sustain a healthy marriage

At the beginning of the pandemic, I heard jokes about how the birth rate would be at an all-time high. For many couples, this was an opportunity to spend time together that normally wasn’t afforded to us. What was fun and roses at first soon turned into annoyance and a deep desire to jump out the window to get some space. The walls seemed to get narrower with each passing day. I still think that there will be an increased birth rate- for people without children. For those of us with children, the coronavirus has truly tested the bonds of matrimony. A healthy marriage takes effort from both husband and wife. The pandemic has made that more difficult.

a healthy marriage needs love and work

Relationships need love and work to continue to flourish. The pandemic has put an increased strain on all of us. This strain cannot help but seep into your marriage. Having your children around you 24/7 with nowhere to go will make even the sanest of people go a little crazy. Having to take care of children and put work into your marriage while quarantined together? That’s a whole new ballgame.

I am happy to say that my husband and I have managed to not kill each other thus far. There are several reasons why we have each stayed sane during this time:

tips and strategies to survive marriage

1- You may not be able to go far, but you can still get some space. My husband started working from home at the beginning of the pandemic, as I’m sure many of you have done as well. Even though he is home, he doesn’t have to be around me all the time. He has an office where he stays during the day, so we aren’t together all the time. It’s nice to know that he is there if I need him, but Brielle and I typically keep to ourselves. Being around each other 24/7 isn’t healthy, and there is such a thing as too much time together!

2- Divide responsibilities and take time for yourself! Whether you are a Stay-at-Home-Mom or a Working-at-Home Mom, the dynamics have changed because the kids are at home during the day. Take turns watching your kids with your spouse so that each of you can get your work done (whether that means job responsibilities or household responsibilities). At night, split up evening duties so you can each take a break. With all of us being in such close quarters, it is essential that we have time to ourselves. You can exercise, journal, meditate, or read a few pages of a book. Do something that is just for you. It will do wonders for your well-being to discuss with your spouse how you can each take a breather.

communicate your emotions and spend time together

date night

3- Have date nights. Remember those? With kids around, we often forget that before we had our children, it was just the two of us. Just because you can’t go to a movie or go bowling doesn’t mean that your marriage goes by the wayside. Plan a date night at home! Every Saturday evening, my husband and I rotate planning a date. One date was listening to music and relaxing, one time we did a logic puzzle together (yes, that is our idea of a good time-don’t judge). One night where we watched a movie together and snuggled on the couch. On another date night we used Alexa and did an Escape the Room Challenge . Think outside the box, and come up with ways to keep the romance alive.

4- Talk! Now you might think this one is ridiculous because you’re around each other a lot more than usual, so of course you are talking. You might be talking about bills, work, and adult responsibilities, but are you talking about your feelings? Lean on each other during this stressful time. Keep the lines of communication open, and don’t be afraid to tell your partner if you are feeling overwhelmed, sad, or stressed. Keeping those feelings to yourself will cause resentment and tension in your marriage. Be honest with each other about how you are feeling, and don’t be afraid to ask for help (aka strategy #2).

Just as you need to talk about negative emotions, it is equally important that you talk about positive emotions. Acknowledge your partner’s efforts and vocalize your love and appreciation. Talk about lighter subjects too. Tell your spouse about the funny thing your kid did (or annoying thing, which is more probable under these circumstances). If you aren’t around each other all the time (aka strategy #1), there will always be things to share.

be your partner’s best friend and teammate

5- A healthy marriage requires friendship. Even with kids around, you can spend time together cooking dinner. Share common interests (such as a board game you both enjoy) as well as supporting each other’s hobbies (listen to your spouse’s favorite band).

keep the spark alive 6- Keep the spark alive. I understand that during a pandemic most of us are living in sweatpants and haven’t put on makeup in months (or is that just me?). Just as you need to continue to have date nights, you need to put in the effort to bring sexy back. Wear a cute outfit, put on some music and slow dance, or take a few seconds to give your spouse a quick kiss in between wrangling your children. Just as friendship is essential for marriage, so is intimacy.

7- Remember you are both on the same team! Children are great at manipulating their parents. Remember that you need to work together like a well-oiled machine to make life together work. Raising children is HARD. Life is HARD. Marriage is HARD. You need to work together to parent your kids. Being on the same page is important during a pandemic, as well as throughout your marriage. With tensions so high, it is easy for you to turn on one another. At the end of the day, remember that a win for either you or your spouse is a win for both of you. Talk through difficult issues (aka strategy #4), and try to understand and support each other through this stressful time. Conflict is inevitable, but how you resolve conflict can make all the difference.

a healthy marriage requires forgiveness

8- Forgiveness. This is something that is necessary in all relationships, but especially in your marriage. Stressful times can bring out the worst in all of us. We may say and do things that we regret. We need to have compassion for ourselves and each other during this pandemic. Remember you are a team (aka strategy #7), and that marriage is being there for one another during the best and worst of times.

Keeping your marriage healthy is a challenge under normal circumstances. Now, more than ever, we need to appreciate and support the ones we love. This is essential in any relationship. Implement these suggestions, and there is hope that couples can come out of this pandemic with newfound love and respect for one another.

ungrateful thanksgiving

my ungrateful thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is typically a holiday that I look forward to each year. It is a day of slowing down, spending time with those you love, and showing gratitude for the blessings we have in our lives. This year is different. It is the year of my ungrateful Thanksgiving.  

Life is comprised of a series of responsibilities. Our goal is to do the best for ourselves and the ones we love while keeping our sanity intact. Between taking care of my daughter, tackling household chores, paying the bills, and fulfilling any other life obligations, it is easy to forget to stop and smell the roses. Thanksgiving is a reminder to halt, look around, and breathe.

Although I am always grateful for what I have, this Thanksgiving I cannot stop and force myself to feel gratitude. I am not going to sit with my husband and daughter and act like Thanksgiving 2020 is the same as the one we celebrated the year before and the year before that. That would be a lie, and an insult to all we endured this year.

It is important to note that feelings are fluid. Both loss and gratitude can be felt simultaneously, but sometimes one is more predominant based on life’s circumstances. For those of you who are struggling with embracing your gratitude, I hope my words bring you reassurance.

global coronavirus pandemic

global pandemic

The pandemic caused the world to come to a complete halt. It eviscerated everything that we once considered normal and routine. Schools shut down, people were left without jobs, many got sick, and quarantining became our new reality. COVID-19 has taught me the importance of not taking anyone or anything for granted.

Contracting COVID is like playing a game of Russian Roulette; you simply don’t know what the severity will be and the long-term effects it will have on your body. Despite our masks and safety precautions, I worry that we may unknowingly catch this virus. I worry about my dad who lives in New York and is almost 70. Each time we get a package and each time we bring grocery items into our house I worry. I try to not worry, but to not take this virus seriously is even worse than worrying.

