Prisms and Peace

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“The more you approve of your own decisions in life, the less you feel the need to have them approved or accepted by others” – Unknown

I shared this quote on my Facebook page last week and I’ve been thinking about it ever since.

One thing I strongly believe is that if we truly have peace with and faith in our own actions and choices, both as parents and human beings, we can take the sting out of almost any criticism and in doing so help to diffuse negative self-talk at the same time.

My breast-feeding story was an example of this. After having my daughter I spent the best part of two years berating myself for being unable to breast-feed her. As a result I was highly attuned to any conversation on the topic and would often find judgement where perhaps there was none intended. I really didn’t have peace with my inability to breast-feed and this clouded not only my interpretation of events but also my opinion of myself as a mother. I viewed every conversation and article on the subject through the prism of my own experiences so was extremely sensitive and self-critical.

Theodore Roosevelt once said “Comparison is the thief of joy”.
There will usually be someone who you perceive to have or be a better x, y or z than you. Perception is the key word here. I’ve said before that we never really know the struggles others are enduring behind the scenes and anyway, no-one else can lessen what you already are, even if they’re cleverer/richer/thinner/happier than you.
No one has the monopoly on any feeling or any characteristic and comparing our lives with others’, whether to make ourselves feel better or worse is never the healthiest of pastimes.

I belong to several Facebook mums’ groups and I never cease to be surprised (and often disappointed) at the fervency with which opinions are often communicated. I’ve witnesses many openly scathing online attacks on those with different viewpoints, and even more quietly judgemental and passive-aggressive debates turning into conflicts. Each one makes me feel both anxiety and despair at the sometimes seemingly non-existent sisterhood or solidarity amongst certain mothers online.

“What other people think of you is none of your business. If you start to make it your business, you’ll be offended for the rest of your life.”
Deepak Chopra

I genuinely believe that most of what people say is not about me or you, it’s a reflection of them, viewing life through the prism of their own experiences and often their self-doubts, too.

I spend a lot of time observing people’s behaviours. Watching a storm descend online I often pontificate on why people are conducting themselves in such a way…. What drives them? I wonder if sometimes, without even realising, criticism of others is a strategy for boosting a flailing self esteem. I suspect that much of the more embittered denigration of other mother’s methods comes from a place of buried inadequacy. Proving superiority. Knocking others down in order to build yourself up, as it were.

Having faith in our own choices could go such a long way in removing the need to be validated by the approval of others and the subsequent tendency to see an “us and them” pattern with other mothers who may do things differently.

Some choices are easier than others to reconcile and there will always be mistakes. But our mistakes don’t define us, they’re just learning opportunities.

I’m working on giving myself some grace and remembering that setbacks or minor-catastrophes can also be viewed as chances to practice self-kindness and cut myself some slack. Parenting seems to be one huge learning curve and every time you think you’ve sussed it, the goal posts seem to move again.

Rather than always elaborating on the most negative interpretation of events I need to remember that I’m human. Sometimes I shout and sometimes I cry and that’s OK. Because the decisions I make, whether right or wrong, are always made in love and with the best interests of my family heart. I truly believe that the vast majority of mothers out there are the same as me. We’re trying our best. Sometimes our best will be better than other days and sometimes “good enough” will have to suffice, but there is always love.

When looking back on why I reacted in a particular way to a situation, Often, on reflection, I realise that I’ve been looking to others to help me feel good enough about my decisions or choices.

I’ve said before that we can’t control what others say to us, but we can try our hardest to control our reactions. If, for example, your mother-in-law comments that your child isn’t dressed warmly enough for the cold weather you have a choice as to how you react. You can assume she thinks you’re a dreadful parent who doesn’t have a clue what’s best for your child and spend the rest of the day admonishing yourself. Or, you can remind yourself that you know your child better than anyone. You know your little one will get cranky and cross if she gets too hot. You can move on from the conversation and get on with your day by having faith in the choices you make.

The same goes for almost any decision you make for your children; feeding, weaning, co-sleeping, schooling… you’ve made your decisions with love and care. Others are entitled to do the same and it’s no reflection on you or me if their choices are different. Your instincts are usually right for your children and the same applies to other parents, too.

Now, I don’t think I’m ever likely to become to type of person who genuinely doesn’t care what other people think. However, it is becoming more and more apparent to me that by recognising my own strengths I can work towards nurturing a mindset of not needing everyone else’s approval or acknowledgement that I am a good enough person or parent.

Because, I’ll let you in on a little secret; I am a good enough person and parent. And so are you.

Please help spread the Mummy Kindness by liking my Facebook Page!

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Ripples and Revolutions

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This past week has been the clearest example yet of how much this blog helps me.
When I wrote my last post I felt I was on the brink of returning to a very dark place again. I wrote it to let some of the thoughts out, in the hope that stating my fears out loud would somehow diminish them. I always feel a sense of release once I hit the “publish” button. It’s a bit like a sigh of relief and almost some closure, as if verbalising what has been running around my head somehow unsticks the record and allows the song to continue without interruption.

This time it was you, my amazing readers who gave me my balance back along with my perspective. You reminded me that there are actually lots of things I do to help make the world a better place. Through my blog and my relationships and generally doing my best to be as good a person as I can.

It’s telling that I could better articulate this point by sharing some of your comments now, but to do so would feel boastful or show-offy which would not sit comfortably with me. You can find some of the messages here, if you like.

My point is this:
Why do so many of us find it far easier to be kinder to others than ourselves? Why is it that compliments are so hard to digest? We seem to have such low opinions of ourselves that we actively remove the healing properties of compliments by discrediting them entirely. Have you ever ignored a lovely sentiment or told yourself that its benefactor is “just being nice” or doesn’t know what they’re talking about? Or noted that they wouldn’t say those things if they knew the real you? I know I have. I do it all the time and it’s wrong. So wrong.

