I was amazed at the amount of people, mostly other moms, who let me know how much they needed to hear that they weren’t the only crazy ones. My post last week was really only meant to be therapy for me, in a “let it all out” kind of way but instead, it continued to be helpful for me in learning that I wasn’t alone in my crazy. But it left a nagging question in my mind that one of my best friends finally had the courage to ask: “But HOW do we be gentle with ourselves?” I’ve spent the past week trying to be gentle and graceful with myself and, while I never post “how to’s” because I don’t consider myself to be nearly qualified enough about anything to put a playbook into the realm of the world wide web, I can offer up these few tips that I have tried to implement this past week. Maybe they can be helpful to you, too. But here’s the world from where I see it:
Celebrate more…and often!
I am really great at celebrating…certain things. I love birthdays….especially my own. I love meeting goals. I love finishing projects and checking off to do lists. And I celebrate all of those things. But I think we can all admit that if we are honest, we don’t feel like we succeed at that much all that often. Its so easy to get bogged down in the “I should have worked out more” or “I wish I hadn’t eaten that WHOLE cake” or “I wish I had spent more time reading to my kids this week instead of nagging them to clean their rooms”. Whatever it is, we live in a world of regrets. This past week, I made it my number one priority to find little accomplishments and celebrate the tar out of them. So my thought life looked a little more like this: “Hey, way to go! I know that you really wanted to reach for that 3rd little can of coke just now and instead you filled up a glass with water. Way to make one good choice!” I managed to eek over the finish line of finishing one week of boot camp last week. Normally, I would approach Friday’s workout with dread and even at the end, would only be able to think about the 11 other weeks that were still left in my 12 week regime. But this past Friday morning, I finished my solo workout and I paused at the end. I gave myself a little pat on the back and let myself walk down the small memory lane of how tough that week had been and how much I had really conquered in those three small workouts. I had a little celebration right there in the park, a little ‘atta girl’ if you would. It makes a difference. Find the small accomplishments you’ve made, even if they are along the lines of “I did not physically harm my child this week” and take a minute to relish in that triumph.
Learn to Give a Compliment
It’s really difficult to be hard on yourself when you are lifting someone else up. When you take the time to really compliment or encourage someone else, your whole demeanor changes. Your tone becomes brighter. Your words become lighter. Your thoughts are focused on positive, loving ideas rather than cutting, critical ones. But learn to compliment well. Go deep with those you love. Write an encouraging text or note. Drop flowers off at someone’s house, just cuz. Remove your focus from yourself and tell someone you love why you love them. Put yourself in their shoes for a minute. What do they stay up at night worrying about? Where do their thoughts wander when they are daydreaming? What insecurities might be lurking in their dark corners? Put some thought into the character of the person you love and then let them know how those deep dark thoughts are nothing but lies. If they have kids, tell them how amazing their kids really are. My child is my greatest accomplishment and my biggest insecurity. When someone I love tells me how much they love my kid, it makes my heart sing. Be specific with your words and leave that person you love feeling not only complimented, but truly known and loved. It will make a difference in the way you approach your own insecurities and flaws, I promise.
Learn to Take a Compliment
Argh. This one kills me. I am TERRIBLE at receiving love in the form of a compliment and yet somehow I thrive on them. How many times has someone given me a compliment and I immediately find ways to downplay it? Either verbally to them with a “Oh, thanks, but it’s really nothing” or in my own head with a diatribe of reasons as to why that person felt OBLIGATED to say something nice to me. Shut up, Reagan! Say thank you and allow yourself to blush and stammer as you let their words wash over you. Put those words on a loop in your head and hit the play button when you start to tell yourself why you are a bad mom or wife or friend or daughter or whatever. Replace your mini rant in your head with the positive traits people have seen in you and let yourself believe them to be true. Are your friends liars? I hope that answer is a resounding no! And if the people who love you aren’t prone to lie, WHY WOULD THEY BE LYING TO YOU NOW? Believe them when they say you are talented in something. Or that your kid was actually well behaved at their house. Believe them and live your mental and emotional life like you believe your friends.
Treat Yo Self!
Man, has our generation beaten this dead horse into the ground! We live in a world where we are encouraged to throw caution to the wind as often and as carelessly as possible. And I don’t think that’s the healthiest mindset but let me explain. Last week I was having a conversation with a fellow mom and we were talking about how hard it is to stay balanced in life. We were ticking off all of the many responsibilities that we felt were on our plate and I asked my friend, who also works part time, when she found any time for herself. She just laughed and said “What? What is that? I don’t have time for myself.” This launched us into a conversation about how when we find tiny windows of quiet in our lives we feel compelled to fill them with productivity or busyness because we live under this lie that parents shouldn’t really have any down time. We have convinced ourselves that our lives are now to be spent with all of the to do lists of raising kids, paying bills, maintaining houses and cars, punching the clock and of course, letting our kids have the time of their young lives. And while this is true, there is no crime in taking a quick “me” break. Typically my Monday, Wednesdays and Fridays look like this: I take Levi to school, I go work out, I run some super quick errands, I come home and shower and I end up with about 20 minutes of nothingness before I need to be back at Levi’s school to pick him up. My productive, must get things done side of my brain starts going down the task list to find a short little duty to swipe off the list in that 20 minutes. I should start some laundry, unload the dishwasher, clean the kitchen….yada yada yada. But on the days where I give myself a break, where I literally give myself the gift of those 20 minutes of nothingness to watch mindless TV or read a magazine or write, I am such a better mom and wife later on in the day when life has gotten hectic and dinner needs to get on the table and Levi needs to get to bed. And i feel better about myself on those days! Those 20 minutes can make or break me. If I use them to be “productive” I might have a cleaner kitchen but I will most likely be mean as hell come 5:00. If I take that 20 minutes to do whatever my little heart desires, my laundry might remain unfolded but my husband isn’t fearing what he will walk in to later that day. So treat yo self! Just do it with meaning and intention and in little snippets rather than great big blocks of time you don’t really have.
Share Your Crazy
I can tell you without a shadow of a doubt that the best decisions I make for myself when it comes to going easy on myself, is to share my crazy with those people that I know love me. Earlier this year I was feeling pretty lonely and isolated and I was feeling like life was getting a little too crazy and chaotic and I was losing some of the depth of my relationships. Kids and life and work were making friendships few and far between and I didn’t like who I was becoming when I was left to my own devices. So I made a scary move. I had already decided to begin writing more often just for therapeutic reasons and I decided to engage my closest friends around the country in this process. Each week, when I sit down to plow through my inner thoughts and attempt to eek them out onto paper, I email that week’s ramblings to my closest friends. Its as if they get a sneak peek at my journal. I put it all out there for them and because they are amazing and loving friends they respond in various ways and for varying amounts of time. And we have a “real” conversation. Usually something I’ve bumbled about strikes a chord with something happening in their life and we chat about it. We email back and forth or we have long texting conversations late at night when the kids are all to bed. Or we schedule phone calls or “date” nights just to talk about what is really happening in our lives. When you share your crazy and when you invite people into your life, it minimizes your crazy. It makes you realize that you aren’t alone in this and you probably aren’t as crazy as you think. But more than that, sharing your crazy, also known as your life, makes you feel known. And feeling known and loved for being who you are, can combat any harsh rants your head might throw at you later when you are alone. Find those people that you trust and that you love dearly and ask them to listen to your crazy for a minute. Chances are, their crazy has been longing for someone to talk to.