I know firsthand the devastation that this pandemic caused when my husband’s grandmother and parents got COVID-19. His grandmother, my daughter’s Great-Grandma, was one of 250,000 casualties to a virus that shows no mercy. My in-laws are now long haulers who still show symptoms 6+ months later. Our family will never be the same, and what we once had can never again be. I am ungrateful this Thanksgiving for the pain my family has had to endure.

political division in the united states

political division

This is a year also surrounded with hate and ignorance. Too many people of color had their lives ended by those that we trust to protect us.  Too many families had to bury loves ones for no other reason than the color of their skin. Racism continues to shatter an already broken world.  

The political division in this country has torn us apart as well. Instead of the leaders of our country coming together to bring some semblance of stability and safety amidst the fear, there is a civil war among the parties.  There is no bi-partisan agreement to try and help the millions of people that were laid off or furloughed because of the virus.  It is impossible to turn on the TV or watch the news without the constant reminder that our government, like its people, are in shambles.

I cannot exchange lists of gratitude while there is a tornado of fear, hatred, and death that has swept up our nation. Despite my gratitude, I will not do so in the memory of my husband’s grandmother and 250,000 others, and I will not do so when there is so much uncertainty and pain surrounding us. Instead, this Thanksgiving I will embrace my ungratefulness. 

A New Type Of List during my ungrateful thanksgiving

The holidays under normal circumstances can be painful for some, but now those feelings are stronger than ever for even more people. I don’t believe it is helpful to tell others to focus on what they are grateful for if they are overwhelmed with grief and sadness. It makes them feel pressure and shame, and it is okay for gratitude to sometimes take the back burner.

Therefore, this Thanksgiving will be the first time our family will not state our list of gratitude. Instead we will pause and have a moment of silence and prayer. We will reflect upon this year and the loss and loneliness we each feel. We will then each share lists I never dreamt we’d make on Thanksgiving- our lists of sadness, fear, and confusion.

ungrateful thanksgiving

This ungrateful Thanksgiving we will give our daughter an opportunity to express her feelings and voice her concerns.  We will discuss the uncertainty of that day and the days that will follow. We will acknowledge the harsh reality of the world we live, and the harshness people have brought to one another.

As a parent, I want to assuage my daughter’s fears and kiss her pain away. This Thanksgiving I cannot. What I will tell my daughter is that I have faith in humanity.  I believe that there will be a future Thanksgivings where we will celebrate what we are grateful for, and what we will be most grateful for will be the change that finally took place.

parenting a child with adhd and spd

“Parents who have children with special needs, also have special needs. They need to know more than the average parent. Need to do more than the average parent. They need more patience than the average parent, and so much more.” (Parents Supporting Parents).

Imagine this scene: You are shopping at a grocery store, and you see someone nearby (pre-COVID, of course). That person watches your daughter touch various items in the aisle. You try to stop your child, and remind her that she can look, but cannot touch. As you push your cart, your daughter starts running ahead even though you tell her to hold your hand. The person who is watching then shakes their head and mutters something about a wild child.

parenting my child with adhd and spd

This scenario is not at all shocking for a parent of a child with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD). The constant struggle to support our children is something that is an everyday part of our lives. Even worse, surveyors assume our children are spoiled and not properly parented. This makes us feel shame, not only because we feel we are failing as parents, but because our children are being judged.

The purpose of this post is not to discuss strategies, although I’ve used many, which you can find here and here. On behalf of every parent who has a child with special needs, I am giving a glimpse into my experiences with my child who has ADHD and SPD. It is important to remember that “No two kids with ADHD are exactly alike. Their symptoms can vary in type and severity… ADHD isn’t an all-or-nothing thing.” (understood.org).

My hope is that sharing some of my obstacles will make other moms feel less alone and judged by others. Knowledge is the foundation for awareness and advocacy. My aspiration is that we spread awareness to those who do not understand these challenges.

challenges and obstacles

challenges and obstacles

One of the biggest challenges I face is my child’s lack of impulse control. Brielle needs constant monitoring. She has hurt herself several times because she runs down the stairs. Also, Brielle jumps off couches, is unable to take a shower by herself because she tries to jump and run in it, and throws herself backwards in chairs. She already fell backwards twice, but fortunately wasn’t hurt (although I aged ten years each time). Many times she went down the stairs at night and jump on the countertops. I continue to have a baby gate at the top of the stairs for my 8-year-old daughter. Whereas other children would learn from these painful mistakes, Brielle continues to put herself in danger.

Emotional regulation for Brielle is also a huge obstacle. She perseverates on things that cause her to worry and feel sad. Using emotional regulation tools is very helpful, but she still fixates on things and needs extra support to process her feelings and move past them. “Kids with ADHD don’t have the same capacity to manage their emotions. If they don’t have it, how do you expect them to do it? How do you expect them to respond to what you’re asking them to do? It’s like they can’t win.” (Dr. Dawn K. Brown, MD, ADHD Wellness Center).

As I illustrated in my earlier scenario, taking Brielle with me on errands is a recipe for disaster. She is overly stimulated by all the things in the store and wants to touch everything. Due to her short attention span, she gets very frustrated when having to stay next to me and walk calmly. I only bring her for quick errands while providing redirection and encouragement. If my errand requires me to talk to a cashier or salesperson, Brielle will get restless and try to run around.

my child with adhd has endless energy and craves sensory stimulation

sensory stimulation

Brielle plays outside every day as an outlet for all her energy. However, when playing in the yard, she runs up the driveway towards the street despite my consistent reminders. She tries to take her scooter and sit on it instead of standing. She’s fallen down the driveway on multiple occasions.

Brielle craves sensory stimulation. She is always seeking out “more.” I am fearful at parks because she climbs up objects without looking where she is putting her feet. She jumps off of high places (I will never forget the time I had to catch her when she walked off a beam midair), and runs around without looking to see if any object can hit her. As a result, I can’t sit at a park and relax. It is imperative that I am hyper alert everywhere. Looking away for a few seconds is the difference between safety and disaster.

From morning until night, Brielle is always on the go. That means that from the moment she wakes up, she is immediately energized. She goes from 0 to 100. No matter my exhaustion or mood, I have to be alert. There is simply no laying low with her.

lack of impulse control and independent play

independent play

Everyday Brielle loses her stuff because she is always on the go. She doesn’t remember where she puts her things, so keeping her stuff organized is a must. When she had dance class, there was always at least one item missing. As a result, I had to go on a scavenger hunt with her to find her shoes, her leotard, or her tights. Teachers needed to assist her in making sure that her folders and materials were packed in her bookbag. There were two occasions where she brought her folders back to school and proceeded to misplace them. They were lost for two months.

