I’m a mama. And a wife. Also, a daughter, a sister, an aunt, niece, cousin and friend. Before all of that, however, I’m Ashley. Relationships are so, so important, and a huge part of what makes us who we are. Yet sometimes, especially as mothers and daughters, we spend so much time pouring into the lives of others we lose sight of what we really enjoy beyond pleasing those around us.
There is a lot of talk about losing your identity in motherhood. My mother went through her own series of crises as the last child left the home, she hit 50, and got a diagnosis of Multiple Sclerosis. Every aspect of her life brought attention to the fact that she had to get a handle on who she was outside of being Dan’s wife and our mother. She writes about it in her newest book, Creating a Haven Of Peace.
When April Perry of the Power Of Moms contacted my mother and I to do an interview on this topic of identity from two generational perspectives, I was thrilled to dig in and address this.
The term “identity” is pretty ambiguous if you look up the definition: “The fact of being who or what a person or thing is.” Doesn’t say a lot. Who am I? Well, I stated it above – a mom, wife, daughter, sister…. I’ve got the relationships part down pat. But there is more to this. Identity is all of you – who you are when you are alone as well. Am I an artist, creative, visionary, nature-lover, or yogi? Yes. Why yes, I am.
My identity is what brings importance to those things which make me come alive. These are the people in my life, and the things that inspire my own passion and creativity. When you lose your identity, it is simply when you put your own interests at the bottom of the priority list for so long, you forget what they are.
What do you love to do? What gets you excited? What takes you away into your own creative world where you tune everything else and simply create? Recently I read the book Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert.
She talks about this amazing thing we should all have: creative entitlement. For me, it’s a reminder of our worth. It’s the fact that all of us – all of us – have the something beautiful within us.
“The universe buries strange jewels deep within us all, and then stands back to see if we can find them.”
Take the weekend to really look at what makes you come alive. Setting the relationships piece aside, what would you choose to do in solitude? What allows you to let your own creativity come forth in a powerful way? If you don’t know, I encourage you to start looking for it. Check out Big Magic and start unleashing that incredible creativity within.
If you need help juggling this whole mama thing while actually remembering what fueled you before children, the Mom Conference is an incredible wealth of information. You’ll hear from 20 speakers and authors (including my mother and I, plus some of my absolute favorite mentors in this arena)! You won’t want to miss this FREE opportunity to hear about everything from monitoring kids’ screen time to helping kids control their emotions to taking better care of yourself. Click here to learn more about it.
“Perfectionism is a particularly evil lure for women, who, I believe, hold themselves to an even higher standard of performance than do men. There are many reasons why women’s voices and visions are not more widely represented today in creative fields. Some of that exclusion is due to regular old misogyny, but it’s also true that—all too often—women are the ones holding themselves back from participating in the first place. Holding back their ideas, holding back their contributions, holding back their leadership and their talents. Too many women still seem to believe that they are not allowed to put themselves forward at all, until both they and their work are perfect and beyond criticism. Meanwhile, putting forth work that is far from perfect rarely stops men from participating in the global cultural conversation. Just sayin’. And I don’t say this as a criticism of men, by the way. I like that feature in men—their absurd overconfidence, the way they will casually decide, “Well, I’m 41 percent qualified for this task, so give me the job!” Yes, sometimes the results are ridiculous and disastrous, but sometimes, strangely enough, it works—a man who seems not ready for the task, not good enough for the task, somehow grows immediately into his potential through the wild leap of faith itself. I only wish more women would risk these same kinds of wild leaps. But I’ve watched too many women do the opposite. I’ve watched far too many brilliant and gifted female creators say, “I am 99.8 percent qualified for this task, but until I master that last smidgen of ability, I will hold myself back, just to be on the safe side.” Now, I cannot imagine where women ever got the idea that they must be perfect in order to be loved or successful. (Ha ha ha! Just kidding! I can totally imagine: We got it from every single message society has ever sent us! Thanks, all of human history!) But we women must break this habit in ourselves—and we are the only ones who can break it. We must understand that the drive for perfectionism is a corrosive waste of time, because nothing is ever beyond criticism. No matter how many hours you spend attempting to render something flawless, somebody will always be able to find fault with it. (There are people out there who still consider Beethoven’s symphonies a little bit too, you know, loud.) At some point, you really just have to finish your work and release it as is—if only so that you can go on to make other things with a glad and determined heart. Which is the entire point. Or should be.”
― Elizabeth Gilbert,