Look closely at the image to the left... what do you see? Can you see the duck? Can you see the bunny? Can you see both the duck and the bunny at the same time?
What we actually see depends on where we focus our attention. You see a duck in this picture, when you focus your attention on seeing a duck. You see a bunny in this picture when you focus your attention on seeing a bunny. And did you notice how you can't see both the duck and the bunny at the same time? Isn't it interesting how our brains work?
I love this little experiment because it shows us 1) that one thing can be seen in many different ways, 2) what we intend on seeing is what we will see in reality, and 3) that we have the power to shift our attention and see something completely different simply by changing our perception.
As Mindful Mamas, this is powerful stuff, especially as it relates to how we see our children. The thoughts we think about our children will directly impact how we see them. How we see our children impacts how we interact with them and the expectations we set for them, ultimately shaping how they come to see themselves.
The Eyes of Fear Versus The Eyes of Love
"A miracle is a shift in perception from fear to love-- from a belief in what is not real, to faith in that which is. This shift in perception changes everything" (Marianne Williamson).
Shifts in perception-- this is what Mindful Mothering is all about! Mindfulness is our practice of noticing; noticing when our thoughts have fallen into the grips of ego (aka- fear), letting those thoughts go without reacting to them, and then choosing to return to love. Just like you only see the duck or the bunny (not both at the same time), there are only two ways to see our children-- through the eyes of love or the eyes of fear. Marianne Williamson reminds us that "[l]ove is what we were born with. Fear is what we learned here." This reminds us that love is the only thing that is real and fear is an illusion.
As Mindful Mamas, our practice is to routinely get back to our center point of love when we notice that our fearful thoughts have pulled us away. Our mindfulness practice is the daily dedication to noticing our fearful thoughts about our children and situations they are in and work to "unlearn fear" so that the divine, limitless love that emanates from our Truth is what guides our thoughts, actions, and words in our mothering.
There are countless moments in our everyday lives when our fears for our kids get triggered. And when our fears get triggered, our thoughts and actions seek to limit, confine, control, and constrict the full expression of our children. We don't do it on purpose and, many times, we don't even realize when we are doing it. This is how fear works; it likes to fly undetected...that's how it maintains its power. When our fears for our children take control, how we see them changes; and how we see makes all the difference in how our kids come to see themselves.
Seeing your kids as capable, smart, resilient, and trustworthy
Courageous mothering is choosing to see your children through the eyes of love even when you are tempted to see through the eyes of fear. It's choosing to see them (in even the most scary situations, like when your "baby" is leaving for college) as capable, intelligent, resilient, and trustworthy. It's choosing to return to love when fear has taken you away.
Remember that fear will trick you. Without your awareness, your fears will trick you into seeing your kids as unable, needing your constant care, attention, and protection. Think about why mothers overprotect their kids (I am raising my hand here-- I've totally done this!). They are afraid their children will get hurt (emotionally and/or physically)-- and they won't be able to handle it. They are afraid of what pain their kids will feel-- and they won't be able to handle it. More so, mothers are afraid of what they will feel when they see their child experiencing pain-- and are afraid that they won't be able to handle it!
In the end, our fears cause us to overprotect our kids (in other words, limit the full expression of themselves) because we are afraid that we are not strong enough, capable enough, or resilient enough to handle it! If we are not Mindful Mamas, its easy to project our perceptions about ourselves on our children. When we are not aware that we are seeing our children (and ourselves) through the eyes of fear, our words and actions towards our kids can reinforce the false belief that they are not capable, not strong enough, or not trustworthy.
Our Mindful Mama Practice
Courageous mothering requires a powerful shift in perspective (that's mindfulness)-- choosing to see our children through the eyes of love rather than fear. It's choosing to see our children:
*as 100% capable of anything they attempt to do, beginning at birth
*as possessing infinite intelligence. Our role is then to create opportunities for them to display it.
*as "born hardwired for struggle" (lovely quote by Brené Brown), strong, and resilient
These steps will give you the power to turn any fearful thought back to love. Sometimes it is easy, other times, not so much. Practice makes perfect. I've found it more challenging to "return to love" when my girls are doing something I see as dangerous (ahem-- scaling a climbing wall that looks 50 feet high), so I've started to practice these steps when I "fear" they are not able to do something for themselves.
