Libby is internet famous. Most of you who know Libby, know her by her Instagram and TikTok handle Diary of an Honest Mom. Libby has over a million followers on TikTok and half million on Instagram. She is also a mother, speaker, writer, and mental health advocate. She started her platforms in 2020 and uses them to shine a light on the hardships of motherhood, as well as the pleasures of it. She is transparent about her personal struggles and growth.
I have followed Libby and Diary of an Honest Mom for a year or so, and I’ve been impressed, like so many of you, by Libby’s candor, humor, and depth. There’s a reason she’s been so successful. Her willingness to be vulnerable is a big part of it.
In this episode, Libby courageously discusses her childhood and upbringing but also how it relates so intensely with her current feelings of being an imposter. Ironically, this woman who has built her reputation on being open, honest, REAL, is still contending with the issue of whether she’s honestly portraying herself, her abilities and her value. If you’re interested to learn what it’s really like to become Internet fabulous.,, If you’re interested to learn what it’s really like to take on the imposter syndrome… If you’re interested to learn what it’s like to love yourself through it all, I invite you to listen.
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Produced by Jamie Yuenger and Piet Hurkmans.
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Host Jamie: Hi, it's Jamie Yuenger. This is If You Knew Me, a podcast about the inner lives of women. We publish one incredible story, each month. Our work and mission is documenting women's true stories. This show is more than a show, it's a lifelong body of work. Our aim is to elevate women's voices, experiences, and stories, and our goal is to expand what we think it means to be a woman and what a good life looks like.
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Today we have a story from Libby Ward. Libby is internet famous. Most of you who know Libby, know her by her Instagram and TikTok handle Diary of an Honest Mom.
Libby has over a million followers on TikTok and half a million on Instagram. She is also a mother speaker, writer and mental health advocate. She started her platforms in 2020 and uses them to shine a light on the hardships of motherhood, as well as the pleasures of it. She is transparent about her personal struggles and growth.
I have followed Libby and Diary of an Honest Mom for about a year, and I've been impressed like so many of you by Libby's candor, humor, and depth. There's a reason that she's been so successful. Her willingness to be vulnerable is such a huge part of it.
To be honest, I didn't know what Libby was gonna talk about before she got on the recording session with me. I just knew that whatever she might share would be good. In this episode. Libby courageously discusses her childhood and upbringing, but also how it relates so intensely with her current feelings of being an imposter.
Ironically, this woman who has built her reputation on being open, honest, and real is still contending with the issue of whether she's honestly portraying herself, her abilities and her value. If you're interested to learn what it's really like to become internet famous, if you're interested to learn what it's really like to take on the imposter syndrome, if you're interested to learn what it's like to love yourself through it all, I invite you to listen.
Libby's story is entitled I Feel Like A Fraud.
Libby: If you really knew me, I would tell you that for most of my life, I have felt like a fraud in whatever circumstance that I find myself in, and that, whatever group that I walk into, whatever space that I occupy, I often feel like I am the one who doesn't belong. And it seems to be that no matter how many words of affirmation I get, or how much success I achieve, or how close my friendships are, there's always a part of me that questions if what I'm doing is the right thing or the normal thing, or the enough thing.
And the thing I constantly come back to in therapy is not knowing where the line is. And so that is from everything to do with my parenting, where I want to steer away from how I was parented, but I don't wanna go in the opposite direction. And I don't know where the middle line is, where the normal line is.
I just know what I don't wanna be in. So I'm always afraid of going too far in the other direction. And it affects my work in that I have a lot of people who say really nice things to me all the time because I'm open and honest and vulnerable online and in my work, and it helps people. And so I get put up on a pedestal and a lot of people say very kind things to me, and I almost think if you really knew me, you'd know that I was a fraud and that. Those things aren't true and deep down I know that many of the things they say are true and that my vulnerability does help people and that the things that I've learned have helped me and do help others. But in my dark moments, even the advice that I give to other people, I have a really hard time letting it go past, like really get to my insides and not just be words that I'm saying. And so I guess I would say if you really knew me, you'd know that I always have and still currently do struggle with feeling like I am the right person for the job, whatever the job is in my life.
Libby: So right now I am really struggling with my mental health, with depression, with burnout. I have adhd. You know, I went through some, a lot of traumatic events as a child, and so what that has created in me as an adult is a lot of different things from being disorganized to getting over stimulated, to easily getting overwhelmed, to easily getting agitated,
and there's a lot of different pieces that make my day-to-day life really hard and make me organizing my life really difficult and how that affects my work is that I often forget things are happening or I take on too much workload because I forgot about a project or I end up working late into the evenings and I miss out on alone time with my husband.
