During this pandemic, we are all just trying to put one foot in front of the other. Life is HARD. Parenting is HARD. Marriage is HARD. The hardest thing of all is not being hard on ourselves.
As an adult, I had the same feelings of sadness and anxiousness that I did from my childhood. I felt disgusted that I felt scared about things, angry that things that came easier to others were so hard for me, and self-loathing that I couldn’t just let go of my feelings of sadness about my mother and about my childhood.
I tried all kinds of therapeutic treatments. I implemented every suggestion and tool that they gave me, but my feelings never went away. I was desperate to figure out how to make those symptoms go away. With each failed attempt, I asked myself, “What is wrong with me?” and “Will I ever get better?”
One day I was asked a question by a therapist that I had never been asked before. I was explaining how badly I felt that nothing I did ever worked. She looked at me and asked, “What if there is nothing wrong with you?” Say what? I was speechless. I had a list the size of my arm of things that were wrong with me. Why in the world would she say that?
I was told by more than one therapist that the road to healing can only happen if you accept who you are, but that made as much sense to me as the question I was asked. I was seeking professional help because I wanted things about me to change, so how could I accept them? This was the ultimate catch-22. I needed to accept the parts of me that I disliked to heal the parts of me that I disliked? I couldn’t wrap my mind around that.
No matter how much I tried, I couldn’t get that question I was asked out of my mind. I spent so many years trying to fix myself that it never occurred to me that maybe giving myself permission to feel however I needed to feel would set me free.
I had endless compassion during my husband’s journey of sobriety. I felt nothing but compassion for my daughter and was her number one supporter and advocate. Furthermore, when she felt badly about herself because of her learning issues, I told her that she might learn in a different way, but that doesn’t define who she is as a person. I reminded her that who she is as a person is what defines her. I even had compassion for my mother because her own mother had been abusive to her. Why in the world would I have compassion for everyone else, but I couldn’t give myself that same support and understanding?
Regardless of what our set of circumstances may be, we all feel sad, anxious, and badly about ourselves from time to time. As moms, we put enormous pressure on ourselves, and we often judge ourselves. Whether it is getting mad at our kid and losing our temper, feeling overwhelmed because of all that we’re juggling, or feeling guilty that we didn’t do or say the right thing, we are all guilty of not giving ourselves grace, compassion, and forgiveness. We forgive the people we love, but do we forgive ourselves? What if we showed compassion for all parts of ourselves instead of judging ourselves?
I finally discovered the answer to that question. What if I defined myself based on who I am as a person, and had compassion for my struggles? What if I understood that it was perfectly understandable for me to feel the way I feel based on my life’s circumstances? Even crazier, what if I recognized that what I went through would affect anyone? What if instead of judging myself and feeling shame, I applauded myself for being the person I am, despite all the terrible things that happened to me?
Just as I told my daughter that she is defined by the person she is, I now understand that labels don’t define me. Who I am as a person is what defines me. I can show compassion for my struggles, and by doing so, leave space for healing. I have learned that not only am I okay with who I am, I am proud of who I am, flaws and all.
Acceptance means understanding who you are and why you are the way you are. It means understanding your struggles and showing love for ALL parts of yourself. What if the next time we feel shame or badly about ourselves, we ask ourselves how we would feel about someone else who had the same feelings or went through the same circumstances? I’m willing to bet that if it was the same circumstances happening to someone else, most times we would feel empathy and understanding for that person.
No matter what cards life has dealt us, we all have struggles. Everyday life, and especially life during a pandemic, is a world filled with uncertainty, hardships, and confusion. My hope is that now, more than ever, instead of beating ourselves up, we are able to lift ourselves up. We don’t know what tomorrow will bring, but if we have compassion for ourselves, maybe, just maybe, we can be better equipped to handle whatever comes our way.