Step 1) NOTICE when your brain starts to see through the eyes of fear. You may feel compelled to do something for your child they are completely able to do themselves (thinking they lack the ability, or fear that there isn't enough time, so you want to do it yourself) or you may feel the urge to stop certain behaviors to discourage them from doing something that scares you (fears for their safety).
Step 2) SHIFT to seeing through the eyes of love. See them as capable, smart, and "hardwired for struggle." Say, "I trust you." "I know you can do this." "You are more capable than you realize." "I believe in you.". Your words form their belief system about themselves.
Step 3) ACCEPT and ACKNOWLEDGE how they do things. Compliment them on a job well done, about how imaginative they are, and how well they approach the problem. Draw their attention to their uniqueness, ability, and intelligence.
How we see our children makes all difference in how they come to see themselves. Practice shifting your perspective from fear to love in those mothering moments that tend to trigger your deepest fears and notice how your hopes for your children start to outweigh your fears. Notice how your connection to your child deepens and strengthens because it's based on faith and not fear. Notice how they respond to your positive expectations. Notice how they shine and come into their true selves-- starting to see themselves exactly the way you see them...through the eyes of love.
Did you feel it-- feel the world stop on Friday? We all did. I believe that Mother Nature and the entire Universe felt it, too because the events of that day went against every law of nature; another human being doing such unimaginable harm to another, especially our children…our future…our visible reminders of what it means to be blissful, perfectly present, and filled with divine energy and pure love.
The news of the horrific tragedy in Connecticut delivered a punch so hard, that collectively, we all lost our breath. And whenever we lose our breath, we lose our mental balance, and fear instantly takes root in our minds. We become confused, dumbfounded, and paralyzed. This is how I, and I am sure many of us, couldn't help but feel upon hearing the horrific news. But as human beings, especially as mindful mothers, in tragic times like these, we must rise above our fears and ground ourselves in the profound love we have for our children. For our divine connection to our kids reminds us of the power of our love to create miracles. Love begets love. Love is contagious-- but only if our hearts remain open to let it flow freely.
Feel It to Free It
I was awestruck by how quickly reading about the details of that day shut me down. I wept deeply, almost uncontrollably at times. The depth of my emotions were a clear indicator of rampant thoughts of fear running through my head. As frightening as it was, I allowed myself to feel everything; not that I really had a choice. These emotions were no match against my feable attempt to suppress and avoid them. The moment I truly let go and lost myself in the intensity of what I was feeling, I heard a voice. It was crystal clear, and it hovered somewhere above the chaos and the confusion. It was my true voice; the voice of my heart. “Jen….what’s going on? Why is this hitting you so hard?”
This was my mindfulness practice paying off during a pivotal point in the game of life. This simple act of self compassion and present moment awareness enabled me to see past my fear. The moment I noticed and labeled it, I instantly gained clarity. I realized my emotions were so severe because I felt deep grief for the immeasurable loss of precious life, as well as a profound sadness for the parents of the souls lost and children who survived but lost their innocence. But that was not all. The thought that was wreaking the most havoc in my head was, "What if that were my child?" As a parent, anytime this fear flashes through your head, you react as if that were the grave reality. Our bodily response doesn't discern the difference between what's real and fantasy in our minds. Fear feels real, so our bodies react. It was that powerful, primordial, parental fear for the safety of my three young daughters that brought on a flood of uncontrollable emotions.
As I stood frozen, staring out of my bedroom window with a tattered Kleenex in hand, the destructive cycle of fear kept taunting me with heart wrenching questions, “What have you done bringing children into this world?, Do you have the courage to let your girls grow and go?, Would you have the strength to endure the most unimaginable event in a parent’s life if it happened to you?” Fear has this way of shaking you to your core...that is until you recognize exactly what it's gettin' away with.
Vimala McClure, in the Tao of Motherhood says it best, “When you have your first child, suddenly life become precious. So precious you can strangle it with the tension of holding on. What mother hasn’t had fearful fantasies of losing her child? This is the hardest time to accept letting go as a part of holding on.” When our minds are consumed by fear, it's not only hard to accept that we have to let go of our children, it's unfathomable. But this is exactly fear's ultimate plan-- to trap you in your head, so your heart will not be your guide. Fear wants us to grasp our children with claws of steel because then it has succeeded. Fear is contagious, too! As mothers we need to remember that our fears can be caught by our children. Fear strangles life, hope, love, wisdom, and dreams because it halts the flow of energy. It stops movement forward. Forward motion is life, and it's what's necessary in the face of pain and suffering. We have to move forward to move out of it.
