“Working out our own emotional baggage is the precursor to helping our kids w/ theirs.” – Kelly Corrigan
I heard this on a recent Podcast and it has been percolating on my heart. As I continue to witness my kids experience struggles, I feel it deeply. I often find myself desperately wanting to tell them exactly how to handle every stressful situation and measuring my own self-worth on how they are managing life’s ups and downs.
One of the greatest gifts we can give our kiddos, no matter how old or young they are, is to allow them to see us owning our imperfections and mistakes AND in the aftermath of failure, offering love and compassion to ourselves.
That last part – offering love and compassion towards myself – is hard. I feel like this is one of my greatest challenges as a human being. I have come to believe that in order to move the dial towards loving myself I must actively exercise the muscle(s) of acceptance and compassion.
Accepting my imperfections. Accepting tendencies that lead to suffering. And then, offering myself grace and compassion on the other side.
I am a (recovering) chronic pleaser. I spent decades desperately needing to be liked and approved of by all the people all of the time.
Alongside pleasing comes a “perfectionism” undercurrent that drives me to constantly ask “what will people think?” According to Brene Brown, “perfectionism is, at its core, about trying to earn approval and acceptance.”
I also want to be “all the things for all the people.” I do not like to or want to admit that I cannot handle something that is asked of me.
All of these tendencies share a common thread - the distorted belief that I am unworthy of love when I come up short. I am unworthy of love when I screw up. When I fail. And fail again.
Not getting approval can feel like a failure. For me, this is the hardest type of failure. The failure to live up to someone’s expectations.
Intellectually, I know the sayings – we learn from our failures, you have to fail in order to succeed, failure should be our teacher, etc.
But … do I genuinely believe this to be true for me? Do I actually believe that failure at a task or failing to get someone’s approval are necessary in my journey to wellness? When I am in the midst of the discomfort that accompanies failure, it is much simpler to push those feelings into the dark corner, and move on to the next task at hand.
Through writing, therapy, and meditation, I am learning to acknowledge and lean into these awful, uncomfortable feelings. I am learning to hold space for my failures and meet them with compassion and forgiveness. I am also learning that in order for toxic patterns to come undone, they need the freedom to breath.
So here I am, trying to clear out a few cobwebs of shame with the hope that this will provide oxygen to those feelings of unworthiness. I am cautiously sweeping the chronic need to please and paralyzing fear of failure/perfectionism into the tender light of awareness. I am learning that the driving force behind is the practice and act of self-love. Letting go of the grip of wanting to please everyone takes strength that comes from within.
Ultimately, I cannot solve or fix the struggles of my kiddos. I can hold space for them to fail and experience inevitable suffering. I can meet them where they are at with compassion and acceptance without trying to manipulate solutions to their trials and tribulations. I will continue to build the muscles of acceptance and compassion in the midst of my own struggles so that maybe, together, our paths will be illuminated by the loving light of awareness, compassion, and acceptance. One failure, one imperfection, one breath at a time.
Be still and notice.
View more Be Still and Notice blog entries here: Be Still and Notice