I’ve been thinking this week about the idea (this is where I pretend this “idea” was not introduced to me by my therapist even though it totally was because I worry I’m becoming the girl who always talks about therapy) that you should be careful what you’re looking for, because you might find it. I’ve been thinking about it a lot as it relates to my personal judgement of myself. Whether I’m critiquing my terrible consistency with running or my lackadaisical parenting or my half-assed domestic life, I seem to be always looking for the things I’ve screwed up. The things I’ve done wrong. The things I’ve not done that should have been done. And because I’m always looking for those things, I always find them.
If I consider this with my trail building metaphor, then you can basically assume that my trail that looks for mistakes and errors and failures is the Appalachian Trail and has been traveled by millions of people over 50+ years. It’s been mapped out and written about and competed on. This trail is a trail everyone knows and everyone loves.
But it’s time to move it.
It’s time that I work on forming new pathways in my brain that have my subconscious looking for the good things I do every day. I’ve been committing microaggressions against myself with the constant barrage of criticisms. But I’ve been doing it for SO LONG and that path is such a clear one to take through the woods, that I’m not sure how to get from the beginning of my day to the end of my day without it.
Which is why it will take time to form the new habit. And break the old one.
I started a little yesterday. I had gotten behind on housework so I opted to skip my run and instead of beating myself up about it, I forced myself to recognize the good I was doing in catching up on housework in case we had a showing for our house. When Donnie woke up I told him the long list of stuff I had already done that morning. I went to work feeling good that my house was closer to “show ready” than it would have been if I had gone for a run. I applauded myself for the good instead of criticizing the failure. There’s no concrete “right” and “wrong” about how we spend our moments, but there is most definitely a “wrong” in how we judge ourselves for those decisions.
I recently skipped doing laundry so I could curl up and read my book. I couldn’t even enjoy the book because I was beating myself up about the laundry. That’s the tried-and-true trail through the woods. So, last night when I opted to color for a bit instead of wash dishes, I stopped my brain when it started shifting to “criticizing mode” and praised myself.
“WAY TO GO, KIM. YOU SELF-CARED GOOD TODAY!”
It’s tough though. My daughter is having some common tween body image issues and last night we spent some good time together buying a new outfit (she’s looking at clothes that no longer fit “right” as proving she’s “fat” as opposed to proving she’s simply growing) and having long talks about how we talk to ourselves. My habit though, is to wonder where I went wrong. I kept catching myself looking through all of the parenting I’ve done in the last 11 years and finding moments where I screwed up and finding ways to blame her current self-hatred, on myself.
Do you see the irony?
I’m beating myself up over the fact that my daughter was beating herself up.
While I’m preaching about self-love, I’m practicing self-hatred.
So, I sat in bed last night and closed my eyes and praised myself. I reflected on the vulnerability we were able to share and how that will surely have a positive ripple effect. I was practical in my explanations and we discussed healthy eating habits (which she has plenty of) and unhealthy habits and how we should show our love to our body by feeding it well and in the end, that matters more than anything else. We had long talks and regardless on my part in this spiral to begin with, I helped her come back up out of it and I made a point to truly look at all of the positive things I said and did as a Mom last night.
The best way to teach my daughter how to love herself, is to show her I love myself.
So I’m slowly making a new trail through the woods. It’s hard to see and sometimes it’s so unfamiliar I get lost and find my way back to the old trail, but I’ve started the work. And as long as I tend to this new path more regularly than I travel the old one, it will slowly become the easier one to travel. I’m going to stop looking for my failures at every turn and instead look for my successes. I’m not going to look in the mirror and hate my blue jeans, but look in the mirror and love my bracelet. I’m not going to try to find the ways I created a problem and instead try to look for the positive ways I can be the solution. I’m slowly but surely trying to make “Looking For Things To Praise” the new default mode instead of “Looking For Things To Criticize.”
So that when I find what I’m looking for, I can be happy about it.