Motherhood has changed me… drastically. I am in no way the same person I was before. And I am immensely thankful for that.
As a child, I was so shy that I remember bawling when, at 6-years old, I had been asked by my mother to run into the convenience store to buy milk. The thought of interacting with the cashier — an unfamiliar adult — terrified me. Another time I nearly melted into a sobbing puddle when she asked me to run into the dog groomer’s to pick up our cocker spaniel. Conversing with strangers was a massive undertaking.
In school I had a few close friends but I never felt I fully belonged. I was self-conscious, anxious, and generally just lost. I was guarded and clingy. Socializing was entirely exhausting.
I clung to familiar faces in unfamiliar settings. I got miffed when my safety nets would want to branch off and meet new people. They didn’t want to abandon me; they simply wanted to meet new people too. I understood their desire — I wanted that as well — but I was far too shy to follow in their footsteps. Instead of encouraging their social goals, I’d get resentful (really, I was angry with myself but it was easier to throw that frustration on someone else.)
My shyness continued into young adulthood. After college, I began working in an office that predominantly employed associates at least 10 to 15 years my senior. So, my feeling of not fitting in continued. I was so much younger than my colleagues that I amplified my guarded nature in order to secure my professional demeanor. Unfortunately, this was isolating.
Then came the struggles trying to conceive. Hiding that burden burried me deeper into my self-imposed isolation. I felt unfulfilled, unhappy, and stressed. I was lost.
Then I got pregnant. Just as a colleague had once told me would happen, a whole new world of people came into my life. My pregnancy showed quickly and obviously, so people — familiar and not — felt at ease discussing pregnancy and babies with me. I enjoyed the built-in conversation starter.
I began to grow accustomed to conversing with strangers. It felt good, even when the strangers had verbal diarrhea, as is so very common when people chat with expectant women, I found the foibles entertaining. Heaven knows I had made plenty of social missteps, so I was not one to judge!
After having my first child, my sense of purpose was clear. My priorities centered upon her and my little growing three-person family. My former concerns, plans, interests, and worries seemed utterly trivial. I was happier but I was still anxious and still battling shyness. Still somewhat self-conscious, but gradually coming out of my shell.
I was slowly becoming more outgoing, more comfortable in my own skin. However, I had previously been so painfully shy that I had a long road to travel.
20.5 months later, I had my second child. Socializing was paramount. I wanted my children out and in the world, learning social cues and proper behavior. I encouraged self-confidence, outgoing tendencies, and friendliness. I wanted them not to suffer from shyness as I had and still, to some degree, did. The efforts succeeded.
2.25 years later, I had my third child. I was no longer shy. Instead, I shouldered a caretaker demeanor. Upon entering a social setting, I’d seek to include, to engage the seemingly shy ones, to help others feel welcomed and safe. I smiled, I laughed, I focused on maintaining a welcoming vibe.
I started conversations easily. I was self-confident, outgoing, and fulfilled. I was no longer anxious — but still stressed as I did have three close-in-age kids afterall — and I was happy. Social engagements no longer stirred anxiety but excitement. I enjoyed connecting with others and helping shy counterparts tiptoe into a safe, friendly, nonjudgmental conversation. My purpose was inclusion.
Motherhood, out of necessity, ripped the selfishness from me and that began the healing. When you are no longer the center of your own world, you become less self-conscious and more other-centered. When you have a purpose, you no longer feel lost. When you are content, you no longer feel insecure or depressed. When you are at peace, you are happy and can share that with others.
Motherhood made me who I am now, and I could not be more grateful.