MINDFUL MAMA PRACTICE ~ Choosing love
The practice always starts with allowing ourselves the space to feel all our emotions as they arise. When we allow them to flow, we are better able to witness them as they pass-- and they will pass, for nothing is permanent. Mindfulness enables us to "name it to tame it." Can you recognize your fear? What does fear look like in your body? Get good at identifying the emotions or bodily sensations that indicate that fear has sabotaged your mind. For me-- it’s weeping, feeling out of control, and a general sense of sadness. The INSTANT you see your fear, you’ve regained control of your mind, and it no longer has the power to control you.
The next step is to intentionally CHOOSE to refocus your attention on Love. Fear may be a natural human “reaction” to pain and suffering, but it’s our divine nature to “respond” with peace, love, and presence (Hamrick). The only place we can respond with peace, love, and presence is in the present moment. We must breathe, pause, and become present of all the love that currently surrounds us. It is always there in abundance, we just have to shift our attention. Where our attention goes, our energy goes.
After learning of the tragic news, the moment I noticed my fear, and felt my body and mind spinning out of control, I paused. I reconnected with my breath. That pause gave me the space to shift my thoughts to love-- immense gratitude for the miracle of the birth of my children, the profound blessing of being able to tuck them into their warm beds, kissing their lips goodnight, and for my ability to see these blessings in my life. My LOVE for my children grounds me every.single.time. Being grounded, I hug my children tighter, I linger in their presence, and I listen more than I speak.
When the world stopped on Friday, it provided us with an incredible opportunity to pause, catch our breath, and refocus our attention on what matters most-- the love we have for each other. As mothers, you and I have incredible powers to transform the world with our love, and we do it by loving our kids. Focusing on this love calms and clears our minds. The most selfless gift we can ever give another human being, especially our children when they are suffering, is our peaceful, calm presence. When we are calm and present, our hearts are wide open, and we can literally (through energetic means) transfer love and compassion into the depths of their soul. The love that emanates from an open heart is the greatest antidote to pain and suffering. At times like these, as we draw our kids close, linger in their presence, and show them respect and compassion, may our love multiply not only in their hearts, but ours as well. The love we generate from loving our kids can heal the world.
Our love is contagious.
ON THE COUCH
I agree with Bréne Brown when she says, “You know who you are when you call your friends and say, ‘I think I need to see someone.’”
Let's just say, I know myself very well. So there I sat on my therapist’s couch, gaze down, fiddling with my scarf, confessing, “I feel foolish for even being here,” I said.“I really have nothing to complain about. I have my health, my husband has a job that allows me to stay home, and my girls are healthy and happy. I should be happy, right?”
She just sat in silence, not giving me what I secretly wanted-- any verbal or nonverbal validation of my line of reasoning.
“The worst part,” I rambled on, “is that I know all about mindfulness.” (Oh, yes. She was well aware of my passion project MMN!) “I study it. I read about it all the time. I watch my thinking, and I’m just seeing a bunch of unhappy, angry thoughts. I can’t think my way out of this.”
Like any really good therapist, she still didn’t say a word.
Two seconds later, wanting to fill the uncomfortable silence with something…anything… I said, “Ya know, I just have a hard time accepting that this is my life. I want so much to be different.”
That’s when she smiled. “You may know a lot about acceptance, but maybe you are not actually practicing it in your life," she said calmly.
Then I smiled. That’s the moment it clicked.
So there it was-- my AHA!! My anger, anxiety, and general discontent was a result of wanting things to be different than what they were.
"Now what," I thought? It was painfully obvious I needed to start practicing acceptance, like pronto, but I didn’t have the first clue how to do it. How do I accept things, people and situations that seem totally unacceptable? Isn’t acceptance just giving up? Won’t acceptance simply keep me stuck in the undesirable situations that I am trying so hard to get out of and avoid?
These were all questions I immediately sought to answer the second my session was over. So for the next 4 months, I made a commitment to truly do this acceptance thing; practicing it in as many moments as I could... every day. And this is what I learned….
