Have you ever heard of stepmom imposter syndrome? You may not have had a name for it, but my guess is that you’ve definitely experienced it.
What Is Stepmom Imposter Syndrome?
You probably felt it the first time you did something “parent-like” and heard a little voice inside your head say, “what am I doing here?” or, “everyone is looking at me; they know I don’t belong.”
You are not alone. Every stepmom has felt that way at one time or another.
When you doubt yourself no matter how qualified, educated, or accomplished you are, it’s called imposter syndrome. And it’s very real.
I first noticed it when my husband Craig asked me to pick my stepson up from school for the first time. Which involved going in to the front office and signing him out. No big deal, right?
But I started to sweat when I approached the receptionist. Surely she would tell me I wasn’t allowed. Surely she would look at me and wonder who I thought I was to think I could be responsible for this child who wasn’t mine.
Not only didn’t she question me, neither did my stepson. He was happy to see me. He tossed his backpack into the car, climbed into the back seat, and asked if we could run by McDonald’s on the way home (because of course, right?). He had no idea how much he helped me feel more accepted that day.
Stepmoms Feel A Lot Of Pressure To Be Perfect
Sorry, Disney, but you haven’t helped much here – wicked stepmother anyone? But I guess it doesn’t make an interesting plot for the stepmom to be a wonderful, caring woman.
And, of course, we put so much pressure on ourselves. Think about the last time you felt super crappy about something in your stepfamily life. Did you blame yourself for any part of it? Like, if you had just done a slightly better job as stepmom it might have been different?
Or even when things are going great? How much pressure do you put on yourself for everything you do for your stepkids to be perfect?
Over time, this pressure fuels anxiety, overwhelm, and burnout. And feelings of total worthlessness when things don’t go right.
Imposter syndrome can stir up a lot of stress. And let’s face it, you don’t need any more of that. But the good news is that you can address it.
5 Ways To Ditch Stepmom Imposter Syndrome And Know That You’re Enough:
1. Release The Pressure You’re Putting On Yourself.
If you’re like me, you’re probably trying to be the perfect stepmom. But you’re trying to be something that, let’s be honest, no one expects you to be. You’re not perfect – and no parent is.
The first birthday party I threw for my stepdaughter was insane. My husband kept reminding me that it didn’t need to be pinterest-perfect. But I felt like everyone knew I wasn’t a “real” parent, so I had to work even harder for the party to be perfect so that I didn’t mess up or disappoint the kids.
When you’re feeling like an imposter, you put a completely unreasonable amount of pressure on yourself. You work harder to be “perfect” at your role to make up for what you consider to be your “unworthiness” of the title “parent.”
Remember, there are only two things that any parent needs to deliver on to succeed: 1.) Make their children feel safe; and 2.) Make their children feel loved. I’m guessing that’s a much lower bar than what you’ve been pressuring yourself to deliver.
So when you start to pressure yourself to be perfect? Take a deep breath and ask yourself if your actions are making them feel safe and loved. That’s it.
2. Embrace your actual role.
When my sister in law told me one time what a great mom I was, I cringed. Why? Because the first thing I thought to myself was, “but I’m not even a real mom.”
But I was – and am. And so are you. And you have an opportunity to have a really special relationship with your stepkids. Are you their biological parent? Nope. And that’s okay. You and your stepchild can work together to determine what your relationship will look like. Embrace that idea and you’ll open yourself up to build a unique bond with them.
3. Stop Paying Attention To What (You Think) Other People Expect.
Not their actual expectations, but what you think they expect. That’s really at the core of imposter syndrome. You feel like an imposter because you feel like you don’t measure up to what you think others expect. Or how you think they perceive you.
The fact is, you never know what people think of you. So stop letting that matter. Pay attention to what YOU expect of yourself.
Are you listening yet? Head to iTunes or wherever you get your podcasts for a weekly dose of stepmom real talk!
4. Don’t Compare Yourself To Other Moms/Stepmoms. Especially Based On Social Media.
Everyone puts their best (or perfect) foot forward. Especially on social media. Yes, it might look like your mom friends have it all figured out while you stumble through this stepmother thing. But you never know what their lives are like off-camera.
How many times have you posted on social media when your stepchild is screaming that you aren’t their parent, or telling you to shove off. Exactly. In the same way as there’s more to your life than what you show people in public, other stepmoms and moms are struggling, too. You just may not see it. So stop comparing your flawed journey to their publicly perfect ones. Embrace your journey as unique.
5. Talk To Someone. Find Some Resources.
I’m so excited to be the new co-owner of Stepfamily Magazine with Beth McDonough. Head HERE to check it out!
I opened up to a friend recently about some of the stepfamily challenges I’ve had over the years. When I finished, she said, “I am so sorry, I had no idea you were dealing with all that.”
And how could she have known? If you’re like me, you don’t broadcast the bad stuff all the time and you may sugarcoat what’s going on, even to those closest to you. If you aren’t comfortable talking about your challenges to your friends or family, that’s okay, but please talk to someone.
Find a coach or a therapist. And know that there are way more resources for stepmoms than there used to be. I host The Stepmom Diaries podcast and run a private Facebook group just for stepmoms (you can join HERE). I am also co-owner of Stepfamily Magazine, which regularly publishes articles that help stepmoms. And I’ve pulled together a bunch of additional resources for you HERE.
Stepmom imposter syndrome is real. It can be hard. But you’re not a fraud. You’ve taken on a challenging role and you’re doing a great job. You’ve got this.