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When I became a mom at the ripe age of 43, I instinctively practiced “gentle parenting” with both of my children. I didn’t know it was a “thing” or even consider that people would judge me for it. It just kind of made sense. You know, respecting your childrens’ emotions, leading with compassion and empathy, and just overall honoring who your kid is and what they experience.
But it took me until just now, at 51 to see that all of those control/punish/forceful parenting models that people still love are exactly what adults use on themselves. Do you know how much I have beat myself up over the years for not being able to stay up until all hours of the night being the ultra-productive super mom? I shamed myself, belittled myself, believed I just didn’t care enough, I lacked discipline and motivation. I was lazy.
It was yesterday that it clicked with me. I’m currently working on some important new habits. Yesterday was a shit day. I was stressed and tired, snappy and squirrelly. I got all mean, punishing parent with myself, as we are taught to do. You gotta be tough on yourself, right? “Grrrrr. Look at you. Making excuses! You can’t just do things when they feel good. You gotta suck it up and do it anyway! Looks like you want to fail! Otherwise, you’d push yourself to do it…….. GRRRRRRRR. What is wrong with you? Get off your lazy butt and just do it already!!!”
Wait. Pause. When I see that tired or overwhelmed look in my kids’ eyes and see that they simply can’t do the task at hand, what do I do? Shame them? Belittle them? Tell them they are losers and to stop being such babies and tough it up?
So, if I can’t imagine punishing a child for having a rough moment, feeling tired, or having trouble processing something, why would I think it’s ok to do it to myself?
If what I give to my child is space, time, my presence, and my compassion, why can’t I give that to myself? Why do I not deserve the same trust, unconditional love, and empathy that my child does?
Why can’t I give myself a safe space to unload?
I’m not talking about being permissive. Letting anything slide. Not pushing myself. No, I’m talking about empathy. About being in tune with myself to know when No means No. When to stop. When I simply can’t and I just need space and kindness. To be told, “It’s Ok.” To have the perspective of seeing all that I do and allowing myself this “tantrum” or exhaustion or whatever it may be.
Last night, I definitely shamed and belittled myself. I bullied myself until I finally opened the meditation app and tried one mediation after the other. Feeling more frustrated and more like a failure each time I just couldn’t do it. Then I simply imagined my habit tracker the next day. All I’d have to do is put an x in the space for my nighttime mediation.
I looked at myself with empathy. I saw that I was just in a bad moment. And I proceeded with kindness. I turned off the meditations. Turned off everything and let myself get the rest I so badly needed. It was ok. I was ok.
What I’ve learned by watching my kids vs kids who are treated with “tough love” is that they trust themselves. They don’t get scared or ashamed when they are in a bad moment. And, more importantly, they do things because it makes them feel good and proud, not because they are scared of getting shamed or punished.
Hmmmmm. Doing things not out of fear, but from of a place of feeling safe. Of feeling seen, heard, and loved no matter what. Sounds pretty good to me!
I’m not boarding the male-bashing train, but so much of the way that we treat ourselves is male engineered. It’s the fear of emotions. The need to always be in control. To dominate. To lead by fear. To bully until things are done “as they should be.” Well, phooey to all of that.
When I first brought my 3 year old son to school and I started to walk away, he screamed a scream of pure terror. You know what I was told? That he was manipulating me and he would “be fine.” You know what I did? Took him home. Loved him. Saw him. Saw his fear. Let him know that he was safe. That his feelings were real because they were his.
Later, when he was ready, we found a different school. The day came, I took him in and started walking away. He cried but not that terror-filled cry. I knew he was ok. He knew he was ok. The school was amazing and would call me to come for him as soon as they saw that he really was at his limit. They respected him. By knowing he was seen and whatever he felt was respected, he felt safe and very quickly began thriving at school.
We all carry baggage from our pasts. We have traumas and legitimate fears due to things we have experienced. So, when something comes up and we stop dead in our tracks and simply can’t move forward (even if it’s something that seems so easy and silly), why on earth is it the norm to internally shout “oh, just get over it!”
Or, we reach out to someone or to a self-help book on success and get the message that we are “self-sabatogining” or wanting to “play small.” Bullshit. We are scared. All of that male-centered talk only succeeds in turning you against yourself. Boo.
I don’t know about you, but when I see someone who is scared, the very last thing I am going to tell them to do is to get over it. I will be present. I will listen to them. I will see them. No judgement. No shaming.
So let’s start to change our dialogue. Allow the feminine. Allow empathy. Lead with love, kindness, and respect. TOWARD YOURSELF. You can’t love yourself so much that you become weak. you can’t be so kind to yourself that you stop trying and get lazy. As Rebacca Eanes (quote in image) states, “This backward thinking has caused us to feel trapped into being too harsh for too long.”
It’s so damn obvious, isn’t it??? Yet we have it so deeply ingrained in us that all of that love and kindness feels “weak.” It’s the opposite, really. Being so scared of emotions and low periods and so bullying them away is what is weak. It’s a knee-jerk reaction made to get the problem gone ASAP because it is an inconvenience for you.
When the bullying is self-directed, you are trying hard to show how strong you are, how wonderfully disciplined you are. Look at me! I kicked myself in the ass today! I didn’t allow any excuses! And I got it done!
Hmmmm. Did you get it done? Because I know that when I push myself to do something when I’m just not in a good place for it, the result is something that doesn’t reflect my soul. My spark. And that’s not the kind of work I want to turn out.
Again, this is not about letting any excuse be the reason you don’t do something. I can tell when my kid is just feeling lazy and when s/he really is exhausted or struggling. Sometimes the simple act of being seen, of acknowledging the fear or apprehension is enough to make it go *poof*. Being compassionate is about seeing the difference. Can you do that for yourself? Can you tune in and trust yourself enough to push yourself when you are simply trying to avoid something and back off when there is something bigger going on?
Today when I filled in my habit tracker and had to put x’s in a few spaces, I felt something different. I felt something soft and squishy. It was like a maternal love. Instead of beating myself up for not pushing myself, I honored who I am and honored my feelings by saying, “It’s ok.” In the end, I decided not to put x’s. I put little hearts instead.
I would love for you to really watch yourself over the next week or two. Observe how you talk to yourself when you can’t get something done. Challenge yourself to be ok with not being ok from time to time. Replace the name-calling and shaming with love and compassion. And see where that takes you.
P.S. This is the warrior mode habit tracker I am using that combines habits with Lofty Questions. you can get yours HERE.