Brielle rushes through activities and moves on to something else very quickly. She needs numerous reminders to stop before jumping to another activity. She will leave books on the floor, clothes on the bed, and toys all over unless she is redirected.

Playing independently is a huge challenge for her because using her imagination requires higher level thinking. She has difficulty coming up with safe ways of playing independently due to her sensory issues and impulsivity. I limit her choices to only a few items when she does “quiet time,” and I check in on her regularly. If I don’t check on her, she does things such as jumping into the tub and turning on the water, spilling water all over the floor, and/or going into closets and taking things out.

Due to her lack of impulse control, she will interrupt and tap me when I am in the middle of something. I cannot look at my emails, talk on the phone, or have a conversation without Brielle trying to get my attention or get into something if I am preoccupied.

Boredom in a child with ADHD and SPD equals trouble. She has gone into my room and looked inside my drawers, in my closets, and through my jewelry. There have been many incidences where she accidentally shattered hung pictures on walls and items on floors because she is running around. I give verbal and visual prompts that she needs to wait for her turn, but this is something she struggles with daily. What may appear to others as being demanding or a troublemaker is actually a child who struggles with delayed gratification. Brielle always acts before she thinks.

inattention and executive functioning

Brielle has difficulty focusing and learning, as well as executive functioning issues. She has an IEP because she needs constant redirection, individualized instruction, and the use of multiple prompts to learn new information. There are times when she is unable to grasp new material because of her processing issues and poor memory. She has a different learning style than others, but that does not mean she can’t learn.

Brielle has difficulty sleeping because of her sensory issues with her bladder. She either doesn’t register that she has to go to the bathroom (and by the time she realizes it she is ready to burst) or she uses the bathroom every few minutes because she is overly sensitive to the sensation.

Brielle’s body doesn’t register exhaustion like other kids, so she becomes hyperactive (more than usual) when she gets overtired. She also has difficulty falling asleep because her body and mind won’t quiet down. As Sarah Young explained, “Living with ADHD is like being locked in a room with 100 televisions and 100 radios all playing. None of them have power buttons so you can turn them off and the door is locked from the outside.”

 

 

childs advocate

As I discussed in 6 Strategies and Tips for Parenting a Special Needs Child, Parenting Strategies and Tips to Help Children with ADHD and Ways to Help Children with ADHD Succeed in School and at Home, there are many ways of supporting kids with special needs, and Brielle has made huge strides. She is not defined by her ADHD and SPD; rather, she is a smart, funny, sweet, loving, sensitive girl who has ADHD and SPD.

“No mom who is actively trying to understand what their child is going through should ever feel like they are not doing enough or they are a bad mom. Your child is very lucky to be loved so unconditionally by you. Some day they will look back and say, ‘I got here because of you.’” (ourADHDstory.com).
 
We are our children’s biggest supporters and greatest advocates. Wear that honor with pride and hold your head up high. Remember that your kids are lucky to have a parent who tries as hard as you do.
how to love yourself

You can learn to love yourself. However, learning to love yourself is like learning to walk; it takes time, patience, and a lot of falling down and getting back up. The tips below are helpful in your pursuit of self-love. Give yourself a mental high five with each step, and remember that when we practice self-love, we are teaching our kids to love themselves too. 

You can learn to love and respect yourself enough to set boundaries

love yourself enough to set boundaries

I don’t know about you, but everywhere I look someone is talking about the “b” word.

I used to find the concept of boundaries very overwhelming.  In reality, boundaries aren’t as intimidating as they seem. What I now realize is that it is important to love yourself enough to set boundaries. The beauty is that there’s no one-size-fits-all boundary. They will vary from person to person because needs differ from person to person. 

Boundaries are a good thing; actually, they are a great thing.  Why? Boundaries mean determining what you need so you can feel secure in your relationships. Boundaries are necessary in all types of relationships, not just romantic ones. Whether it means letting your friend know that you won’t answer the phone after 11pm or telling your parents that certain topics are off-limits, they are meant to set clear expectations so that you can have healthy relationships with others. It is crucial to love yourself enough to set boundaries.

Making a list is often a great place to start. Write down some things that you would like to establish with the people in your life. Start with something small, and then you can work your way up towards bigger boundaries.

Share your boundaries is a loving, clear way. Remember that change takes time, and that you may have to restate your boundaries. Also understand that relationships are a two-way street, so healthy relationships mean giving boundaries as well as respecting the boundaries set by others.

At first it might feel awkward to set boundaries with others. You may not be used to expressing your feelings and needs to others. The important thing is to try to stand by the boundaries you set. Remember the importance of respecting and loving yourself enough to set boundaries. If you falter, that’s okay. You’re a work in progress, remember? The more you practice giving and sticking to your boundaries, the more comfortable you’ll feel. With time and consistency, you can learn to love yourself enough to set boundaries.

“Love yourself enough to set boundaries. Your time and energy are precious. You get to choose how you use it. You teach people how to treat you by deciding what you will and won’t accept.” (Anna Taylor, Goodreads).

sleep

A cranky, sleep-deprived person is not going to feel great about anything, let alone themselves. If your kids are keeping you up or you’re a troubled sleeper, try some of my sleep strategies.

You can learn to love yourself by Accepting your weaknesses along with your strengths 

accept your flaws

This one is a biggie for me. I tend to focus on my weaknesses and minimize my strengths.

At some point you realize that you have nothing to gain and everything to lose by repeatedly hitting your head against a brick wall (metaphorically speaking). No matter what, I am going to make mistakes. There will be times where I am going to do things wrong. I am going to be emotional and anxious and sometimes needy.

I am flawed. Deeply. Wishing it away and hating myself for it isn’t going to make it go away. The solution? Accept those flaws and remind yourself that you are doing the best you can.

It might be that I may never love those parts of myself,  but I can love myself for WHO I am. I am not defined by my anxiety and my fears. I am defined by who I am as a person. My name is Randi and I feel anxious. That’s very different than thinking, “My name is Randi and I AM anxious.”

Try to show yourself compassion. When you feel badly or angry about something, argue with those negative thoughts. Remember you are trying and give yourself space to grow without forcing it.  You can learn to love yourself and accept yourself. It simply takes time.

As strange as it might seem, try embracing your imperfections. We are the sum of all of our parts, but our parts guide us rather than define us. Imperfections are what make us unique.

“Loving yourself doesn’t mean you think you’re the smartest, most talented, and most beautiful person in the world. Instead, when you love yourself you accept your so-called weaknesses, appreciate those shortcomings as something that makes you who you are.” (Andrea Brandt)

Self-care 

Part of prioritizing your feelings is taking time to invest in your emotional well-being.

Read that book that got buried in your closet. Go for a run. Take a relaxing bubble bath. Listen to music. You can’t like or love yourself if you aren’t willing to invest time to care for yourself.

