Parenting is the hardest thing I have ever done. Hands down. 23+ years into it I am still discovering that I really don't have a clue if what I have become as a parent has done more harm than good. Advice has been plentiful, confusing, helpful, isolating, damning and shaming. At times well intentioned advice has made me want to bitch slap the individual soliciting said advice ( "If you spanked her, she wouldn't act like that in public") or I have been driven to launch a well devised rhetoric in response to thoughtless comments on my child's emotional meltdowns (which were, in fact developmentally appropriate as she was reacting to the environment she was in.) Mostly I find myself spinning and wondering what I would change if I was to start my child rearing all over again. But the spinning stops when I look at them and realize that they live life passionately. And they have taught me more than anyone else ever could.
Here's what I do know....I love my children and would fall on a sword for them. Aside from their father, I have never felt such a deep connection with anyone else in my life. They have forged my first true authentic connections and allowed me to then forge the same connections with other human beings by teaching me that being authentic does not equate to being perfect.
In this crazy "please other people" and "work really hard to fit in" society that we live in it is especially hard to JUST BE YOU. Being a parent means being judged. Hell, being a human means being judged. Being a parent also means your first chance at existence without being judged because your baby does not judge you! Your baby wants you....in all of your imperfect glory!
Once I learned to let go of what I thought I should be (dependant on what other people saw, defined or judged me as being through their lens) I was able to fully embrace who I really AM. Every single glorious imperfect cell of my being. I started showing up imperfectly on every imperfect day. Every day has struggles and strengths in it. I cannot be everything for everyone all of the time. And that, my friends, is perfectly okay.
You will, however, be judged when you strive to embrace imperfection and value your true sense. You might need to drop caring for extended family all of the time, stop showing up as the "perfect wife/daughter/sister/friend" and take your time to learn what feeds the fire in your belly. Ask yourself if what you are doing feeds that little flame in your belly or dampens it...for using the flame as a metaphor for authenticity means that you get to set boundaries for your family, know what feeds your soul and find out what works for you.
Truly allowing yourself to be able to practice embracing imperfection is not easy. It is a soul scorching endeavour at first and very very uncomfortable. "What will others think? What happens if they like the older version of me better? What if I truly don't know what embracing the imperfect means and I am wrong?" You will know. You will know because you will feel freer emotionally. You will know because you will feel like you are enough. You will know because you will have less of an emotional response in your body. Anxiety will lessen. Connection with your children will deepen. You will feel like you are "showing up" in your life with less effort and self-judgement. You will not feel like you need to make yourself smaller so that others can feel important. You will be able to stand your ground....calmly. Boundary setting will feel effortless. Guilt will diminish and shame will vanish. Don't embrace perfection. It does not exist. Perfectionism means nothing more than trying to seek and win approval and acceptance. Practice self-acceptance and compassion. Christopher K. Germer states that: " A moment of self-compassion can change your entire day. A string of such moments can change the course of your life."
Speak to yourself the way you would speak to your beloved. Show yourself self-love and speak love to yourself. Not only are you modelling for your children, you are changing your self-perception. Give up the ideal, the notion of the ultimate, the image of perfection. Look to healthy daily striving and know that your best does not mean PERFECT. PERFECT is an illusion. Healthy striving is realistic. Be warm with yourself and know that you are more than enough...every single imperfect aspect of your wonderful self.
With much love,