It is one of our main priorities in raising happy and resilient children: to help them gain a positive self-image, to be confident yet compassionate but also to have self-compassion, to love themselves and be comfortable in their own skin. We all know that children learn a lot from the example we are giving them… so how come that so many of us, including myself, are our hardest critic with this little person sitting on our shoulders whispering or sometimes just shouting: You’re not good enough!! Why did you have to do that? You could have done so much better! Put some more effort in!! You’re not doing enough!
I had a right giggle recently when I got a private message on Facebook from a friend that I hadn’t seen in many years. She wrote to me congratulating me on my life and family, we always look so happy and we must have the picture perfect life and that she really envies me. My first reaction was literally: “What on earth is she talking about?” but I guess this is another one of our modern day phenomena: Our Facebook “life” and how others perceive our lives based on the photos, comments, likes, emojiis and shares we display on our Facebook page. I scrolled through my profile and indeed all I could see were pictures with blue skies and sunshine, smiling children and the delicious meal we had on our trip to the beach. I wrote back to her thanking her for her kind words but I also told her a few bits of our real life – the ugly bits – that we rarely display publicly, mainly because we don’t want to bore people with the reality of a normal everyday life.
Unfortunately these “fake” online lives, ours and everybody else’s, often cause us to buy into taking them for real, even though we should know better. “The grass is always greener on the other side”… Linda is so much more creative than me, the O’Donnell’s are having such fun on their family outings, Tom’s children get on so well, they never seem to argue, how does Kate get the time to train for a marathon, wow, Daniel and Shirley were out again on a date night last weekend…We could spend all day following our “friends” on social media but as I know myself, our Facebook life doesn’t usually represent our real life, we usually select the photos we look our best in, or from a particularly exciting, remarkable or enjoyable event; rarely do we see public posts about the last time the baby puked on our jumper, a photo of our darling children screaming blue murder at each other or describing the last big fight we had with our husband about feeding too many sweets to the kids!
Even without constantly comparing ourselves to others, be that in real life or on social media, us mums and dads never seem to feel that we are doing everything we can to be a good parent. I catch myself frequently debating in my own head that I should do more art with the girls, that we should spend way more time outdoors, that even though I write a lot about mindfulness for children I should practice much more myself and do more exercises with my children.
The good thing is that I am learning to catch myself more and more during these “discussions” with myself and I often have a little laugh at myself: here I am again taking off at 100 miles an hour, exactly what I am trying to convey to others not to do. But hey, we’re all only human and it’s only natural for our minds to do what minds do… the trick is to be gentle on ourselves when this happens, to be aware of our tendency to criticise ourselves, to look at it with a bit of humour rather than getting impatient or frustrated with ourselves. I know I mentioned this following quote by Maya Angelou in a previous blog post but it’s really what’s at the essence of going a bit easier on ourselves:
“Do the best you can until you know better, then when you know better, do better.”
We often look at situations and say in hindsight: “I shouldn’t have done that” or “Why did we do this?”. As Arthur Conan Doyle wrote in “The Complete Sherlock Holmes”: “It is easy to be wise after the event.” All we can ever do is try our best and navigate the obstacles life throws at us as best as we can. Of course we want to do the best for our children and we succeed a lot of the time. But life doesn’t happen without situations where the best we can do is just hold it together and try to get everybody through fragile times in one piece, and that can be a big achievement in itself.
I guess we will possibly never completely silence this little grumpy mini me on our shoulders but we can start by befriending him or her a little and catch ourselves when our rows with them get a bit too heated. Become an observer and see what is going on. Acknowledge your thoughts but rather than holding on to them see them for what they are, they’re just thoughts passing through, not your identity. Give yourself some credit for all the great things you do and also for the effort it takes to keep the family boat afloat. It can be much easier if we don’t take ourselves so seriously all the time. Give yourself a break and acknowledge that you are doing the best you can under the circumstances in this very moment… so well done you! xxx
For more information on mindful parenting and education and a practical everyday approach that can be applied by anybody and tailored to your individual circumstances take a look at my new book “Roots and Wings – Childhood needs a revolution”, a handbook for parents and educators to promote positive change based on the principles of mindfulness.
Thanks so much for your interest and support! 😉 Alex
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