A Mother's Self-Compassion (or You are Perfectly Imperfect)

It can happen to anyone. We make a mistake and we get down on ourselves. We say things like “I should have known better,” or worse yet, “I’m so stupid.  I always make the worse decisions.” Regardless of the exact words we say to ourselves, making a mistake or not predicting a left turn in our lives can send us spiraling into self-doubt, self-criticism and create or contribute to already existing depression and anxiety.  But it doesn’t have to be this way.  What if, instead of treating ourselves harsher than we treat others, we spoke to ourselves with compassion, like we often do to our friends?  What if instead of saying, “You always goof up” you pretended you were talking to a good friend and said something like, “You did the best you could” or “It’s normal to make a mistake.” How would that feel?  Do you now have a little more energy to solve the problem instead of stewing in your own juices?

If talking more kindly to yourself seems impossible, you may want to consider joining a support group or seeing a therapist to help you figure out the blockage.  A good general book on the subject of self-compassion is aptly named Self-Compassion by Kristen Neff.  

Framing the issue of being hard on ourselves is a broader, societal issue of motherhood and perfectionism.  Since even before we were aware of it, many of us were socialized to not just be a good mother, but to be a perfect one. Aside from the expectation of looking our best and never getting angry, we expect ourselves as mothers to always feed our children healthy food, provide them with the latest educational toys and classes, and be available 24/7 as willing and happy playmates. And the list goes on.  So the next time you find yourself beating yourself up about a mistake, please try to remember that as women and mothers we don’t have to perfect.  Good enough is, well, good enough!