Last night with the teenagers, we did a little experiment where they had to write something they may say to themselves after a defeat and after a success. When they were confronted with the things they said to themselves after defeat, and asked if they’d ever dare speak that way to someone else, most of them answered no. They would never be so mean to someone else. Let me be clear. The things they said to themselves, about themselves, were so cruel they could never imagine saying them to someone else.
I wish I could say I was shocked, but I’m not because I can totally relate and I bet most of you can too. We are not just our toughest critics, we are often abusers of the worst kind. We are quick to jump on flaws and hesitant to praise, even in success. That may be the part that is even more sad. Not only are we wicked to ourselves in defeat, but we have difficulty even finding something nice to say when we are presented with an indisbutable opportunity. In one case last night, after being asked to imagine a wild success, she could only come up with something akin to, “I guess you’re not that bad.”
That was her praise.
What the heck people? I’m not pointing fingers. In fact I may be more guilty of this than anyone. My husband often marvels at my ability to downplay every good thing I’ve ever done in my life. Run a marathon? Everyone’s doing it. Juggling two jobs and school? Yes, but why can’t I do this one more thing? You get the idea.
Instead of digging into the why behind this stuff, I decided instead to follow my own advice. Last night I gave the teens a challenge. I’m sure none of them listened. Unless I’m announcing a ski trip or something like that, they rarely pay me any mind. But it doesn’t matter, because I decided to take the challenge myself.
Every morning this week, look yourself in the mirror and say something really nice.
It may not be easy. My natural reaction upon seeing my face, especially first thing in the morning, is to focus on all that is wrong. That’s what I did today, immediately honing in on my tired eyes.
But you know what I made myself do? I looked closer and noticed those tired eyes are almost identical in color to those of my mother, whose eyes I always thought were gorgeous. I even took a moment to appreciate the wrinkles around my eyes because each and every one is there because of millions of smiles. Who wouldn’t be grateful for something earned with laughter?
I left today with an extra spring in my (very cold) step. I was optimistic about what I could get done and happy with the time I had to do it. I noticed the sun, not the snow and felt ready to handle whatever came may way.
When you start your day talking nicely to yourself, it’s amazing what your mind begins to think of the world.
Try it. Every day this week start by saying something nice to yourself. You just might be shocked at the results.
P.S. Looking for more parenting guidance and tips for self-care? Check out From Chaos to Calm a guided training to help you feel better in this tough season.