One of the most common things I hear from the beautiful mothers I work with is, “I feel like I’ve lost myself”, or “I don’t know who I am anymore”. While we venture into motherhood understanding that things will change, there’s no way we can possibly comprehend how much change we’ll experience. Everyone feels it differently and in a different time frame, however there will generally be a moment, or period of time, when we truly acknowledge the identity shift of becoming a mum and deeply yearn for our former selves.
In this blog, I’ll share my insights as a motherhood coach about what self image means, the changes as you become a mum, and how you can learn to adapt. So, if you’re feeling lost, I want you to trust this is exactly where you are meant to be. It’s normal, and once you learn to lean into motherhood’s constant evolution, you’ll experience something truly magical.
What is self image?
We all have an image of ourselves or a perception of who we are, what we believe we’re worth and what we can achieve; this is our self image. It’s programmed deep into the recesses of our minds and sets the boundaries for what we do or don’t do. Whether we’re aware of it or not, it can shift exponentially once we give birth, adopt or transition into a maternal figure.
How does motherhood shift our self image?
While some women happily transition from maiden to mother, others struggle with the grief associated with losing their former identity. Not only do we experience countless physical, emotional and social changes ourselves, but we’re also trying to figure out how to look after a child. Not to mention the societal expectations we’re trying to fulfill, all while looking like we’ve got it “figured out”. With this amount of change, the image we hold in our mind of ourselves – our self image – also changes. The self image of many women before having children is strongly shaped by their paid work or role in which they feel most ‘seen’ and valued. Whereas, in motherhood, unless we still have strong linkages to this work or role, or something else where we feel valued, or have a strong sense of self worth regardless of what we ‘do’, we can feel invisible, undervalued and begin to question ‘who am I, now that I no longer do that thing I used to do?’
What is matrescence?
For centuries we’ve known women experienced significant change when they became mothers, affecting almost every part of their lives; now we have a term for this – Matrescence. Coined by Dana Raphael in 1973, matrescence is the process of becoming a mum. The physical, emotional and social transition women experience during preconception, pregnancy and labour, surrogacy, adoption, and beyond. Think of it as the equivalent shift of adolescence; an all-encompassing biological, psychosocial, political, and spiritual change.
How to accept your new self image?
Motherhood is an exciting catalyst for personal transformation, growth and liberation. It can also feel like you’re stuck in limbo between the person you were and the person you’re becoming. Wherever you are in your journey, know you are enough, and whatever you feel is normal. Hold gratitude for yourself and where you are right now, and give yourself permission to shape a new self image that fits this new stage of your life.
Love the old you, feel grateful for her, but start to let her go as you paint a visual image of who you’re becoming. Get curious about the new person you’re becoming while simultaneously appreciating the old you. As you think about the new version of you, consider…
- What is she wearing?
- What does she eat for lunch?
- What sorts of things would she be thinking?
- What would she be doing?
- How does she spend her free time?
- How does she respond to her children?
- How does she design her day?
- How does she honour her needs?
Having a deeper understanding of your new self image can help you outgrow your old self image. As you start to embed this visual into your subconscious, you’ll notice your habits change, and your thoughts, feelings, and actions feel more authentic. And as you become more loving and comfortable with this new you, it’s natural to stop yearning for the old version because it doesn’t necessarily align with your new values, beliefs and attitude. Self image is dynamic, evolutionary and constantly changing.
Take comfort in knowing that however you feel is okay, and with this identity shift comes the opportunity to create new beliefs, values, self-confidence and world views. It’s okay (and normal) to continuously evolve your self image in the same way that our children constantly change.
What to do if you’re feeling lost right now
If you’re a mother desperately trying to find a way back to your old self, ask yourself how you’re trying to return to the woman you were. Instead of looking outside for answers, turn inwards. Finding ourselves again and leaning into this shift in identity is a beautiful awakening. It’s a process of excavating, unearthing and returning to ourselves through self-exploration. Give yourself space and permission and know that you don’t have to do it alone.
I specialise in matrescence coaching, supporting women through the transition of motherhood. Helping them come back to themselves while claiming a new and authentic identity. If you’re ready to fall in love with the new you and gently let go of your previous self, get in touch and let’s work together.