You can Learn to Love Yourself using daily affirmations

I’m a big believer in faking it until you make it. If you play a role long enough, you’ll can actually learn to love yourself.

Make a list of positive affirmations such as, “I am enough.” “I deserve love.” “I am worthy of happiness.” “I am proud of how hard I try.” You can make these lists with your children as well.

Write them on a piece of paper and read them aloud. Write them on a post-it and stick it on your mirror so you see it everyday. Whenever you are judging yourself or feel badly about yourself, grab that list.

love yourself and be your own friend

love yourself enough to set boundaries

Would you speak to your friends the way you speak to yourself? I’m going to guess not. Why is it easier to be kind to others than it is to be kind to ourselves?

This is something that comes up often with my daughter, especially around bedtime. I have to remind her that she should be kind to herself about her sleep issues and comfort herself as she would a friend.

When I am harsh with myself, I try to think about how I’d feel if the circumstances belonged to someone else. Most of the time, I would be far more compassionate and supportive than what I’m telling myself.

“When you are your own best friend, you don’t endlessly seek out relationships, friendships, and validation from the wrong sources because you realize that they only approval and validation you need is your own.” (Mandy Hale).

Rediscover your hobbies.

we get so enmeshed with our children and our loved-ones that we often forget what brings us joy. Not your kids, not your spouse, you. What are things that you like to do? What can you do for yourself to learn to love yourself?

Commit to spending even 5 minutes a day doing something just for you. Sometimes our hobbies are a form of self-care (such as journaling, listening to music). Sometimes hobbies are different than our self-care. Hobbies are meant for fun, whereas self-care is about focusing on your emotional well-being.

Prioritize your feelings and look out for yourself.

choose your own path

That is a frightening notion for some of us. If you’re like me, you’ve spent most of your life focused on the well-being of others. My feelings fell by the wayside because I felt responsible for taking care of everyone else’s feelings.

It was a hard pill to swallow that I had to focus on myself first and foremost. That sounded incredibly selfish to me. People depended on me. I would be okay as long as I was taking care of my responsibilities, which meant making sure others were okay.

I didn’t realize how codependent that way of thinking was, and that I could never be the kind of mother, wife, daughter, sister, friend, and person I wanted to be unless I took care of myself. The truth is that all my best efforts can never fix/save others, and others aren’t responsible for my happiness either.

I want my daughter to stand up for herself, and that means I have to set the right example and do that for myself. I need to be my biggest supporter and cheerleader because if I don’t look out for myself, how can I expect others to respect my feelings?

You can’t be the best version of yourself if you are pouring from an empty cup. If you treat yourself as insignificant, it is not shocking if others treat you that way too.

Prioritizing your feelings may also mean taking time to calm down when you feel angry, stressed, or overwhelmed. Whether it’s telling your spouse, your child, or you friend that you need a moment, sometimes you need to simply walk away. If you can get outside and take a walk, great. Give yourself space to take some deep breaths and practice some relaxation exercises, even if it means putting your kids somewhere safe and locking yourself in the bathroom for a few minutes.

ask for help

Reach out to others if you feel overwhelmed and need to recharge. We put so much pressure on ourselves, and society puts so much pressure on us, that we feel like we are failures if we are struggling. Part of loving ourselves is accepting we cannot do it all, and there are times when we need the support of others.

Give yourself permission to feel whatever it is you are feeling.

love yourself - its ok to be sad

It is okay to be sad, anxious, or angry. You are not a robot, so you will experience a whole spectrum of emotions. It is part of life, and burying those feelings or judging yourself for them is only going to make you feel worse.  It is okay to not be okay .

Self-love isn’t linear. You will likely take several steps forward and then several steps back. Some days you’ll feel on top of the world, and others you’ll feel like something that is getting scraped off the bottom of your shoe. Remember that this is a marathon, not a sprint, and new ways of thinking take time. You are going to make mistakes, but what matters is that you are trying.

“I gave myself permission to feel and experience all of my emotions. In order to do that, I had to stop being afraid to feel. In order to do that, I taught myself to believe that no matter what I felt or what happened when I felt it, I would be ok.” (Iyanla Vanzant).

The hard truth is that learning to love yourself is no easy achievement. However, the greatest achievements in life are meaningful because of the journey required to achieve it. The journey of self-love is filled with road blocks and hurdles, but it is a journey that is worth traveling.

*To help support your self-love journey, I’ve created a self-love workbook.  To print, click here: Self-Love Workbook: Support and Maintain Your Self-Love Journey

self love is so important

Self-Love and acceptance are keys to your mental and emotional wellness

We live in a culture that is obsessed with success. It is a never-ending hamster wheel of doing more, working harder, and being judged by our achievements. It’s no wonder that many of us feel like we are failures when the bar is set higher and higher. 
 

I know I felt like a failure when I made the decision to stay home with my daughter rather than work. I felt like I needed to provide some sort of explanation/justification as to why I was choosing not to pursue my career.

There’s also a revolution out there of increasing mental awareness. We are not only expected to do it all, we are expected to win the Olympics of mental fortitude.
 

The truth is, I used to get annoyed when I’d read articles about self-love, self-care, self-help, self-anything. I was barely hanging on by a thread trying to keep my mental faculties somewhat intact. I didn’t need a reminder of the things I wasn’t doing and didn’t feel capable of achieving.

It is the ultimate catch-22; we can’t love ourselves unless we are kind to ourselves, and we can’t be kind to ourselves unless we love ourselves.
 
This leads to the million dollar question: How can we learn to love and be kind to ourselves?
 
Answer: Accept that you are a work-in-progress.

we are all a work-in-progress

work in progress

“We’re all a work in progress, and I’m not ashamed to say that I don’t have it all together – I really don’t think anyone does.” (Adrienne Bailon).
 
We are flawed. Every single one of us. Some might hide it better than others, but there isn’t a single person on the planet who doesn’t struggle about something.
 

If we can admit we are flawed, then we are one step further in our goal towards self-love.

having a healthy relationship with yourself

love yourself

Self-love is essential because if we don’t have a healthy relationship with ourselves, that opens the door to dysfunctional relationships with others. Relationships with friends, spouses, parents, siblings, and even our children are impacted.
 

Codependency often is a byproduct of not loving ourselves. Lack of self-love can lead to looking for others to “complete us.” We can shut others out because we are afraid of getting hurt. Letting people in requires true intimacy, and that kind of vulnerability is difficult if we don’t love ourselves.

 
“You’ve got to love yourself first, and until you value yourself enough and love yourself enough to know that, you can’t really have a healthy relationship.” (Joyce Meyer).