1) ACCEPTANCE is not what we think it is:
Our egos trick us into thinking that acceptance means defeat, total resignation, and failure. When we unconsciously believe that acceptance is weakness, giving up, or condoning, we want to resist what is. Our egos want us to think that acceptance is the way of weak because the moment we truly accept a situation, person, or event, we no longer have a negative emotional reaction to it. Our egos are rooted in fear, doubt, anger, and resistance-- our negative emotional reactions. Cease reacting (as in unconscious, habitual reaction), cease ego's control.
Acceptance is the act of incredible, conscious, compassionate awareness.
2) RESISTANCE never leads to positive change:
I used to think that if I resisted (got mad and angry) about things that I found unacceptable, that would lead to positive change. But every time I have yelled at my daughter to stop crying, she just cried harder and longer. Never has punishing my body with intense workout regimens and restrictive diets ever brought about a healthy self-image and love for myself. Never has pressuring my husband to get a different job or be something other than he was motivated him to change. If anything, all the negativity, resistance, and anger I infused in each of these situations only created bigger problems.
We teach our children about the power of acceptance all the time! Every time our kids are fighting, you say to the one being taunted, “Just ignore your older brother. The minute you stop reacting to him, he’ll stop pestering you.” For you know the longer your little guy whines, “stop it, stop it,” to his older brother, the longer (and with increased gusto) the older brother keeps up the pestering.
We think that our resistance will create positive change, yet it never, ever does. In fact, when resistance doesn’t create that positive change in our lives, we tighten more and attempt to control harder! The more we tighten and control, the more we narrow our mental focus (as in, we obsess about what we don’t want) and the less we are able to get out of our heads and see other possibilities for positive change.
What we resist persists.
3) ACCEPTANCE is not emotionally reacting (which allows you freedom to choose your response):
When my child is throwing a tantrum, and I don’t react with anger and frustration, I practice acceptance. When I am calm, I see a whole host of other options for responding that I never saw when I got caught in my anger. In my calm response, I kneel down, look her in the eyes, and give her a hug. She stops the tantrum almost immediately.
When I see another mother living the life I dream about, and I don’t react with critical self-comparison and envy, I practice acceptance. In my calm response, I see how much I already have in life. I feel gratitude for the life I’ve created, and I’m inspired and motivated to evolve and grow.
Non-reaction is always the best action.
MINDFUL MAMA PRACTICE
Mindfulness and mindful mothering is all about expanding our perception of things because an expanded perception empowers us with options. When we expand our perception, people, situations, or events, no longer need to change for us to be happy because we have the power to change our thoughts about them. The most direct way to expanding and changing our perception is through acceptance-- non emotional reaction.
Resistance arises when we direct massive amounts of mental energy towards wanting things to be different than what they are. When we do this, we focus on lack; we focus on what's missing. The result is missing all the things (people, events...) that are really the most important because we get so caught up in negative emotions that always end up disconnecting us. You can harness the tremendous power of love and positive energy by practicing acceptance. I have a sneaky suspicion you will find that the moment you choose to not emotionally react to those seemingly "unacceptable" situations, they will change right before your very eyes.
LETTING GO IS NOT EASY
Our kids are gonna leave us.
Ugh. Just this thought rips my heart to pieces. Yet, I know that letting go of my girls, baby-step by baby-step, is the deal. It’s what I signed up for, but it’s so hard to do! As a mom, it doesn’t matter if your child is taking her first big girl step into those pre-school doors, or your grown “little man” is hopping into his overstuffed car heading off to college. In moments like these, every mother experiences a range of emotions anywhere from fear and worry to excitement, pride, and hope.
Letting go is an essential part of mothering, and we Mindful Mamas continually refine the art of doing it gracefully (if not for our sake and sanity, for our child’s well being). We have to love our children enough to let them go. They are not ours. They never were. They are their own entities, and our job is to protect and guide them as they become strong, independent, and capable. Clinging to their youth or to our identity as their mother only brings us pain and suffering. So not mindful, am I right?! Anytime we experience pain, fear, worry, anxiety, or a desire to control when it comes to letting go of our kids, we are reminded of the work we need to do on ourselves.
IT’S ALWAYS BEEN A MATTER OF TRUST
Letting go is a crucial part of mindful mothering. Negative emotions like worry and fear always take us out of the present moment-- almost instantaneously. It’s impossible to “be in the moment,” exuding peace and acceptance when your head is projecting into the future events that scare the sh*% out of you! You are never capable of handling future events that aren’t real, and worry and fear are always about the future.