You and I are are worthy of love and respect. From ourselves as well as those around us. I can’t pretend that I have the solution to silence that inner voice trying to drown out kind thoughts with negative ones. But I have a plan, a place to start.

“I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples.”
― Mother Teresa

I can’t single-handedly stop child poverty, cure cancer or rid the world of debt, but I can affect small change.

This needs to start with me. I need to remind myself daily that I am important to lots of people and that I make a difference. I do, and so do you.

For this reason, I’m hoping you’ll join me in starting a succession of little ripples. A Self Kindness Revolution if you will.

Using the Twitter hashtag #selfkindness I am going to notice and share one self-kind thought a day. Little ripples, you see. I hope that by consciously listening to my one kind thought a day I can start lots of little ripples and I’d like you to join me.

Some days your #selfkindness may be a huge pat on the back for juggling a job, children and a household; Something thousands (if not millions) of women do each day. But that’s not to say that it’s easy. Or appreciated. Other days making a dinner that doesn’t involve a microwave may be a huge achievement. Occasionally your #selfkindness may be to commend yourself for making it out of bed….Or not having a meltdown along with your children….Or somedays simply having a shower or finally washing your hair feels like it deserves a round of applause.

It doesn’t matter what you choose; the idea is to simply pick out one thing you did today and congratulate yourself for it and in doing so remind yourself that You. Are. Enough. Just as you are. To throw a little pebble out and make a small ripple in your subconscious.

My Twitter handle is @mummykindness and I am going to send a reminder out each night. If you’re not on Twitter…join! You don’t even have to use your real name and you don’t need to follow or be followed by anyone else to take part in the Self Kindness Revolution.

I must tell you that this whole idea throws me in to a bit of a self-conscious panic, which I realise is the complete opposite of the intended purpose. Like when you arrange a party and you worry that nobody will turn up and you’ll feel like a friendless fool. This blog is far, far from being the most popular or well-read on the internet. It’s small and relatively new.

However, I’m reminding myself that this doesn’t matter in the slightest. This is not a popularity contest. If only one person joins me in my #selfkindness revolution and starts working towards silencing their inner critic, I’ll have made a ripple.

One definition of a revolution is “Complete change from one constitution to another.” Some revolutions are huge and world-changing and others are quiet and occur only within. In either case, revolutions start with conversations.

This #selfkindness revolution is about a quiet conversation with yourself. Are you in? And are you ready to listen?

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(You can also help share the Mummy Kindness by liking my Facebook page, here if you feel like it!)

Less Than Strong

“The loneliest people can be the kindest. The saddest people sometimes smile the brightest. The most damaged people are filled with wisdom. All because they do not wish the pain they’ve endured on another soul.” – Timothy Delvecc

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Hi everyone. I’m not promising that this post will make much sense but I need to write a few things down. Bear with me and perhaps some coherence will emerge….

So it’s been a tough few days.
Sometimes it’s not immediately apparent to me things aren’t quite right. I don’t always realise that I’m not feeling myself or acknowledge that the sinking feeling is back. That sadness seems to have become a default setting again.

I’d love to know whether feeling, well, less than strong causes me to feel more of the world’s pain than I should, or whether being susceptible or sensitive to the world’s cruelty makes me Less Than Strong. A chicken-and-egg situation perhaps?

I watch the news and read. I look and listen and I consume too much social media and sometimes it seems that everywhere I look there is pain. This week alone there are child killers being released from prison. The mentally ill are being stigmatised by the world’s most read newspaper. Children are suffering in Syria (and all over the word) and babies are fighting cancer. Friends of mine are suffering illness, depression, loss. It feels like life gets harder and crueller and it’s overwhelming.

Have you ever looked around at your messy house or another task which seems enormous? Thought about how there is so much work to be done that you may as well just do nothing? Maybe that’s just me. But that’s how I feel at the moment. Literally and metaphorically speaking. I’ll come home and plan to sort the laundry or wash the floors or whatever. Then it all seems too overwhelming so I’ll just sit instead. But I won’t be able to rest or relax and I’ll feel guilty. I feel that way about the world and life.

Like there is so much I could or should be doing to affect change. Help people. But it’s all too much. It hurts to think about it. So I do nothing. I sit and think about friends I should contact or charity work I should do. Then I distract myself with the Internet and more and more sadness seems to find me there. It’s endless, really.

I know that I should stay away from sad stories and not watch the news if it upsets me. My mum said so and I’m trying. But it just doesn’t seem right to walk around in a bubble of ignorance.

I tried strategically thinking happy thoughts and counting my blessings. But that just causes more panic:
“I’m so fortunate! Look at everything that could go wrong! Something bad will happen if I indulge in too much gratitude, surely?”.

What I’m trying to remember is that reality is only in the moment.
This moment. Thoughts pass and I must let them. The very fact that I’m able to rationalise this is a really good sign for me. I’m grateful for being able to write this down and for being capable of thinking this through. I know this is a temporary state of mind. Today I can sit and write whereas yesterday all I wanted to do was lay in bed. I didn’t, but only because my children need me.

The other day, in traffic it occurred to me that we can rush through life quickly when the lights are all green. We can reach our destination so much faster. But once the lights turn red we’re forced to slow down. We can take in surroundings that we’d otherwise rush past. Catching a chain of red lights can be inconvenient at best and can sometimes screw up your entire day. But sometimes being forced to slow down or stop gives us the chance to think and reflect and to collect our thoughts when we’ve got nowhere else to go.

So for now, I’ll wait here until the lights change again. Because change again they will.

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