So Hard On Ourselves, Why Are We So Hard On Each Other?

Yesterday’s post from Kristen’s at Motherese had me thinking all day. A few days ago there was Aiden at Ivy League Insecurities exploring thoughts in this post. Just before the weekend there was this post from Sandy at Momisodes. And like a good movie, if you’re still thinking about it the next day, you know it was good. All of the posts dealt with the degree of guilt we take on as mothers, second guessing ourselves and our decisions.

Kristen’s post tackled the struggle between working moms and SAHmoms. More specifically, how we, fellow mothers, crucify each other if the choice of another mother doesn’t match our own. It got me thinking about one of my favorite songs by Tori Amos, aptly named, Crucify.

This song is off the first album I ever purchased by Tori. It’s considered her debut album. I know every song on this album so well I have no idea which ones were played on the radio, which ones were most popular. I identified with so many of the songs  – and Crucify is one of my favorites.

Thinking this would be a great song for a Tunes for Tuesday post, I sat back and listened. I almost didn’t go with it. I wanted something current. This isn’t. I was hoping I’d choose a lighter, happier song – like a love song. This isn’t.

But a song that still resonates in me now – as it did almost 20 years ago? This is. And that’s a bit scary to me.

I just had to dive in.

“Every finger in the room
is pointing at me
I wanna spit in their faces
Then I get afraid of what that could bring” – I’m the type that thinks of the absolute perfect comeback. Fifteen minutes later. In the moment? My insides are jelly.

“I got a bowling ball in my stomach
I got a desert in my mouth
Figures that my courage would choose to sell out now” – I’ve been challenged about my own choices as a mother. Am I calm, decisive and direct? Nope. I’m defensive, insecure and shaken.

“Why do we
Crucify ourselves
Every day
I crucify myself
Nothing I do is good enough for you
Crucify myself
Every day
And my heart is sick of being in chains” – I was a young adult when I first found this song. Trying desperately to break away from a very dysfunctional mother. What scares me now is that I can still apply this song to my life, with other people, almost 20 years later. Have I not grown? Have I not learned? Why am I repeating patterns?

“I’ve been looking for a savior in these dirty streets
looking for a savior beneath these dirty sheets
I’ve been raising up my hands
Drive another nail in” – As mothers, we are so hard on ourselves. What I don’t understand is why we have to be so hard on each other.

“Got enough guilt to start
my own religion” – I love this line. I was raised Catholic. I know a lot about guilt. And then I became a mother. I didn’t need the Catholic Church anymore. I had the Church of Motherhood, showering guilt down every day. Do I work? Do I stay at home? Do I let her have processed cheese? Candy? Soda? How many activities are too much? Are they socialized well enough? Too much TV? Why isn’t he potty trained yet? Why have we been sick once a month for the past year? Flu shots? Vaccines? Down time? Bed times? Are they getting enough sleep? Green vegetables? Too much juice? Not enough water? A never-ending list.

“Please be
Save me
I cry” – A cacophony of screaming voices in my head. Second guessing. Judging. Evaluating. Disregarding. Embracing. When all I want is peace of mind, support, calm.

It’s been a never-ending cycle for me. I moved on from my mother to other people, other things.  I look to other mothers for support and understanding. I crucify myself every day. I don’t need to be crucified all over again by someone else.


Filed under Motherhood, Music

21 responses to “So Hard On Ourselves, Why Are We So Hard On Each Other?

  1. I so relate to this… also with the dysfunctional mother… I beat myself up about “creating” similar relationships or patterns with older females to this day. I fight a power struggle with myself to not give my power away to these manipulative people, but I don’t yet have an answer. I know that if I’m hypervigilant and practice being strong I can do it, but it takes so much work, and there’s never really a chance to rest and recuperate from this, is there? I struggle now with my MIL about this very thing. If you have any more insights I’d be very happy to hear them. 🙂

  2. suzicate

    As hard as women are on one another, we’re even harder on ourselves. Will we ever stop second guessing ourselves?

  3. Hey, love Tori Amos!! And that line about so much guilt that she could start her own religion? Total brilliance.

    I don’t have any answers, but I do wish we could find a way to be kinder to both ourselves and the women we pass on the street every day.

  4. Suzicate, that is such a good point. I have been following the posts you outlined in this post, Jane, and was also incited to write about female on female hate. But Suzicate raises a great point – WHY are we so hard on ourselves? WHERE did we get that programming from? and HOW can we stop it?