Worry. Worrisome and fearful thoughts always paralyze us because when we project into the future, we feel a tremendous sense of loss of control. And no mama enjoys feeling a loss of control when it comes to her kids.
The secret is that you are always, always, always capable of handling any situation that occurs in the present moment. Always. The way you get yourself out of the mental trap that fear and worry has propelled you into is to rationalize with yourself that if that disastrous moment were to really occur (and we all know that the chances of it happening are highly unlikely), you’d be able to handle it. For you always have, haven’t you? I venture to guess that as a mother, you have a proven track record of handling many worst-case-scenarios in the moments they arise. Remind yourself of that. Trust yourself.
Yet, it’s so easy to forget. Letting go is easier said than done. I know. But we have to do it. We have to let go-- gracefully. Otherwise our minds rage like a toddler who is starving and sleep deprived. And every time this happens, we disconnect from the moment. And every time we disconnect from the moment, we disconnect from our lives, our kids, and ourselves. Since we recognize the power of mothering in the moment, letting of control, worry, and fear as we let go of our kids is what we have to do.
So what’s the worst that could happen if you intentionally let go of control, fear, and worry? My Ego tells me that if I don’t control enough, or worry enough, that bad stuff will surely happen. (If only that were the magic formula-- just worry and then bad stuff won’t happen.) In reality, the worst that could happen is the best thing that could happen… you’d stop letting fear and worry control you and how you mother.
Consider this little secret: when you let go of control and fear, you don’t actually lose anything (not anything worth having, anyway). Rather, you gain something in return-- trust. When we don’t unnecessarily interfere with our kids’ lives, we trust them. Trust is love. It’s a felt emotion. When your child feels trusted, they gain self-confidence and learn to trust others. When you trust yourself and your ability to handle any situation in the present moment, you gain self-confidence and trust life. When you trust the moments of your life, your ability to mother from a place of serenity and love is greatly enlarged.
YOUR MINDFUL MAMA PRACTICE
“Fear is love inverted, or your own mental power turned against you.”
~ Marianne Williamson, A Course in Weight Loss
Give it 5 minutes, and you’ll be faced with a situation concerning your child where fear will strike your heart, and you’ll need to let go gracefully. Instead of turning your power against yourself by entertaining thoughts of fear and worry, choose hope. Choose trust. Hope and trust ground you in the present moment. Choose to trust your child, their strength, their wisdom, their spunky attitude they inherited from you. Let your hopes for your child outweigh your fears. Let go gracefully. For in letting go gracefully we remind our hearts that when it comes to letting our kids go, nothing is really lost and everything is gained.
YOUR OWN WORST ENEMY
I remember how shocked I was when I found out Whitney Houston passed away. Upon reading the tragic news, I quickly Googled her to find out what happened. I mean, it was Whitney Houston! As a preteen, I was captivated by her beauty, her voice, and her totally awesome 80’s hair and outfits in the video, “I Wanna Dance With Somebody.” Oh, how I wanted to have that body, that permed hair, those clothes!
As I skimmed the featured MSN article that explained the sad details of her death, I stopped reading when I came across something she said in an interview in 2002:
“The biggest devil is me. I’m either my best friend or my worst enemy.”
~ Whitney Houston
As I sat back in my chair, I exhaled audibly. “I sooooo get that I,” thought. I am no stranger to being my own worst enemy.
For instance, despite my best intentions, I become my own worst enemy every time I take on too much in order to please the people I love, which inevitably leaves me depleted and overwhelmed. I become my own worst enemy every time I indulge feelings of doubt, fear, and worry and allow them to dictate my life. I become my own worst enemy every time I make a situation more difficult than it really needs to be (I swear it’s almost as if I have something to prove to myself). I do this all... to myself.
Suffering is part of the human condition. Perhaps it's safe to say we all do this to ourselves at some point in time-- inflict suffering upon ourselves, intentionally or unintentionally. I am not 100% sure why, but I think it might have to do with the misguided belief that if we punish ourselves, we’ll be motivated to do better, be better. But this never works. It never works because inflicting pain and suffering upon ourselves seldom brings about positive change because it doesn’t come from a positive place. The most effective way to do better, be better is come from a place of love-- a place of self-compassion.
Love begets love.
