats”. You know they rock; tell them.

Go forth. Proclaim your badassery. Proclaim others’ badassery. Change the world.

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Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!

Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:

  1. Even if I am a feedback investment banker.
  2. You didn’t think you were getting away without any, did you?
  3. I will edit those out of any comments left — so, I suppose, if you need to to get it down, leave them in, but they’ll be gone by morning!
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21 Responses to Say Something Good

  1. You’re absolutely right, writing this month’s post was hard. And by the time I managed I thought it wasn’t appropriate and was waiting for it to be knocked back, because you’re not supposed to brag, y’know. And I could slide out of this by saying you could read my post, and I admit I went and did other things hoping someone else would comment first.

    So here goes. I’m a great Mum. Yes there’s genetics and everything else involved but I’ve worked hard for the last four years and I have two gorgeous, happy, intelligent, loving, confident little girls.

    And I can take the credit.

  2. “sometimes breathtakingly, heartbreakingly beautiful” Sing it, sister! You have definitely inspired me, in many concrete ways (including rethinking my use of language, for instance). And you don’t have to “Aw shucks” this compliment. Just take it like a … um, woman!

    As for my homework:
    1. I write very well. There, no qualifying. Sometimes I read over my novel drafts and whistle and say, Damn, that’s good.
    2. All right, apart from you, I will say my friend Ian. He is honest, even when it has cost him. Not in that “I’m truthful so I can be a jerk” way, but in real, relational honesty. I find that very brave and want to explore emulating it. (Not quite at the actual emulating stage yet!)

  3. 1. I am an aware and responsive mother. I listen, really listen, to what my children say; I support them and uphold them; and I love them with absolute loyalty. They know it and they tell me so, and their behavior reflects it.
    2. I have a friend, another school mum at my daughter’s school, who is quite simply the warmest person I have ever met. She projects a quality of engagement and empathy that has reached many parents and kids in difficult circumstances. She is a lodestone in our community.

  4. Now isn’t this evil, first we have to twist our arm to write a post about how great we are and now you want me to write a comment about how great I am. :p
    You are totally right that it made me feel very awkward to have to write this carnival entry. I did consider having my likeronies write it for me… but well, I kind of went through with it.

    So here goes
    1. i’m very responsive and I go out of my way to help others
    2. I think all the regulars on Hey FB, Breastfeeding is not obscene have influenced me, life altering-like

  5. You have said what I wanted to express so much better than I did :) Like I said in my own post today, it was interesting to get the responses to this month’s topic – everyone was so hesitant to “brag.” But if we have inspired someone to research their options, to think about their actions, to parent consciously – why should we be ashamed?!
    1) I am passionate – I don’t like to be half-assed. I parent passionately, I havea passion for sharing info, etc.
    2) I will see the 2 friends today that are mentioned in my carnival post. I will be sure to say something to them in person about how very much they inspire me.

  6. This is fantastic. I love that you have given us homework. You are fabulous, and you ARE inspiring.

    1.) I am a fantastic mother. I am a talented artist and writer.

    2.) I will see a couple of friends today and make sure I tell them how awesome and inspiring they are!

  7. I think I should go through my post this month and highlight all the qualifiers! There are way too many and my intent was to be a warrior! What a wimpy warrior I am. I want to learn to raise my daughter to NOT demure and blush but to claim her power!

    1. I am an amazing empath and a great friend.

    2. All my blogosphere friends STILL struggling with infertility inspire me. They never give up, they are always there for each other, and they will be wonderful mothers someday. I try to remember them in every parenting choice I make. THIS parenting thing is a BLESSING and I will payforward the IF community that nursed me through IUIs and IVFs by raising a socially conscious, empathetic child.

  8. This is such a great post and so true. When I hear women doing the “but” and “aww shucks” routine, I’m going to gently correct them!

    1. I am a fantastic editor and good writer. I’m also a pretty awesome scrapbooker.

    2. I just told an online friend yesterday that I’m impressed by how energetic and positive she always is. She celebrates even the most mundane things in life like, as she puts it, “stinky butt cleanup time.”

  9. I am a loyal true blue friend and a great listener. (Which starts to become problematic when you follow so many great blogs.)
    I am inspired by the bloggers who put so much WORK into their blog posts. Who read and research and provide readers with a practically scientific piece of literature called a blog post which really should be an essay submitted for grading in a university. Sometimes I can do this, most often I cannot.

  10. quazydellasue

    You’re right, this IS hard, and it is hard for all the wrong reasons. I couldn’t agree more that we need to force ourselves to applaud our own achievements. And then it may become comfortable in time!