  5. This is very interesting. When my doctor was giving me the ‘depression questionnaire’ once of the questions was ‘do you often feel guilty and inadequate?’. I looked at her in disbelief and said “hello — I’m a mother?” and she laughed. I’m sure it matches your experience, but I would say most mothers I know are harder on themselves than they are on others — working mothers feel they neglect their children, at-home Moms worry they’re not setting a good super-Mom example for their daughters, and part-time working Moms feel like they do everything half-assed. I try really hard not to judge the way other Moms do things differently (unless they think only their way is right — then watch out). I try to remember to just look at my kids. They’re so not wrecked — they’re funny, and quirky, and imaginative, and they like the Simpsons. Clearly I can’t be doing EVERYTHING wrong. 🙂

  6. Sorry — I meant to say I’m sure that ‘crucifying each other’ must match your experience.

  7. Oh my goodness, Jane. I love that song and that entire album. Little Earthquakes was my soundtrack during college and years after. But I never really thought about the meaning of “Crucify,” and the ways in which it connects to my experience of motherhood until now. I know I will be singing this all day…now I have to go find that CD. Thank you for this insight today.

  8. unabridgedgirl

    I love Tori and I love this song. I never viewed it this way before, though, so that was completely interesting!

  9. I feel so vindicated for my feelings and behaviors sometimes when I read your blog….The voice in my head says “see, other people, even amazing women that have their act together have those feeling too!” And then of course I realize that I too am an amazing woman that has been ‘crucified’ by cultural brainwashing. We are all amazing women. And all of us are struggling to understand which are our own soundly based doubts and fears, and which are really planted by society and don’t serve our purpose as women or mothers!

    Now, gotta go find Tori! Thanks!

  10. Sheesh, Jane, you stole the words right out of my mouth!!

    Crucify. That is such an amazing verb for what women do to themselves and others.

  11. I’m always trying to be better than I am, pushing myself further and faster, strectching myself. When I can’t make it, I’ve dropped the ball, when I’m less than perfect, I really tear into myself. So yeah, I don’t need another person whipping me; I do it just well without.

  12. I grew up in a very different culture, yet I can totally relate to the way women are so hard on themselves, and, unfortunately, on each other. So, what is it? What happened? What was taught? What was shown? Another great discussion, or the beginning of a great discussion going on here. I love all the posts you mentioned, esp. the one on Motherese, I appreciate her even-handed approach to both sides.

  13. Well done. (Great song too.) I’ve been saying it for years, if guilt had a shape, it would be round. It has a way of coming back over and over. 🙂

  14. Crucify is indeed the perfect word. What I don’t pretend to understand is why we women and mothers crucify ourselves and each other at every turn? Why is there so little understanding, such scarce forgiveness? I don’t know. It’s almost as if we feel like we *should* crucify ourselves, that in not bending to various breeds of guilt, we are in some way not fulfilling the role of mother as martyr? I don’t know, but I thank you for linking my way and for continuing this critically important and relevant conversation.

  15. angelcel

    This is the value of blogging – to know that others feel the same.

  16. I realized lately that, since we’re all so terribly hard on ourselves (except the handful, you know who they are, who clearly do not themselves if their choices are sound because they have no mechanism for evaluation) we’re hard on other mothers because if their choices are okay, then ours…the ones about which we beat ourselves up and second guess and regret and on and on…why then those choices were wrong. And we wasted our guilt and ruined our children being wrong, all because that *other* mother does xyz. If I don’t judge her really harshly, then I clearly am the worst mother ever.
    Doesn’t make sense as a way of life, but it seems like a lot of our judgment is us trying to spread our guilt outward instead of letting it eat us alive. “I spent hours agonizing over this, so I need you to be wrong for me to sleep at night.” Yuck.

  17. This, sadly, is so true. But Jane, I have to say you are a beacon of light in all this. Your blog is always so positive and stressing the good. I strive to do some of that too, but you are a wonderful example!

  18. I knew I liked you even before you started referencing my favorite female songwriter. I’m sure she’d have a lot to say about this issue since she has also become a mother. Here is a live version that I suspect is informed a bit by her mama-wisdom:
    I love your reading of this song. I don’t think I’ll hear the song the same way ever again.

  19. I think about this all the time. Why oh why are we so hard on ourselves and each other? This is one of my all-time favorite songs. And Cornflake Girl. Great choice!!

  20. ck

    I’d forgotten all about Tori. Reading the lyrics brought me back to a happy time in life…which was *exactly* the break I needed.

    Thank you, Jane!

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