ON YOUR OWN SIDE
When was the last time you considered your needs? No, no. Don’t read on. Answer the question, missy. When was the last time you considered your needs? Wait…wait. What’s that I hear? Are those crickets chirping in the dead silence? Sorry, I’m totally projecting. That’s what I myself heard. Isn’t it ironic how the silence speaks volumes?
Self-compassion is being on your own side. Self-compassion is being your own friend. It’s having a real desire to notice and alleviate your own suffering. I know, a bit of a foreign concept for a lot of us. At least it is for me (I'm working on it, though). I have been creating my own drama and suffering for so long that like a fish that is oblivious to the water that surrounds it, I am often oblivious to the times when I create pain in my life. Mindful Mothering is so not about being oblivious. It’s about being aware. But now that I’m a mom, I have to do better, be better. Three sets of eyes are watching my every move. Three little ladies are learning how to treat themselves by watching how I treat myself.
NOTICE your suffering. Sometimes I get so caught up in worrying and creating painful movies in my mind that I don’t even have the wherewithal to get out of my head! Noticing when you are beating yourself up or creating a stressful situation in your life (or your head) changes the dynamic of your relationship with yourself. With this awareness, you immediately transform from being your worst enemy to becoming your own friend.
RESPOND to your needs. Self-compassion is empathy (noticing your suffering) + action. Get into the practice of asking yourself daily, “What do I need?” It’s a simple question, and 9 times out of 10, there is a simple answer. Ask the question, become aware, and then respond to your needs just like you respond to a friend in need.
YOUR MINDFUL MOTHERING PRACTICE
Mindful Mamas understand the power of intentionally practicing self-compassion in their daily lives. When we make it a priority to take care of our needs, alleviate our pain, and essentially treat ourselves as well as we treat our kids, our hearts open. Our hearts soften. Our hearts swell. Every act of self-compassion changes our heart. And as we know, our hearts are the best places to mother mindfully from.
Self-compassion is how a Mindful Mama meets her needs, and taking care of her needs is how she keeps her heart full and over-flowing. A Mindful Mama knows that her child draws his energy from her heart. If her heart is calm, happy, loving, open and soft, she becomes a generator of positive energy for her child to tap into.
Whitney was right. “The greatest love of all is easy to achieve. Learning to love yourself is the greatest love of all.” Self-compassion is the divine expression of this love!
As a community of Mindful Mamas,
we want to know...
"What is one thing you will do today (or this week) to meet your needs and show yourself some compassion?"
Drop us a line in the comment section below and help inspire our community of mindful mamas!
(I'll start.... I asked my neighbor to come over and watch my girls this morning so I could go for a run and then spend a couple blissful hours writing this post in peace and quiet. This is the first time I have done this! I know myself, and I need just a little time each day to focus my attention on my passions. It brings me to life. Not to mention, I've just saved myself so much stress and guilt from trying to "work" while my girls ran circles around my desk. Now that I've had my time, I happily turn my full attention to them for the rest of the day!)
Moms, are you ready to master the fine art of letting go of your unhealthy attachments in your parenting? In our latest installment of Mindful Moms TV, Jen vlogs about how we can accept our powerlessness and choose FAITH over fear. Check it out!
"As much as motherhood has awakened a stronger and more loving spirit in me, it has opened my eyes to areas in which I am weak" (MomSense, Blackmer).
I am certain you are nodding your head in agreement after reading that quote. This is the inherent duality that is a part of mothering-- we become better versions of ourselves as mothers, but in the process, we have to come face-to-face with our limitations and weaknesses.
Giving & RECEIVING
From one mother to another, I know how much you love your children. Hands down, it’s probably the most profound love you’ve ever experienced. Thus, I can infer that you believe that your children deserve the very best version of you as their mother.
Everything you want to give to your children, you first have to receive from yourself. If you want to give unconditional love, you must receive unconditional love from yourself. If you want to give respect, you must receive respect from yourself. If you want to give acceptance, you must receive acceptance from yourself. You get the point.
Part IV of the Miracle of Self-Acceptance in Mothering reminds us that it’s important to balance our giving energy with equal parts receiving energy. Being receptive to receiving allows us to give openly, unconditionally, and endlessly to our kids.
Sounds easy, right? It is until our beliefs about ourselves get in the way. Old, out-dated, negative beliefs can drastically inhibit our ability to receive.
