There was a time that I thought looks were everything. And how I wanted to look was not what I saw in the mirror. But I wanted more than just a pretty face. When people looked at me, I wanted them to see stunning physical beauty. When I spoke, I wanted them to think my dialogue was simply intoxicating, not to mention my impressive wit. I craved, but still lacked, that “It” factor. I wanted not just to be popular, but perfect.  I wanted to be something I was not. I secretly wished my last name were Jones so people would want to keep up with me for a change.


I was a shy, timid kid who was more geeky than glamorous, more textbookish than titillating. I spent most of the time with my nose to the grind or buried in a book. I wrote silly lovesick poetry that rhymed, even if it meant stretching the cadence or context. I was a fashion disaster with nary a style of my own, unless you count 1983 Geek as a style.


I went on to improve in this way and that. I steered my gaze up from the linoleum floors and started to make some friends. I was invited to parties and hosted my own. But that inner hunger to be someone still gnawed away at my fibers. Simply being me was not (good) enough. Insecurity hung like a veil, shrouding me from feeling the sense of confidence that seemingly oozed so easily from the other girls I knew.


That was during the angst riddled years of middle and high school.


I thought motherhood would be different.


Those teenage pangs of insecurity creep into my skeleton and squeeze my muscles into sailor knots. I feel the physical twisting and grinding. I find myself constant comparing myself, my kids, my stuff. Is my diaper bag cool enough even though it’s not an It bag? Do I even know what the latest It bag is? Are my kids going to the “right” camp, school, play date? Does my muffin top seep over my jeans worse than the other moms? Am I disciplining my kids too much or too little? Did I pack a healthy snack? Will they scoff at my house and its consignment store steals? Am I doing this right? Did I offend anyone? Have I planned for enough time? Is the store-bought cake a faux pas? Is that too much milk? Should I invite them over for a play date? How do I handle that gluten allergy? Will I say something stupid? Will they hate me because my labor and deliveries were painfully easy? Will they hate me because I didn’t breastfeed? Is my skirt too tight? Are my boobs sagging in this sweater? Can I keep up in that boot camp? How can I hide my unmanicured nails? Will they notice my swimsuit is from last summer’s sale rack? Is my car too messy? Do I have more gray hair? Am I the oldest mom here? Will they laugh at me when they go home?


And the insecurities swell. I bat them away one by one with a virtual fly swatter. I shrug them off. I flick them like flies ruining a perfectly good spring picnic. I mumble my personal mantra over and over to myself until I start believing it. “Everything is fine. You rock. It doesn’t matter what people say.” Lather. Rinse. Repeat. Here’s the thing, I actually believe it. All that insecurity nonsense simply plays on the overwhelming responsibility of motherhood. We weigh ourselves down with baggage of our own childhood, angst of fitting in to a foreign world, while we are treading lightly among new company and trying to be the very bastion of motherhood that fuels these insecurities in the first place. We pressure ourselves to do what’s right while forgetting that we’re the very people who define right. Those thoughts are fleeting, a gush of nerves storming my psyche. They beat like the cadence of action movie gunfire in my mind and are lost almost as quickly as they crashed.


Deep breaths. Scan. Posture straightened. Reality check. Smile.

I realize now that the bag I carry isn’t nearly as important as the woman I’ve become. The woman who proudly brings her own jute handled bags to the grocery store.

Ilina Ewen
Ilina Ewen

Ilina is mom to 2 sons & works as Chief of Staff to NC's First Lady. She daydreams about food, travel, and shoes.