Cause I don't realize how much time has passed. And so, In my work, you know, I sort of was catapulted to, I guess you could call it internet fame, in a relatively short amount of time. So, you know, I have no business background, I have no background in corporations, in media and anything like that. I worked part-time as an educational assistant for 10 years, which is a really hard job, but really gave me no experience for what I'm doing now and.
Now what I do is I'm running an organization, I'm running a brand, essentially, "Diary of an Honest Mom", where I have a team under me and I show up online every day and I talk about motherhood and I talk about hard things and the things that I talk about I'm so passionate about and I've learned a lot from.
my sociology degree and self-development I've done, and books I've read and podcasts I've listened to, and therapy. You know, I've really done a lot of work and I,
share those things open handedly and I'm open about how I still struggle. But what happens is, I get a lot of messages every day from people who say, thank you so much for sharing that.
I thought that I was the only one. Thank you so much for sharing what you do. It's really changed my life or changed my perspective and, knowing you and hearing your stories has helped me to go to therapy or have a hard conversation with my husband, or it's made me become a better parent. And sometimes I get those messages.
And it brings me to tears, and I'm so grateful that I get the opportunity to do those things. And sometimes I get those messages and I'm in a dark place because I forgot about a meeting and I drop the ball work-wise, or I feel bad that I haven't spent that much time with my kids that day because I was working so much, or.
You know, I've made some type of mistake in my personal or work life due to the various things that I struggle with, and I get those messages, and I think if only you knew, if only you knew that I just spent the last hour crying, or if only you knew that I still don't have it all figured out. If only you knew that I don't know how to run a business and people keep expecting me to, If only you knew that I have to make hard decisions every day.
That have absolutely nothing to do with motherhood and the struggles I have in motherhood and the things I share about motherhood online and now have so much to do with running a business and being a creative director and being a leader. And I feel like I'm just making everything up as I go along and I'm failing at it miserably.
And if I get really dark, I think. You're just wrong. You're wrong. I'm not meant for this. You just, it was a fluke. The post you read was a fluke. The video you saw was a fluke. The thing that I wrote that helped you, it must not be true. Maybe you think it's true, but if you knew that I was still a mess, you'd know that it wasn't actually really gonna help you.
and that's the really dark, negative side of my inner voice that. Honestly, it, picks me apart. even though I know that being honest and vulnerable does actually help people and I have helped others to change their mindsets and change their lives, I get very frustrated with myself that I am still at a place where every day seems to be a struggle for me, and it makes me feel like a fake.
I grew up with a single mom who had undiagnosed and untreated personality and mental health disorders. so for a lot of my childhood, my mom didn't work and we lived on government assistance due to her own trauma, I talk about generational trauma a lot, but she had a lot of different things that she was dealing with and that meant. Often we would move. So most years we would move from one house or one apartment to the next, either a different part of the city or a different city. We would go to a whole new school. We'd in a whole new social circle. not that there was much of a social circle ever. It was usually just my brother and I and my mom.
so my life was very narrow. We didn't travel, we didn't go places. We didn't talk about world events. The education I got was whatever I got at school. And again, we changed every year. I didn't build long-term friendships. We didn't have a community of people around us, and so it was relatively isolated and I just didn't learn a lot about the world.
And yet at the same time, I was learning more about the world than all of my peers in terms of. You know, I was going to the corner store to buy cigarettes as a seven year old walking down a dirt road for, you know, three, four kilometers. I was picking up the phone to answer calls to creditors and. Trying to explain to them that we didn't have the money to pay our bills.
I was going in a cab at 10 years old to grocery shop for our entire family. I was at the checkout with my mom having to decide what things to put back on the shelf because we couldn't it. I. Was really my mom's confidant friend, therapist. I was parentified. So Parentification is when you're growing up, you are treated as though you're the parent.
And so I had a lot of that put on me where I was, the emotional support for my mom, I was just the support in general for our family. I was the responsible one. I really took on a lot of responsibilities that a lot of kids shouldn't have to, and a lot of worries that kids shouldn't have to. And so on one hand I was quote unquote mature and given a lot of responsibility that children aren't given.
And on the other hand, I was very underequipped. I wasn't taught so much to. Brush my hair or brush my teeth or how often to wash my face. I wasn't talked to about the right ways to dress, the right things to say in social circumstances what was appropriate or not appropriate. I didn't know what the line of normal was in terms of a lot of just social, emotional and health things.