When we don’t love ourselves, we are unable to teach our children how to love themselves. It is our job as parents to set a healthy example for our children. We need to learn how to love ourselves so that our children can love themselves.

self-love is being perfectly imperfect

imperfect

Self-love is looking at every flaw, every wrinkle, every extra pound, every trigger, every fear, every doubt, and every heartache and knowing that you are exactly who you need to be in that moment. You are perfectly imperfect, and that imperfection is what makes you loveable.
 
You see, my sweet friends, self-love isn’t about thinking you’ve got it all together, it’s about knowing THAT YOU DON’T.
 
“Having compassion starts and ends with having compassion for all those unwanted parts of ourselves, all those imperfections that we don’t even want to look at.” (Pema Chodron).
 
Learning how to love ourselves doesn’t happen overnight. Giving ourselves permission and space to try to love and accept ourselves is a huge first step. Take it day by day, hour by hour, or even minute by minute.
 
Self-love and self-kindness are both works-in-progress and THAT IS OKAY. What is not okay is giving up on ourselves. Take a chance and invest in yourself. It is the best investment you will ever make.

*To help support your self-love journey, I’ve created a self-love workbook.  To print, click here:

Self-Love Workbook: Support and Maintain Your Self-Love Journey.

its ok to not be ok

I had a topic that I was all set to write about… and then life got in the way. It’s ok to not be okay.

Things were going well in my life. My husband and I were making our daughter nauseous with all of our PDAs, I was getting back into the groove of homeschooling Brielle, my daughter was miraculously complaining less and cooperating more, and I found out another article of mine was getting published in The MIGHTY. I was feeling pretty darn good, folks.

There is a Yiddish proverb, “Man plans, and God laughs.” Well, my plans went right out the window, and I wasn’t laughing. It’s ok to no be okay.

“Life has many ways of testing a person’s will, either by having nothing happen at all or by having everything happen all at once.” (Paolo Coelho).

On Wednesday I got a rejection letter from an agent I queried regarding the children’s book that I wrote. I really loved what this agent brought to the table, and I spent a month hoping that she would represent me.

i was not okay

My daughter didn’t get enough sleep on Wednesday night, and she acted like she was possessed all day on Thursday. By the end of the day, I was emotionally, psychologically, and physically exhausted.

i was not okay

facebook

On Friday, Facebook sent me a notification that they couldn’t recognize the device I was using. I had set up this notification after the last time someone hacked into my Facebook account. The problem was that the device in question was my own cell phone. I confirmed that my phone was an acceptable device. This action clearly annoyed Facebook, and next thing I knew, any comment I made flashed an exclamation mark saying it was denied. I tried to put something on my Surviving Mom Blog Facebook Group. That was also denied. It’s ok to not be okay.
 
Unlike the last time Facebook banned me, this time there was no message sent to my inbox to alert me that I was banned in any way. My account showed that I had full access to Facebook, yet I had restricted access to Facebook.

i was not okay

Social media is very important and necessary when you are in the early stages of creating a blog. I have a Facebook group that I post on nearly everyday to stay connected to my readers. Now what was I supposed to do? My husband had to post on my behalf.

i was not okay

On Saturday evening at approximately 11:45 pm, my husband jumped up and ran to the phone. He got an email from the Apple Store that someone had charged $2200 on our debit card to purchase a laptop. Spoiler Alert- neither one of us had made that purchase.

i was not okay

credit card theft

Two other fraudulent purchases were made to two different credit cards in the past three months. One was to purchase a Groupon, and one was a gas charge at the gas station we always use. Pretty creepy, right? We cancelled our credit cards and got replacements, but our debit account? How is that possible? It’s ok to not be okay.
 
Even creepier, the person who used our debit card put down my husband’s email address and my phone number when making the purchase online. You use our debit card, but keep our contact information? What kind of hacker does that?

i was not okay

I have talked about wellness in many of my posts. I’ve given tips on how to boost self-confidence in ourselves and our children, given numerous suggestions for self-care, and written about tools to help with regulating emotions. I have written about ways to improve our relationships  with our significant others through love languages, and given strategies for bedtime and parenting children with special needs.

Those strategies and tools, albeit helpful, were not going to give me a lobotomy. I was not able to alleviate my concerns and fears about someone being able to access thousands of dollars from our debit account by doing deep breathing and journaling.

i was not okay

This is the moment of truth, my friends.
 
Life is going to throw us a series of curveballs, often when we least expect it. As much as I am a believer of getting up when life throws us down, I am not going to pretend that everything is sunshine and roses.

it is ok to not be okay

crying

“Make room for all emotions – including negative ones. It’s ok not to be happy all the time. Give yourself time to be sad when you are sad, mad when you are mad.” (Heather Schumaker).
 
One of the biggest lessons I’ve had to learn in life is that there are times when all we can do is hold space for whatever we are feeling and allow ourselves to feel it. Sometimes we need to ride the wave of messiness, anger, hurt, grief, and/or anxiety in order to get through it.
 

It is crucial to take care of our emotional well-being and implement  strategies and tools. I will use those tools to help me get through difficult moments, not to eradicate my feelings.

it is ok to not be okay

My daughter is not always going to see me smiling and carefree. I want her to understand that life is taking the good with the bad, the hard with the easy, the pain with the joy. She sees that I sometimes struggle, and that it is okay to struggle. I model the coping mechanisms I use to help me during those difficult times so that she can also use coping mechanisms when she is struggling. I will not hide the negatives from her because they are part of life, and to hide that would be doing a huge disservice to her.

she needs to know it is ok to not be okay

life is never perfect

For every mom who is struggling, for every person that is taking one step forward and two steps back, for every person that is feeling frazzled, this post is for you.
 
Sometimes life is learning how it’s ok not be okay. It is sitting with those negative feelings and accepting that it is okay to feel that way. There is so much pressure out there to do it all, and to be so much to so many, that somewhere along the line we forget that we are human, with feelings, emotions and hardships.
 
Sometimes we can’t laugh and smile our way through life. There are times when our children are going to frustrate us beyond belief, times when we will have an argument with our spouse, our coworker, or our friend, and times when we will feel sad or lost or unsure.
 
There will be hard hours, hard days, even hard months. We must give ourselves permission to feel badly and accept that we aren’t failures because of that. Accepting all parts of ourselves means accepting that sometimes we are going to feel like **it, and the only thing that isn’t okay is judging ourselves for it. It’s ok to not be okay.
 
“You don’t have to be brave all of the time. You are not damaged or defeated. Have patience. Give yourself permission to cry and to heal. Allow a bit of compassion, you’re doing the best that you can.” (Mike Bowman).
 
I am not okay, and I’m going to allow myself to not feel okay. I will take care of my responsibilities and also give myself the time I need to feel better.
 