As moms, if we accept that we are able to give more when we receive, it’s imperative we come to terms with the limited beliefs about ourselves that hold us back receiving, and by extension from being able to give our children everything they deserve.
The Nature of (past) Beliefs
Have you ever considered where your beliefs about yourself come from? I know this is a complex question with multiple answers, but let’s just focus on one here. In the book, You Can Heal Your Life, Louise Hay states that when we were very little, we learned how to feel about ourselves by the reactions of the adults in our lives. Makes sense, right? I’d like to add one thing to this line of reasoning. The way your parents felt about themselves most likely influenced how they reacted to you.
Imagine if you will, a mom who is unhappy, angry, and depressed with her life. Chances are good that she is in this state because she harbors negative beliefs about herself and her ability to change her life. Now, imagine how she might react to her children on a daily basis. Since she is unhappy and angry, chances are good that she is overly critical and condescending toward her children and their behavior. Her children then learn that this is “normal,” and that this is how they deserve to be treated-- thus treat themselves the same way.
So the million dollar question is, how are your beliefs about yourself and your life impacting how you react to your children and by extension how your children feel about themselves?
(Before you attempt to contemplate this question, take a moment to breath. Don’t hyperventilate on me. I say this because after I thought about this question, I started to panic just a bit. I had this moment where I couldn’t believe I was a mom! When did I grow up? When did this all happen? And..OMG…I have three (three!) impressionable little beings continually in my presence watching me, listening to my every word all the time. I tend to forget what a tremendous influence I have on their precious spirits, their self-concepts, and how they perceive life.)
Okay, deep breath....
As we consider this fact: we treat ourselves the way our parents treated us (Hay), think about the present moment and consider how you treat your children. Simply put, your children will treat themselves the way you treat them. If you treat them with compassion, they will be compassionate toward themselves. If you forgive them when they mess up, they will forgive themselves. If you treat them with acceptance, they will accept themselves. Conversely, if you treat them judgmentally, they will judge themselves. If you criticize them, they will in turn criticize themselves.
How Have You Been Treating Yourself Lately?
So, how have you been treating yourself lately? Have you been judgmental? Have you been neglectful? Or have you been kind? Have you been attentive?
It matters. It really does.
If you acknowledge that you need do a little, or a lot, more work being attentive, kind, and compassionate toward yourself, you might just find the impetus for change to be the knowledge that your kids will directly benefit from the loving kindness you extend yourself.
The next step on this journey of self-awareness is illuminating those deep-seated, often unconscious, beliefs we have about ourselves that inhibit our ability to treat ourselves with compassion, kindness, and reverence.
Adapt a Warrior Mentality
Your child deserves to have a mother who is her best, most authentic version of herself at this particular moment in time. In order to achieve this, I’m afraid you’re gonna have to do a little digging. See, we have to get uncomfortably real and honest with ourselves to uncover old beliefs that don’t serve us anymore.
“It takes courage-- this is often called the path of the spiritual warrior-- to endure the sharp pains of self-discovery rather than choose to take the dull pain of unconsciousness that would last the rest of our lives”(A Return to Love, Williamson). A warrior has strength and courage. You are a mother, thus you are a warrior. And every day, for the good of your kingdom (aka, your family), as a warrior, you must make a commitment and have the courage to become your most authentic self. Because, when you live your life authentically, you show up differently to yourself and your kids.
Give it away, Give it away, Give it away now
(Red Hot Chili Peppers… get it?)
In order to give it away, we have to have it first.
“We can’t really give to our children what we don’t have ourselves. In that sense, my greatest gift to my daughter is that I continue to work on myself” (Williamson). LOVE that! The reason this rings true is because we know that our children learn best by imitating us.
I think we have to remain vigilant about how we treat ourselves otherwise it's easy get stuck in the whole “do as I say, not as I do” conundrum. It simply won’t work to try to “tell” your kids it’s important to love themselves and to be kind to themselves if you don’t model this behavior to them on a daily basis. The little buggers are smart! They’ll see right through your façade.
Your Warrior Work
This week, pay attention to how you treat yourself. As you do this, also pay attention to the beliefs that dictate this treatment.
For example, if you seen a pattern of self-neglect or negative self-talk manifest, is this behavior due to misinformed beliefs you have about not being worthy or a belief that it’s selfish to take time for yourself?
Take some mental notes.