You know, we didn't go to the dentist, you know, more than maybe three times in my childhood. We often didn't go to the doctor. You know, I got a job when I was, I think 13. And from that point on, it was my responsibility to make my own appointments or get prescriptions if I needed them. so it was this weird combination of being over-prepared and under-prepared at the same time.
And it created this huge divide between me and my peers where I couldn't act like a child. I couldn't be like a child. And even if I wanted to, I didn't really know how to be because my life was so different to theirs. You know, we didn't really do extracurriculars. You know, I didn't have access to other adults.
I didn't know adults who went to college or had jobs really. And so it made me very socially insecure. And then as a teenager, you know, I was bullied a lot. you know, the not knowing when to shower and not knowing what to say and the clothes that don't fit and all of that stuff. And so I felt like I didn't fit in with my peers, and I often tended to prefer being around adults. And so when I became I took that with me in I felt so prepared. I mean, I got married when I was 20 years old. I turned 21 3 weeks after I got married. I wanted so badly to feel safe and secure and know what my future would hold. And my husband, I met him when I was 16. We were camp counselors, actually, he was from England, I was from Canada, and we were friends, you know, for four years, and he was the most stable, non-emotional, non-reactive, safe person I'd ever met. And so when I moved to England when I was 19 and I stayed with his family, I just fell in love with all the ways that his family was quote unquote normal and how normal he was. And I wanted so badly to have that. And so we got married when I was 20. And I felt so good about myself. I felt like I'd made it. I felt like I knew more than my peers you know, I knew how to pay bills. They didn't know how to, I knew how to do laundry. I knew how to cook. I knew how to clean. I knew how to take care of people. I, you know, I could book a flight to England when I was 18, and so I felt good on one hand, but then on the other hand, I had no idea who I was, and I was in such survival mode that I didn't know how to be.
And so I still struggled to form relationships. People in my age bracket, because what were other 20 year olds doing? They were at university. They were letting loose, they were making mistakes. Their parents were bailing them out. I didn't have anyone to bail me out. I didn't have anyone to pick up up the pieces, and so I was forced into this like, mature, stable, reality, I say forced.
You know, there's other people who grew up the way I did and they go the complete opposite direction, but I wanted so badly to not have the life that I had growing up, that I did everything I could to be mature and responsible. And so that affected me socially. And so I never felt like I belonged with my peers.
as I got out of poverty and you know, my husband and I got married and we moved back to Canada and bought a house. You know, Ever since I didn't live with my mom, I have not lived in poverty. And so that has been great, except when I became an adult and got married.
We owned a house. I was now surrounded by other middle class adults who could pay their bills and went on vacations and went on airplanes and drove cars. And I thought, I don't belong with you. And I'd hear stories about how their parents , you know, helped them buy their first house or their parents. did different things for them or even hearing them talk about, different types of cheeses, like the most ridiculous things.
I thought, like I only grew up eating mozzarella cheese, the cheapest kind. And I heard about like these new types of cheeses and I was like, they're so fancy. I don't have the language to talk to them about cheese.
I remember going to a bookstore, with a couple friends and. You know,I was never read to as a child, didn't read as a child, and my friends, my adult friends were reminiscing about the books their parents read to them as children. And I remember completely zoning out in that bookstore and thinking, I don't belong with you, like, I look like I belong with you. We're wearing similar clothes.
We came here in the same car. We're living similar lives. I don't know what this book you're talking like, It was like a classic book that all children have read. I thought, I don't know what that book is, and I felt so much like an imposter. Like, I don't belong with these middle class people who have enough money to talk about different types of cheeses and the books their parents read to them and the places they went on vacation.
I didn't do any of those things. I don't want a trauma dump on my friends, but as soon as they start talking about the different things from their childhood or their lives now, I think. My life is so different from yours and you have no idea, and I have no idea how to talk to you about all these different things that I have absolutely no experience with.
And so I have felt this imposter syndrome socially. even to this day as the 34 year old middle class mom who hasn't struggled with being able to pay the bills in 15 years. I stand in groups of other women like me and sometimes think, I don't know what to talk to you about. I feel so unrelatable to you.
That's not even adding the layer of being internet famous now. I mean, that's a whole other thing. But yeah, I think my childhood developed this perfectionism in me and this parentified overresponsible, overgiving, people pleasing version of me that wanted so badly to fit in, but that never actually felt like what I did fit in, or that I was never really enough just as I was.
And that I never really had time to figure out who I was. and so I've spent so many years just trying to look like what I thought it meant to fit in.