I’m flawed, I’m imperfect, I’m emotional, and I feel deeply.

guess what? that’s okay.

five love languages
Do you remember how it feels when you first fall in love? That feeling is one of pure euphoria. It gives you more spring in your step, it always feels like the sun is shining, and you walk around with a ridiculous grin everywhere you go. The “newlywed” phase of any relationship is one of obsession. You are smitten with each other. You wake up and fall asleep thinking about that person, and you are positive nothing can ever tear the two of you apart…
 
Eventually that phase ends and reality takes its place. The blinders are off, and you do not like what you see. What was once endearing to you is now annoying beyond belief. The person who made you feel happy and loved is now the person who makes you feel unappreciated and angry.
 
Love used to be enough, until it isn’t.

how love languages can help improve your relationship

love languages can improve relationships

The idea of love languages was invented by a therapist named Gary Chapman. His book, The 5 love Languages- The Secret to Love That Lasts, explains that all of us have a love language. Just as a relationship won’t work if you can’t communicate because of a language barrier, how can a relationship work if each of you speak a different love language?

Now I’m sure many of you are rolling your eyes. We’ve already read enough about men being from Mars and women from Venus, so now we’re being told that we don’t know how to love properly? Don’t we do enough?! I know I’ve bent myself in so many directions that I feel like a human pretzel.
 
The truth is that your efforts are unrecognized because you aren’t speaking your partner’s love language. If you are going to put effort into a relationship, don’t you want to do it in a way that matters to the other person? If not, what is the point of trying?

my husband and i were speaking different love languages in our relationship

I know I was a skeptic when I first heard about love languages. I tried so hard, but my husband and I were still bickering all the time. No matter what I said or did, I felt like he wasn’t listening and didn’t care. I felt like I wasn’t appreciated at all.
 

Some change had to come from ending our codependent behavior, but a huge part of the problem was that both of us felt like we weren’t respected or valued by our partner. There was a huge disconnect, and that was because we were speaking completely different love languages.

Just as you need to focus on your own well-being so you can take care of others, you need to make sure your “love tank” is full. What often happens is that your partner thinks that what is being done or said is filling your love tank. Unfortunately, your love tank is still empty because you speak a different love language. Likewise, you believe you are showing your love for your partner, but they don’t feel loved or appreciated at all.
 

Children also need to have a full love tank, and it is important that we speak their love language as well. Gary Chapman and Ross Campbell wrote the book, The 5 Love Languages of Children. There is a quiz in the book to discover your child’s primary love language.

For purposes of this article, I am going to concentrate on the importance of the love languages in romantic relationships.

these are dr. chapman’s five love languages

love languages decoded

(This is a brief overview of the five love languages. In the book, each love language has a chapter explaining it in depth, and Chapman also gives specific suggestions on how to implement each love language.)

words of affirmation

· You feel loved and valued when your partner tells you those words.

· You like to hear kind words and compliments from your partner to feel that your love tank is full.

· It is crucial for partners to recognize that people who need words of affirmation are extra sensitive when a partner verbalizes displeasure.

· Partners should be mindful that you should try to recognize and compliment the other’s efforts and speak encouraging words as much as possible. This keeps your partner’s love tank full.

· According to Chapman, “Verbal compliments are far greater motivators than nagging words.”

quality time

· For some people, what matters most is getting their partner’s undivided attention. They feel prioritized and valued when they are spending quality time with their loved one.

· Quality time is not watching TV together. It is time where you both put away distractions and focus on one another.

· Time together can be conversing after the kids are asleep, eating a meal together, taking a hike, doing an activity together, or playing a game together.

· Unlike words of affirmation, which focuses on what the person is saying, quality time is about what the person is hearing.

· Asking questions, showing empathy, and being genuinely interested in what the other one is saying is how you speak the love language of quality time.

receiving gifts

· “Visual symbols of love are more important to some people than others”- Gary Chapman

· These gifts do not have to be costly. It is the thought that counts. Some examples include giving a card (or making one), bringing flowers, or giving a small memento.

· Having something tangible makes the person feel loved. It can be found, made, or bought.

· Don’t wait for special occasions to give to the person whose primary love language is receiving gifts. Anything you give will be considered tokens of love.

acts of service

· If this is your primary love language, you feel actions speak louder than words.

· Having your partner do things makes you feel loved.

· The amount of time is not what matters, it involves actions that you know your partner wants you to do.

· Showing thoughtfulness through actions and doing these actions without complaining is speaking the love language of acts of service.

physical touch

· Being held, holding hands, or getting a massage are all examples of physical touch.

· Every person has different areas that are felt as pleasurable, so the preferable areas of touch will vary.

· A man might assume that physical touch is his primary love language for sexual reasons, but if he is having sex regularly and still feels unloved, then it is probably not his primary love language. Biological needs should not be confused for love languages.

what is your love language and the language of your partner?

what is your love language

At the end of his book there are two quizzes (one for each of you) to find out your primary love language. The test consists of 30 paired statements. You select the statement that is the most truthful for you, and then tally your results and see your primary love language.
 
People often have more than one love language, but usually there is one that is the highest. That is your primary love language.
 
My primary love language is acts of service, and my husband’s primary language is physical touch. Previously, instead of speaking the love language that the other one needed, we were giving each other the type of love we wanted. We felt unappreciated because we weren’t giving the other person the love language necessary to fill our love tank.
 
I now will take my husband’s hand or rub his shoulders to fill his love tank, and he does things around the house without bickering (most of the time 😉).
 
Just as it is important to respect someone’s feelings even if they are different from yours, there is no right or wrong love language. It is important to give your partner the type of love they need. When people feel appreciated and loved, it is much easier to work through obstacles and work together as a team.
 
Do I miss the days when I heard the birds singing and I felt like I was floating on a cloud? Sure. The honeymoon phase of a relationship is fleeting. Speaking each other’s love language is a love that lasts a lifetime. I choose that kind of love any day.
emotional abuse

This post is incredibly hard to write because I am sharing something private and very painful. This story of emotional abuse is not one from which fairy tales are born.

a cautionary tale about surviving emotional abuse

I wish I could say that I had a happy childhood, but that would be the furthest thing from the truth. I grew up with a mentally unstable mom who was narcissistic and had Borderline Personality Disorder.

At a very young age my role was to listen to my mother’s marital problems, as she and my dad were always arguing (sometimes physically, but most of the time it was screaming at one another). I developed a very codependent relationship with her. It was my job to listen to her problems, support her emotionally, and take care of her. I did not set any boundaries with her, as I felt my well-being and safety were completely contingent on my mother’s well-being. When she was upset or wanted nothing to do with me, I felt worthless.

I wanted nothing more than my mother’s approval, and as a result I would parrot a lot of what my mother said to me and try to emulate her. My father was very resentful of this, and growing up he was angry at me most of the time. As a result, I grew up feeling that my father didn’t like me or care about me.

my punishments were psychologically damaging

psychologically damaging

At the age of 8, my mother started throwing me out of the house when she felt I misbehaved. The first time this happened it was dark outside, and I walked a block to a nearby park and sat on a bench. I felt helpless, unloved, and discarded. My father came out at some point and told me I could go back inside. The memory of sitting on that bench for the first time will forever be etched in my mind.