    I am an extremely compassionate person, and I bake like a professional, and I have great aesthetic taste!

    More than anything, I want to feel comfortable talking positively about my self and my achievements so that my daughter always does. It pains me to imagine her belittling herself.

    I always make an effort to give really specific loving praise to people in my life. It’s easy to get hooked once you see how much it means to people!

  11. It’s so true that it’s super hard to talk about yourself without feeling like you are some braggy jerk. I think it was Nelson Mandela who said “our greatest fear is not that we are inadequate but that we are powerful beyond measure”

    1. I’m really smart.
    2. I’ll be sure to let all my bloggy friends know they inspire me as I peruse the carnival posts today!

  12. Phoenix_Rising

    I can’t even explain how much I like this topic. Too many times and too many years full of kyriarchy pushing people down and disparaging efforts and even the very *being* makes for a low self-esteem. Reading things like this help to make it even more clear to me that I *am* worth more, that things *can* be better, and that it *is* worth working to make life better.

    You said that you wished you could come up with one beautiful, specific story in which you’d inspired someone. . .I’ll give you one. http://www.raisingmyboychick.com/2009/09/a-letter-to-a-loved-one/

    And the homework piece:
    1) I am learning how to become me. There is no qualifier here. This is all about the journey for me. I am walking on this journey and I am proud to be where I am in this journey, as hard as it is.
    2) My mom has been my inspiration throughout much of my life, and many times I’ve looked back and have been able to see how awesome she truly is.

  13. Before my homework, I will say that at 6’2″ it was very difficult constantly trying to make myself appear small. It is much easier to stand proud and tall of who I am and what I’ve accomplished. :)

    1) If I’m upset about or inspired by something, I can type up a good rant in no time at all. People often ask me if blogging is my full time job. It isn’t. It is something I do after the kids are in bed.

    2) In parenting, I’ve been very inspired (helped, soothed, given hope) lately by the writing of Marion Badenoch Rose of Parenting with Presence: http://www.parentingwithpresence.net/. I am very lucky to have her as a friend and fan of my blog on facebook and appreciate her popping in with bits of wisdom to get me through the tough times.

  14. I actually said something to the effect of “Eek, this is weird tooting my own horn” in my post for this carnival. Yeah, it felt odd simply because I never do it, not because it isn’t true. There’s a balance to strike between conceit and modesty, I think it’s humility.

    Homework:
    1. I am ridiculously intuitive.
    2. Inspiration changes for me all the time, but right now, it’s my sister who had to go back to work with a three-month old because she’s the major breadwinner. She’s a die hard breastfeeder, bed-sharer, and even juggles major travel to bring her baby (and or husband) with her because she’s not ready to be apart from her 5-month old. She’s soooo new at this parenting gig and she’s stepping up to the plate like an old pro.

  15. 1. I’m a damn good mother. Not in spite of the fact that I’m an unconventional one, but because I’m an unconventional one and embrace my quirks.

    (Ow, that was hard.)

    2. Aww, crap, you mean we can’t list you? I’ll have to think about that one …

  16. 1-I’m great at encouraging my daughter and my students to take risks, try new things and even just be silly sometimes for the fun and learning that comes with playing.

    2-I’ll tell my friend Mandi how she inspires me with regards to my teaching and interactions with my students based on her wonderful example.

  17. I? Am awesome at math. Numbers are my thing, yo.

    And I know I’m not supposed to tell you how you’ve inspired me, but you have. So I’m going to ignore that little instruction. So thank you, for the inspiration. And for giving me a forum to brag about my math skills.

  18. What a fantastic post! So true, rarely do I open up for fear of being attacked verbally/emotionally. It’s hard!

  19. 1. I have a knack for words. I am good at editing and proofreading other people’s writings. I am kind, compassionate and empathetic. And, despite what I tell myself, I am very patient.

    2. I would like to thank Brooke for introducing me to the world of natural birthing choices and natural parenting choices. She did so in such a gentle way that I felt inspired to learn more. I was blessed to spend time with her during her first pregnancy and she generously shared her birthing choices with me. Because of her, I read Ina May’s Guide to Chilbirth and my whole perspective shifted after that.

  20. We were just talking about this very thing at my Tai Chi class the other day… why is it that we can always conjure something negative, something we’d like to change, about ourselves, but it can be hard to proudly say something we are good at, something we love about ourselves?

    I am good at coming up with fun, creative ideas… Now I am going to tell my person, although, yes, you do inspire me as well!

  21. Pingback: OneStarryNight.com: I'm a Parenting Inspiration, Who Knew!

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