I feel like I have worked through different threads of my imposter syndrome, my feeling like a fraud, my belonging in different parts of my life. And so when I read the book Braving the Wilderness by Brene Brown, that was really pivotal for me.
And she talked a lot about belonging and about owning our story and owning who we are and really finding a place of true belonging when we stop trying to fit in and just are who we are. And that, you know, absolutely changed my life. And that was before I shared anything on the internet. That was just me trying to figure out how do I feel like I belong?
And that really freed me up in my social circles to just be who I was. And you know, rather than standing in a bookstore feeling like I don't belong and disengaging, having the confidence to say, you know what, no one really read to me when I was a kid. So sorry if I'm being quiet. I just don't really know anything about these books. Whereas previously I would enter a shame spiral of not enoughness, and so I made progress in my personal life and in my friendships in feeling like. You know what? It's okay that I'm different. It's okay that I've had these experiences. They make me unique. I still belong. And sharing that and seeing how I, I do still belong in my friendships, even though I'm different, has really helped.
And then, we move into my motherhood and figuring out whether. I am a fraud or an imposter as a mother. And whether I'm just playing, pretend. And what does actually showing your children your love look like when you are trying to express it in completely different ways than it was ever expressed to you?
Like is, is it actually landing? Am I. Doing the right things. Am I pushing too hard? Am I pushing hard enough? All these different things. And so I would say that I am not as far along in my motherhood imposter syndrome as I am in my social imposter syndrome, but I am definitely way farther along and I'm realizing that I can trust myself more than I have previously given credit to myself for, and that I know more than I give myself credit for.
if we come to my work life, I would say that that is a place where I am having to do the most work, with my imposter syndrome right now and seeing the progress I've made in my personal life and in my motherhood, I know that it will come, but I'm currently at this,point of conflict and frustration with myself, with my circumstances, with this, you know, negative inner voice that says, you got yourself into this, this is your fault.
That it's so hard. It's, you know, I'm at this place where I'm really in the wrestling. Like I'm really in the pit right now. Who are you? What advice do you take? What advice do you push aside? Where do you trust yourself in these meetings and in these business decisions to say, this is who I am and this is how I wanna do it, and this is what matters to me.
And when is the time to say, oh yes, you are the expert. Let's go with that advice. And that has been really, really hard for me to figure out where to trust myself, where to trust other people, how to figure out. Who is wanting to work with me, collaborate with me, build a friendship with me, build a connection with me because they're invested in who I am and who is doing that because of what that connection will bring for them in their business or personal lives.
And so it's, you know, a lot of navigating business, and even outside of specific business things is showing up online and feeling like, you know, Do I show all my high and lows, you know, and really ring true to that honesty? Or do I be more selective about it? And if I'm selective about it, does that make me a fake?
Does that make me a fraud? If I show more of the positive or more of the negative, I'm known for being honest, but if I'm not showing this, am I being honest enough? People have come to know me as the one who talks about hard things regarding motherhood, especially into the pandemic.
Those were my main struggles. And now the biggest things I'm wrestling with are figuring out how to be a public figure and run a business and be a creative leader in all these different things. And to be honest, it's unrelatable to the vast majority of people. And so sometimes I feel like a fraud by not sharing more of it.
But then I also know that that's not serving my audience. So there's a lot of different threads to my work where I am currently trying to figure out the best way forward and being the leader, it's me looking at myself in the mirror going, what do you think we should do?
And having to say, you know, you do have it in you and you're not a fraud, and just taking one decision at a time. And I know that I'll get there. I'm just in the wrestling, right now.
one of the main ways that I currently monetize my business is through brand partnerships, and I had never heard of an influencer three years ago. I had never heard of a content creator. I didn't know that bloggers made money. I didn't know that people made money off of sharing their lives online.
I just joined TikTok in 2020 and started sharing honestly, because I wanted to connect with women and I wanted to help other mothers, and I wanted to create outlet. And luckily it blossomed into this beautiful thing where I get to talk about what I'm passionate about every day and help people.
And when I decided to not continue down the path of becoming a teacher. I was an EA at the time when I decided to not get my Master's in education and instead take on content creation full-time. Part of that involved knowing that I would have to make money, and one of the ways that I make money is through brand partnerships.
And I, from the beginning have always been very intentional about what brands I work with and who I promote and how I promote them, and staying authentic to myself. I've never got into this business to make money, but making money is now, you know, it's essential for any business to thrive, and I have been pressured in different instances to work with brands or once I am working with a.