This became my mother’s go to way of punishing me. The amount of time I wasn’t allowed inside varied from minutes to many hours. I felt unsafe and incredibly degraded each time I had to leave and then beg to come back inside. It made me view the world as a very scary place. I had nobody to protect me, and I felt very lost and alone. I could not understand why the person who was supposed to look out for me was the one who was hurting me.

My father was complicit and would follow my mom’s instructions. I always voiced that what was being done to me was wrong, but my mom would tell me that I brought it on myself by not listening to her.

codependency and the cycle of abuse

stop the cycle of abuse

My mother was abused as a child, and in turn, my mother abused me. I vowed that the abuse would stop with me. In order to end the cycle of abuse, I had to face all of the horrors I endured so I would know what to never do to my child. I vowed to give my child the love and support I never got, and make sure she knew she was loved unconditionally. I go into more details about this in my post about parenting.

My parents divorced when I was 24, but as an adult, I still had the belief system that it was my job to make my mother happy. I tried to do everything possible to get her love and approval. As a result, I completely enabled her behavior and set no boundaries. This pattern of codependent behavior was so dysfunctional that I spent two hours of my honeymoon trying to calm my mother down due to her recent breakup. Her feelings were always prioritized over mine, and I felt it was my job to make sure she was okay. We were the definition of codependency.

Shortly after my parents divorced, I met my husband, Matt, on Jdate. He was the first person who I felt loved me unconditionally. With him I finally felt home. We got engaged a year after we met and married the year after that.

my husband’s addiction

A few years into our marriage we decided to start a family. I got pregnant, and my husband became terrified that I would miscarry. He started drinking heavily, and once I found out about it, he moved onto pills. Due to my husband’s battles with substance abuse, I spent the first 4 years of my daughter’s life raising her by myself.

We moved to Atlanta to get a fresh start, but soon after I realized he was abusing drugs again. I reached out to a therapist that specialized in addiction. I didn’t want my child growing up in that kind of environment.

My husband and I went to the therapist together, and for the first time someone besides me told him that he was an addict and needed to get help. It was the wake up call he needed, and he bravely made the decision to seek treatment. My husband checked himself into an outpatient rehab center. He received individual and family counseling and learned heathy coping strategies. He has been clean and sober for the last four years. You can read more about my story of loving an addict here.

going no contact with my mother and ending the cycle of emotional abuse

I have a wonderful daughter who I love more than life itself. I have been a Stay-at-Home-Mom since my daughter was born. In school I advocated for my daughter to get a full assessment (and subsequently, an IEP) due to numerous symptoms including inattentive behavior, difficulty processing instructions, and poor short term memory. Brielle was diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD). I decided to homeschool her to give her the support that she needs. My daughter has made huge strides, and I’m so proud to be her mother.

I went no contact with my mother two years ago. I did not want to subject my daughter to the same pain, confusion, and heartbreak that I went through. Brielle needs to know that love isn’t something that ebbs and flows based on a person’s whim. It is something that is everlasting, and a mother’s love should be unconditional.

My entire childhood was spent feeling my identity was taking care of my mother. I managed to break free from that, but somewhere along the way I forgot who I was besides being a wife and mother. I wanted to have something that I did which was separate from those two roles and just for me.

the internal scars of emotional abuse

not all scars are physical

Very few people knew about my abuse, and it was typically glossed over because people felt uncomfortable about it. I decided that I wanted to reach out to foundations for abuse survivors and use my love of writing to try and help others. What started out as writing about abuse for monthly newsletters soon turned into my blog.

I always felt that what my mom did to me was wrong. It took adulthood to grasp that what she was doing was abusive. Emotional/psychological abuse is often taboo and harder to recognize by others because the scars are internal. There needs to be more light shined on emotional/psychological abuse so that there is never a doubt that abuse comes in many forms. The lack of openness and education about this made it easier to see my mother as a wacko rather than to see her as abusive. There isn’t enough widespread knowledge about the numerous ways abuse can rear its ugly head.

For most of my life, I felt intense shame about what happened to me. I felt scared and anxious all the time. I went to numerous therapists to figure out how to get “fixed.” I tried medication, hypnosis, brainspotting, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and Somatic Experiencing.

Different therapists told me that I needed to accept myself to heal and grow. This made no sense to me, and I felt frustrated and confused. How could I accept myself and change at the same time?

acceptance and compassion were keys to healing

One day a lightbulb went off in my head. I realized that I needed to show compassion to all parts of myself and accept that the damage that was done to me was not my fault. I finally understood that anxiety and fear does not define me. Just as my daughter’s ADHD and SPD do not define her, my anxiety and fears do not define me. I am defined by the person that I am. I am proud of the person that I am. That is something that can never be taken away from me.

I am sharing my story because I want to take my horrific past and use it to support and help others. My hope is that something good can come out of something terrible. It doesn’t make what happened to me any better. I am taking control over my life by speaking about it.

Many cannot relate to what I endured, and I am glad for those who are unable to do so. That said, all of us have gone through some sort of trauma. I want you to know that you aren’t alone. We don’t get to rewrite our past, but we get to decide our present and future.

Emotional and psychological abuse leave scars that only their victims can see. They are there nonetheless. I hope reading my story will encourage you to reach out and tell someone yours. With advocacy and awareness, we can give a voice to those invisible scars.

personalized placemat craft

Now that the weather is getting chillier, I wanted to share a fun craft for your kids.

Drumroll please….it’s a personalized placemat!

I LOVE this personalized placemat craft for so many reasons!

1-It can be modified for nearly every age and ability. I first did this project with Brielle when she was two, and at 8 she is still excited to make them (the picture above is her latest one).

2- For those of you that have young kids or kids with a limited attention span, you know you’ve hit the craft jackpot when your child actually WANTS to focus on an activity for more than five minutes. It’s like a breath of fresh air to see your child eagerly working on something!

3- It is SO easy to do. Your can put more or less detail into it based on your child’s preference, but the basic directions are super simple to follow.

4- It is something they/you can keep for years to come (just make sure to clean it regularly), and it is a wonderful gift for grandparents, aunts, uncles, etc.

I can continue to ramble about why this art project is a favorite of mine, or I can cut to the chase and start explaining it! Without further ado, here is what you will need to make your personalized placemat:

Materials

1- Clear contact paper

2- Construction paper

3- Scissors

4- Markers, crayons, colored pencils, and/or paints

5- Stickers (optional)

6- Glitter (optional)

7- Wasabi tape (optional)

8- Buttons, confetti paper, or anything small and relatively flat that your child would like to include

9- Fake maple leaves (optional)

10- Fake snowflakes (optional)

11- Fake flowers (optional)

12- Glue or tape

Most of the materials are optional, which is fantastic because you can basically use whatever craft supplies you have around your house!

