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What It Means to Shed My 'Social Mask' as a Mom to a Boy on the Autism Spectrum

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I felt inspired and compelled to write this post after watching the interview that Dr. Phil did with Demi Lovato in which she speaks out about her history of addiction and mental illness. During the interview, Demi expresses how important it is for her to be open and honest because she wants to help others.

After, Dr. Phil speaks to her audience as part of CastOnTour. In his speech, he talks about how everyone has what he calls a personal truth and a social mask, and the importance of authenticity.

Our personal truth is what we really say and feel about ourselves when no one is watching. Our social mask is the image of ourselves we portray to the world. Our social mask usually puts the best things forward and hides the negative.

You know how everyone’s life looks perfect on Instagram?

Dr. Phil goes on to say that the problem with this is that we then compare our personal truth with other people’s social masks. This can lead us to feel not good enough or have a distorted personal truth. Both Demi and Dr. Phil feel it’s important to always show your true, authentic self.

This really made me contemplate what message my blog is giving my readers, and therefore, what does my social mask look like that you may be comparing yourself to?

I blog to help other parents, so naturally, I share advice I feel will be helpful. But I don’t want to skew my image and make other parents feel like I always have it together and never struggle.

I want to share my authentic self with everyone. I want you to know who I am, that I’m not perfect but I’m doing the best I can. I want my readers to see — I am just like you.

So here are some things about me — good and bad — that I feel create my whole authentic self. I hope other moms reading this will be able to relate and share similar feelings.

I am proud of myself, as a mom, for always trying to find ways to be a better parent.

Sometimes I raise my voice at my kids, even though I know it’s not their fault. This makes me feel guilty.

Since I’ve known my son is on the autism spectrum, I have spent all of my free time learning as much as I possibly can about ASD.

There was a time when I knew nothing and missed all the signs of ASD. This is why he wasn’t assessed until he was 6 years old.

I feel passionate about autism acceptance and being a child advocate.

I have sat in my car and cried because I didn’t know how to speak up for my child and be the voice he needed.

I feel qualified to give advice to other parents because I’ve taken courses about autism, researched-based programming, assessments and interventions.

I took those courses because I had absolutely no idea what I was doing!

I started blogging because when I did start seeking advice, I found there was not much available to parents that could actually be applied to everyday life. Everything I found was either too clinical or too vague to put into action.

I love to be completely organized — with my visual schedule, my pre-planned first-then statements, my behavior reinforcers. I feel ready for anything.

Sometimes, I get so overwhelmed by the chaos that I feel like my head is going to explode.

I know the importance of physical activity to support sensory needs and encourage frequent movement.

When my kids are running around the house, bouncing off the walls, couch, each other… watching them makes me feel overwhelmed.

I’m super optimistic and always looking for solutions.

But I feel hopeless sometimes.

I beam with pride as my son tells stories about his day and talks about all the things he knows. He is incredibly smart and talented.

Sometimes he never stops talking, and I zone out. Then, I feel horrible because I don’t actually know what he said.

And honestly, I don’t always have a spotless house and a healthy meal on the table. Sometimes my kids just annoy the hell out of me! And sometimes they make feel warm and fuzzy inside, and I can’t get enough of them.

So, this is who I am.

On social media, I am the mom with all the answers. I post all the happy, positive pictures. I share the joys of parenting and the special moments that happen when you have a child with autism.

I don’t show off the tears, the sibling rivalry, the meltdowns and the fear. But they exist in everyone, and I’m here to say so without being ashamed.

In real life… I do have a lot of knowledge and skills when it comes to parenting. But sometimes I go to sleep without finishing the dishes or I forget to pack my son’s homework for the morning.

I have strengths and weaknesses. I have flaws and I have talents. I don’t think there’s a mother in the world who doesn’t feel lost sometimes.

Don’t compare your personal truth to other mom’s social masks.

I am real.

I challenge everyone who reads this to shed their own social mask and show everyone a glimpse of their true self. Show another mom she’s not alone in her fears and insecurities. This is normal and this is OK.

Photo by Jenna Norman on Unsplash

Originally published: March 27, 2018
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