Been pressured to say something that is not true to me, that is not authentic, that is not my voice, that is not something I'd normally say, and I, in the beginning, had a really hard time saying, I'm not gonna say that. Or I'm not gonna work with that brand. I did say those things because my values are at the core of what I do, and I would rather make zero money than say something that I don't agree with or say something or promote something that could, potentially cause harm
Et cetera, et cetera. I did say those things, but it was really, really hard for me and my people pleasing came out and all of that, and as I've grown as a creator and in my business, I have seen myself much more easily. Be able to say, Nope, I'm not gonna work with that brand. I'm not interested in promoting that.
Or once I'm working with a brand saying, I'm not gonna say that, sorry, we're gonna have to come up with another solution. So I've seen myself grow in that area and be more confident in my values and not question, oh, am I allowed to say this? Is it my place to say this? Just knowing it is my platform and it is my voice and I get to choose how I use it.
Libby: It comes up in meetings, it comes up in my social interactions when I realize I don't have the language to talk about the thing that I need. So when we think back to the bookstore incidents, when my friends were talking about these books they've read, I had no idea how to talk about them. Cause I hadn't read the books, I didn't know the characters.
And when I think about my business now and how it's growing, I know, say for example, right now I'm floundering and that I need to hire people on my team. I just finished going through a hiring process for a different person on my team. I don't even know how to conceptualize the role that I'm hiring for.
I don't know. What the role is called that does the tasks that I need them to do. I don't know what they get paid. I don't know where to find them. I don't know what language to use when asking about them. So for example, I am meeting with some consultants now to give me advice on these things. But even when reaching out to my network and other creators and asking how to do these different pieces, I don't even have the words to say, this is what I need. And that makes me feel like an imposter. Like here I am building this massive brand that needs, say, an operations manager. But three months ago, I didn't know that what I needed was an operations manager. I just knew that I needed someone to help me organize my life and my business and do all the non-creative things that make me wanna pull my eyeballs out.
I didn't know that. What I want is a partnerships manager to help me coordinate all the collaborations I do. All I knew. Was a random task list of things, and even the task list of things that people do. I don't have the official language that people working in the media industry, you know, would have. I just have whatever language I use, and so that makes me feel like an imposter where I'm like, here I am with.
1.1 million followers on TikTok, half a million on Instagram. You know, growing elsewhere. Public speaking people have me up on this pedestal, and I don't even know how to use a proper language in a meeting to hire for a role that I never dreamed I would ever have to hire for, and that makes me feel like an imposter.
And then within my organization, when I have team members asking for approval on things or asking for my input on something or asking for a device on how to do a certain task. I have this imposter syndrome of like, what makes you think I know?
And again, I'm reminding myself, Libby, you know a whole lot more than you give yourself credit for. But there's still so many moments where I think, who am I to lead this corporation, this business, this brand? Who am I to give mothers advice? Who am I to be the one sitting in this meeting and have the most say on this topic?
That I don't know the most about. and that is a difficult thing to navigate and to prioritize what thing to learn next. What is the thing that I need to learn more about and what is the thing that I need to outsource? And if I need to outsource it, how do I learn how to outsource it It's all of that kind of stuff.
when I think of my personal circles in my life, they have no idea. What it is that I do really, or how I do it you know, my job is so unrelatable to them that I often can feel very alone in figuring out how the flip, do I do this? And why do people keep expecting that I know what I'm doing?
Jamie: Thanks so much for listening to this month's episode. Libby Ward is a digital creator, speaker, and mental health advocate with a deep commitment to changing the motherhood narrative and breaking cycles of trauma. Every week, Libby's content reaches millions of women around the world, and she has grown a dedicated community of over one and a half million on social media, in just two years.
Host Jamie: She has been recognized as a mental health advocate by TikTok and has been featured on the Tamron Hall Show, Global News, Motherly, Insider, and media outlets around the world. You can follow Libby at the links in our show notes.
If you believe in our mission of documenting women's true stories, we invite you to join us on Patreon. We want you to be on our Wall of Flame. There are six tiers, so a level for every kind of supporter, and each comes with its own perks. Check out the Patreon link in the show notes.
This episode and all of our work is supported by our incredible League of Women. Our League members include Fredda Herz Brown, Carrie Ahern, Christine Shook, Sister Monica Clare, Dawn Roode, Elizabeth Doerr, Kara Pass, and Karen McNeill.
This podcast is produced by me, Jamie Yuenger, and my husband Piet Hurkmans.
Thanks so much for listening to If You Knew Me.
We'll be back with you on June 1st.