The kids didn’t have their veggies last night … bad mom.
I forgot to fold the laundry … what kind of wife am I?
I made a promise to love and cherish my husband, but I just told him what a loser he is for not loading the dishwasher the way I showed him a million times …. I will never get the hang of this.
Folks, it’s time I get vulnerable again. I’m sharing a few of my own thoughts here; yes, these and many more debilitating ideas run through my head every time I mess up. I know I’m not the only one. But I do consider myself one of the brave women (you’ll find the others on this blog) who is transparent enough to share her insecurities.
The great Brené Brown says vulnerability takes courage. I implore you to find her TED talk on the subject. She is an amazing researcher who turns out qualitative data on guilt and shame. The revelations I come to after reading her work helps me stay in the gray area.
Yes, the gray area. It is scary to some people because it screams, “I can’t make up my mind!” Allow me to submit that it may be the one of the safest places to reside. Recall my initial thoughts above: they imply either I’m awesome or I suck. If you’re in either one of these areas (the black or white areas), then pay attention.
I have feedback I give to my clients all the time: everything is on a spectrum … everything. It’s unfair to think I am a bad mom just because I didn’t give the kids their broccoli. I did make sure they had something to eat–and it was healthy-ish. The point is, my kids are fed. The laundry doesn’t determine what kind of wife I am; our relationship is a healthy, happy one regardless of the pile that may stack up from time to time.
See where I’m going with this?
If we rely on either this or that, we are doomed to be absolutely stuck. We’ve all heard too much of a good thing can be not so good! I have a few tips to help us stay away from harsh judgment we give ourselves daily. So, sorry Michael Jackson and/or his diehard fans, it’s time to bust the myth: it totally matters if you’re black or white.
Free therapy. That’s what’s this post is. You’re welcome! As a therapist, I fully believe in equipping my clients with knowledge that will empower them to challenge the negative thoughts that sneak up sometimes. Shout out to YANA Counseling Services; my partners and I share this sentiment. Enough with the shameless plug … it’s time to teach you a thing or two about thinking errors.
Let me normalize this for you: we all have discouraging thoughts that try to tear us down. I call them lies from the enemy, as I am a spiritual person. Whatever you refer to it as, it’s time to call it something so we know how to address it.
This particular thinking error is what I opened this post with: black or white thinking. It’s either I’m the all-that-and-a-bag-of-chips mom or I’m nothing at all. If we allow this lie to sneak in, we will believe that the lack of something means our kids have nothing. I would really believe I’m a terrible wife if the laundry stacks up or I’m mean for a second. What this does is discount everything we actually do.
How do we challenge this? We remember the time we stayed up all night with a high fever. We recall the time we did something nice for our partner to show how much we care. We remember we are not at ground zero. We state the case to ourselves and submit evidence for how awesome we are. We challenge the thought that we are terrible moms.
Another common thinking error is mind reading. The sexist reader would say, that’s a “female” thing. The truth is, we are all guilty of assuming what others think of us. It’s because humans pass judgments at all times; I would venture to say animals do too! To any therapist who says we don’t judge, I say … fooey!
What I will specify is that there are healthy, relatively typical judgements (i.e. this iron is hot, I probably shouldn’t touch it … that’s a good judgement call) and then the not so good judgements (i.e. I think it’s OK to drink a bottle of wine and drive home). The mistake we make sometimes is believing we can read a judgment on someone’s face.
How many times have you assumed someone was saying something negative about you in their head? I confess, I always look for a deeper meaning in my husband’s comments; I think my training as a counselor gets in the way. Mind reading points to our insecurities. Most likely, the reaction to someone’s comments will result in us projecting the problems we have with ourselves to the other person. And, well, you know that doesn’t always turn out so well. It brings me to the last most common thinking error I see in my office.
Do you find yourself blowing anything out of proportion? What about that time your kid got his or her first not so good grade? Did you have a flash forward moment where you thought they would be on the side of the street because they missed that one algebra question? Maybe it’s just me. I can recall a time when I thought our oldest son would be behind because the Your Baby Can Read! DVDs didn’t seem to be working on our infant. Spoiler: he reads at a higher level than he should … go figure.
Catastrophizing feeds our anxiety. And yes, that’s another thing we all have; worries and fears are natural. They are another innate quality that helps us make proper judgments (recall the hot iron). Remember, everything is on a spectrum. So we will need to be careful as to how far we allow our imaginations to take us, especially if it in the wrong direction.
How do we challenge this? One way is to stay in the moment. We call it mindfulness. This is where you focus on the present; it keeps you in the very moment you are in instead of obsessing over what could go wrong in the future. It also helps us enjoy moments we may miss with our loved ones. There are different ways to participate. Maybe you go to yoga or you may enjoy watching a movie with your kids. Whatever you need to ground yourself in today (healthily and safely) will likely help you stay mindful of where you are and appreciate it. Talk about a great antidote!
There are many more directions I can take this. But at some point, I have to charge for this gold 🙂 – I kid! There are great books and resources that help determine where you fall on the spectrum with problematic thinking patterns. For more information on how to address them, hop on the interwebs and search for “cognitive behavioral therapy techniques to challenge negative thoughts.” There are a slew of things to consider. Or find a counselor in your area. We are here to help! I mentioned Brené Brown too.
I will leave you with this: there is a difference between guilt and shame. The former says I did something bad; the latter, I am bad. These concepts drive our thoughts and therefore behaviors in the relationships we have with anyone. It would be good to grasp the understanding. We are not perfect; it takes work to make sure we are taking care of ourselves.
The Gifts of Imperfection was recommended to me by a trusted colleague. Join me in reading what I know will be Brené Brown’s masterpiece as she walks us all through facing and knocking down the lies! Have you read it or any helpful books? Please share your thoughts!