Being Authentic in your Stepmom Role

Every year Merriam-Webster picks a Word of the Year based on data related to the number of look-ups, which means that people are thinking, talking, and writing about this word. It’s a word that is on people’s minds, and they are seeking clarification on its meaning. For 2023, Merriam-Webster’s Word of the Year was “authentic.” Merriam-Webster has several definitions listed, including “not false or imitation” and “true to one’s own personality, spirit, or character.”

Authenticity and Being a Stepmom

When reading through these definitions, I thought about how being authentic is linked to your stepmom role. Ever feel like you have to act a certain way as a stepmom? Or feel like you can’t quite be yourself? Maybe you are putting pressure on yourself to conform to a particular ideal of how you think you should be? Because the very nature of our role is a gray area, tinged in uncertainty, as stepmoms we can start doubting ourselves. Or we might become focused on being liked by others in our lives, whether it’s our stepchildren, other moms, or even our stepchild’s mom. (Although we would never actually admit this!)

In general, many women are relationship-oriented by nature, so we want to connect with people around us, whether those people are our coworkers, neighbors, or our new family. We want to form strong bonds not only with our partner but also with our stepchildren. This can send us on a quest for approval and praise, while putting a lot of undue pressure on ourselves. This can even lead us to losing ourselves because we are always trying to please others.

Stepfamily Dynamics at Play

Unfortunately, the reality is just by the nature of our stepmom role, we won’t receive a lot of praise and we’re not even necessarily set up to be liked by our stepchildren. With stepfamily dynamics at play, along with strong loyalty binds to their biological parents, our stepchildren are programmed to dislike us. It’s not that they dislike us personally; it’s more that they wouldn’t like any woman who became their stepmom. And if they do start to feel close to their stepmom, they may pull back because of their loyalty bind, or intense inner feelings of loyalty, to their mom. They might feel guilty or may feel like they are betraying their mom if they like their stepmom.

However, it’s really hard not to take it personally, and that’s when not being liked or not receiving praise can affect our self-esteem. This doesn’t just apply to stepmoms. Anyone who feels like they are constantly trying to be liked or anyone who is hoping for some praise feels the same way.

Unhooking from Praise and Criticism

You might be wondering how to break this unhealthy cycle of seeking praise from others. Author Tara Mohr offers a powerful strategy in her book, Playing Big. She calls this “unhooking from praise and criticism.”  Mohr offers several principles to help you unhook from praise and criticism, but the one that can really help is to ask yourself:

  • What is more important to me than being praised or liked in this situation?

The answer to this question should remind you of where your true priorities lie. Let’s say you help your stepchild with a big project at school. Why? Was it because you wanted to receive praise? It’s always nice to receive recognition, but I’m guessing most of you would say you helped because you want your stepchild to learn as much as possible and be successful in school.

Asking yourself this question can help you unhook from praise and criticism and reframe the situation. This helps you focus your attention on your priorities. It will take some practice, but you can do it!

Focusing on Being Authentic

The other part of this equation is recognizing your uniqueness and focusing on being your authentic self. What is unique about you? How can you enrich your stepchild’s life while staying true to yourself? Alice, a stepmother to one teenage girl, loves to cook and host family dinners. Her stepdaughter was more accustomed to dinners-on-the-go rather than having the family gathered around the dining table. However, she was quick to tell Alice how much she enjoyed these meals.  What a blessing for Alice and her stepdaughter! Alice enjoyed cooking for her family, as it was a way for her to express her love, and her stepfamily loved the family togetherness and food at these family dinners. Just like Alice, you have talents or passions that you probably take for granted, but can help you be there for your new family in an authentic way without putting added pressure on yourself.

Support for Stepmoms

If you want more in-depth support on being authentic in your stepmom role, commit to doing the work in Stepmom Bootcamp: A 21-Day ChallengeStepmom Bootcamp has daily challenges that help you transform your stepmom life. In fact, Day 6 is all about being authentically you. If you’re ready to change your life, you can get your copy here.

Read Stepmom Bootcamp to help overcome overload

About the Author

Elizabeth Mosaidis is a Certified Resilience Professional through the Trauma Institute International. She is also a Stepfamily Foundation Certified Coach and an author.

Certified Resilience Professional