I was feeling nostalgic last week and dug out my old external hard drives that store my family videos. I watched with mostly happy tears. Reliving everything from when my son Brandon was born in 2003 and I was still married to his father, to the last days of the kids and me in our rented home right before I met John. I got to watch Brandon’s smiles, hear his laughs, and experience him crawling for the first time, again. I watched the video of teeny Leah deciding one day to take her training wheels off and ride down the street on her bike. I didn’t even teach her how to ride a bike!
Then I came upon a video of Brandon, at about 8 years old, uncontrollably screaming in his room (where I’m sure I sent him). I walked into his bedroom with my camera on. At the time, I remembered WISHING that I knew what to do. I thought that maybe if I told him I was going to send this video to his dad that he would stop and calm down.
I was, regrettably, ever so wrong.
Instead, he covered his face and begged me to stop filming him.
I literally can’t even type that sentence without tears running down my face.
I want to jump through the screen and hug my son. I want a redo!
My inner bitch jumps right in and says, “Why did you do that?!” “Why did you say that?!”
Which quickly morphs into:
“You totally ruined your kids.”
Anyone else throw the same daggers at yourself?
We say the most vile things to ourselves that we wouldn’t even say to our worst enemy.
That is judgement and therefore, shame.
I’m not writing this to get any sympathy. Rather, I write to share things that I struggle with and some things that help me, that might in turn help someone else struggling with the same negative self-talk. Shame is a tricky little bugger. SO let’s call it what is really is: harsh judgment of ourselves based on limiting beliefs. For example, if you believe you have to be perfect to earn love, and you make a mistake, you feel shame and guilt. Most of us don’t even realize we hold onto that belief. Any slip-up, any words spoken that you wish you could take back leaves you with a feeling of disgust for yourself. It’s very hard to find compassion and forgive yourself when you have a limiting belief that you have to be perfect to earn love. You’re in constant critique mode. Marshall Rosenburg, who wrote the book, Nonviolent Communication, calls it evaluation. He said,
The happiest people on the planet just observe without evaluation.
In other words, observing actions without making a judgement or evaluation about who, what, and why. The key to happiness and amazing relationships is to observe actions and behavior without creating a story around it. Or the story they create is a compassionate one.
The earlier versions of ourselves didn’t have the tools we have now. We may not have had the resources we have now. When my son was 8, I didn’t have a husband to support me and comfort me, or to step in and help. I hadn’t read the books I have read now. My son was struggling, and that 15-year period was a difficult season. 😂😂😂😂😂 Just kidding, it wasn’t all difficult. He was also hilarious and a total blast. And, he was very challenging. He missed his dad, he never saw his dad, and he blamed me for the divorce. It made perfect sense for him to act out.
Now, I am studying to be a Rapid Transformational Therapist, which is a technique developed by Marisa Peer over the last three decades used to help people change their beliefs, heal from anxiety, depression, and transform their lives.
She brilliantly said:
Everything you do makes perfect sense.
Everything you do makes perfect sense! With the hands you were dealt, the trauma you’ve experienced, the beliefs you had, the circumstances at the time, and the resources you had.
One really powerful tool I learned was adapting the belief that everything happens FOR us, no TO us. If we believe that everything happens for us, then when we’re remembering something that brings us shame, we can also remember what we learned from it and what happened after that moment in our memory. Because I struggled with Brandon so often, I was lead to this book called Have a new Kid By Friday, a brilliant book by Kevin Leman. I read it from cover to cover in a day and started implementing the strategies he suggested.
The first night, Brandon punched a hole in the wall and dumped out all of his toys in front of my bedroom door. (I had removed him from my room during story hour because he was being an asshole, er, I mean…he was being “disagreeable”).
The second day, he asked if he could go to his friends house, and I said “Oh shoot. No. Because you put a hole in the wall and made a mess.
That night he asked if he could do something else, and I said, “Sure, as soon as you clean up all of your mess, and put everything back.” Which he calmly did. And he didn’t have any more huge meltdowns after that.
We had a few bumps along the way, but everything changed after that week. So, had that one final meltdown not occurred, I may not have found Dr. Leman’s book.
When you look at yourself with a different lens than the harsh judge, you find grace.
Grace is defined several different ways, but the one that resonates with me the most is:
a disposition to show kindness or compassion
What thoughts can we reframe into those of grace when we think about the old versions of ourselves? What beliefs can we redefine so we view our past mistakes with kindness and compassion? If everything in our lives is teaching us something, we could remember the lessons we learned from those mistakes. How would we ever learn if we didn’t screw up royally?
When your kids make a mistake, don’t you forgive them? Then we can also forgive ourselves for past mistakes. That’s grace. It’s just a practice. Practice taking off that judge’s robe, putting down the gavel, and picking up compassion and kindness towards ourselves instead.
And don’t forget the other HUGE benefit of releasing the shame and judgement: This helps you attract people into your life who are kind and compassionate. Practicing compassion towards ourselves makes you a magnet for other compassionate people (and one of them might just be Mr. Right!)
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Wishing you lots of love,