This article is a confession. I have struggled with feeling good enough. I have worked diligently over the years to overcome these feelings & love myself more. Yet, the critic, is powerful, and at every turn, it would find new ways to judge me to keep me safe and remain small. But this past year, I found myself at a crossroads.
This year, I decided that I had to make a dramatic change because my energy was fading quickly…and downhill! No matter what tool I tried, what new strategy I implemented, new vitamin I took…nothing helped. I sat and talked with my mentor, and cried, “I feel like I am just moving pieces on a chess board…the same pieces…the same game. I can’t seem to feel like I am getting ahead or better.” The tired feelings ran deep. I found myself exhausted at the end of classes and sessions. I was struggling to appear as if I “knew what I was doing”, fighting the internal criticism and constantly second-guessing myself.
It occurred to me that this is EXACTLY how many mothers feel, especially in early motherhood where the learning curve is steep, and the challenges are high! My work has always mirrored my inner life. Maybe it’s like that for everyone.
My clients often struggle with this vague, yet persistent feeling of failure. They feel like a bad mother, wife, employee etc. so often, that this becomes a soundtrack, playing in the background. It’s barely noticed, but still has a profound effect on their mood and relationship to their baby. What do I see in these women? AMAZING, ATTENTIVE, CARING, SMART mothers. I could not imagine why they wouldn’t see these amazing qualities. It broke my heart to see them struggling and not feeling the joy they deserved. I suddenly felt motivated to heal this within myself, so that I might be able to even better support women who struggle, just as I do. My clients are my inspiration.
My mentor said something that sparked a transformation in how I treat myself. He said, “You need to set yourself as a priority, so that when you are teaching/supporting clients, you finish feeling at least as wonderful as when you started – maybe even better. You need to give yourself at least as much love, compassion and understanding as you give your clients .” It struck me that I was pouring this unconditional love into my clients, while withholding it from myself. Actually withholding it!! How? By believing that until I met the criteria of the critic, that I was not deserving of love and accolades. It was perfectionism, cloaked in self-improvement and professional development! The critic began to see where I was “falling short” and used it as a tool to push me harder, but the consequence was that I couldn’t really enjoy my work fully, or the deep and wonderful connections I was making.
The funny thing about critical thoughts is that they can be true (or at least partially true)…maybe it was the wrong thing to say, maybe I could use some extra training etc. But what happened was that I felt bad NO MATTER WHAT I said or did. If it seemed like I did something great, the thought would be, “well let’s hope you can do that again”, or, “that was a fluke.” The stress and tension were beginning to have physical effects on my body.
So what is being asked of me, of us, is to take a RISK, and love ourselves WHILE we are learning. What a concept! I set the intention to have fun, and experience JOY as I am learning – just like a child who is experiencing new skills for the first time – it’s actually fun when you aren’t caught up in fear of failure! This is a foreign concept for me. I have motivated myself with criticism most of my life, and now, I had to choose to motivate myself with love & encouragement. My relationship to myself has changed dramatically while I am working. This means that I am still doing my awesome work, and I am still growing and improving, but I feel energized, instead of depleted.
I have even started asking myself on a day to day basis, when I encounter challenging situations, “If I wasn’t afraid of making a mistake, what would I try in this situation?” The creative energy is bringing me so much joy. What might happen if you ask yourself this question in situations when you feel stuck, anxious, at your wits end with figuring out baby sleep, coping with guilt or feeling overwhelmed?
I am writing this article in hopes that some of you can relate. We can take this journey together. Your responses and willingness to explore this with me, are a deep honour.
If you are tired of feeling exhausted by your thoughts, self-doubt or just want to feel more happiness, maybe this is a helpful piece for you too. Let’s connect about how this works in your life and how you might increase feelings of well-being, even when life is challenging. Let’s create a world where we pass this on to our children, so that they can live fulfilling, happy lives!