The first few times my daughter made her personalized placemat, she only used leaves and stickers. This time she decided to use snowflakes, leaves, and flowers to represent all the seasons. Of course, the placemats don’t have to have any seasonal theme at all. It is completely up to your kids and their imaginations!

directions to make a personalized placemat

1- Cut two pieces of contact paper per placement. It can be cut based on whatever size your kids prefer, but ours is 11×18 inches.

2- Unpeel one sheet of paper, and leave the sticky side up. This will be where you stick your materials.

3- Modify the project based on age and ability. If they are too small to use scissors, they can rip construction paper or confetti tissue paper into pieces and scatter it across the contact paper. Another option is you can cut shapes for them, and they can decide where to place it. There is no right and wrong way to do this. It is whatever works best for your child!

4- Your child can scribble, color, paint, write or design the cut-outs. They can use stickers or any item of their choosing as well.

Here are some shapes and decorations she used when she was younger:

Below are some of the designs she used for the placemat she made a few weeks ago. She decided to use flowers, leaves (cut outs and fake), and snowflakes (I drew the snowflake, and she colored it in). Some she painted and others she colored in with crayons.

5- Once your child finishes designing and picking items, it’s time to decide where to place them. Let your child spread them around the contact paper.

Brielle designed and spread these out when she was younger, and she asked me to write her name on one of the leaves so this would be her designated placemat:

7- Unpeel the second piece of contact paper and place the sticky side on top of the objects so that the objects are enclosed on both sides by the sticky part of the contact paper.

8- If necessary, trim the edges to make sure both sides are even.

9- Measure the wasabi tape so it goes around each of the edges to adhere them .

Another option is to glue or tape the edges to ensure they don’t unravel with time.

That’s it! Let your kid take a step back and admire their handiwork!

It’s the simple projects that are the most fun for the kids AND the parents! I love that this is something Brielle can mostly do on her own, with minimal input from me (I trim the edges and the wasabi tape).

She can take pride in knowing that she decided what to use, as well as the design and placement. It gives her a huge sense of accomplishment that she is responsible for the final result!

I can’t wait for your kids to design them. I would love to see your personalized placemats. Post and tag me on Instagram @survivingmomblog with the hashtag #survivingmomblogcraft.

I hope your kids enjoy this personalized placemat craft for years to come!

Self-confidence is something we all want to build and something many of us are lacking. It isn’t surprising that we lack confidence as adults. Many of us were told as children that our best was not enough. Others didn’t get any motivation or encouragement to step out of their comfort zone or try something that was challenging. What was once our parents’ voices soon turned into our inner voice/critic. As a result, the story we believe as adults is that we aren’t good enough. The good news is that there are strategies to build self-confidence in yourself and your children.

my struggles with self-confidence

I grew up with a mom that expected perfection. When I was 5 years old, I had a small writing assignment for school. I was extremely proud of what I wrote and showed it to my mother. Her response was to rip it into pieces and instruct me to write it again. That experience rattled me and will forever be imprinted in my mind. The lesson I learned was that I should feel intense shame if my best wasn’t perfection.

My struggle with perfection crept into every facet of my life. In first grade there was a competition that whoever read the most books by the end of the month would get a box of crayons. I was determined to be the winner. So was another girl in the class. Eventually other classmates stopped participating in this contest, but neither me nor this girl would relent. Finally, the teacher stopped the contest and declared that we both were the winners.

I defined myself and my value based on how well I did in school. I would beat myself up over any mistake I made. In my mind, nothing other than an A was an option. Eventually my mother told me that I didn’t have to get top grades as long as I was trying. By this point her words rang on deaf ears; the bell could not be unrung. I was terrified of not getting the top grades in exams, was ridden with anxiety every time I had to write a report or do a presentation, and always agonized that I wasn’t good enough despite the number of times that was proven to be untrue.

Shame, not self-confidence, became my constant companion. I feared everything because I didn’t believe that trying was what was most important. In my mind, if the result was unsuccessful, the effort was worthless.

the inner critic that creates guilt and shame

ways to challenge your inner critic

Regardless of our childhood circumstances, I know that many of you live with that same inner critic. If we try something and it isn’t a success, we beat ourselves up over it rather than feel proud of ourselves for trying. It only reinforces that we shouldn’t put ourselves out there or reaffirms our belief that we are failures.

It is often easier to look at the laundry list of mistakes or flops rather than focus on how hard we tried or the things we did well. This way of thinking starts to take on a life of its own, and eventually we tell ourselves that we are failures instinctually.

When we speak and feel this way about ourselves, is it any wonder that our voice becomes the inner voice of our own children? It is an endless cycle of guilt, shame, and self-contempt. In order to teach our children to have self-confidence, flaws and all, we first have to believe that about ourselves.

What if we changed our inner voice? Told ourselves that we are enough just as we are? Applauded our efforts rather than our successes? What if we recognized that what matters most is putting ourselves out there? What if our determination and resiliency was how we judged ourselves rather than a tally of achievements?

ways to build self-confidence in ourselves

self confidence

Obviously, this is much easier said than done. Stopping and changing the story we have told ourselves constantly isn’t going to magically vanish. Luckily, there are ways of building self-confidence in ourselves and our children:

1- Change your inner dialogue. Our inner voice is determined to rear its ugly head any time we feel guilt or shame. We can counter those thoughts by putting new ones there. Each time that we try something, no matter what the outcome, we need to acknowledge that putting ourselves out there is an accomplishment in of itself. Showing up and trying is something to be proud of. Counter your thoughts of shame with thoughts of recognition for how hard you try.

This way of thinking applies to our children as well. Instead of commending our children for their grades on a test, applaud them when you see they are studying and taking it seriously. Acknowledge the effort, not the result. Success isn’t a guarantee, but it takes great courage to put oneself out there and try. Our children deserve recognition for the journey instead of the destination.

2- Fake it until you make it. This new message that you are telling yourself doesn’t align with the inner critic you’ve lived with for years. It takes time to truly feel what you are now saying. Reaffirm this new way of thinking with mantras such as “I am enough,” “I can do hard things,” and “I am brave,” and say them to yourself and your child. Counter those shameful thoughts with confident ones.

Make a list of these affirmations with your child. Explain that this list is to be used daily and when we feel badly about ourselves or are afraid to try. Let your children see that you are using this list and encourage them to use it as well.

3- Don’t give up. I remind myself and my daughter that no matter how many times we get knocked down, all we can do is keep picking ourselves up. It is inevitable that we will make mistakes. What we do with those mistakes is what matters.

I wrote a children’s book, and the road to getting an agent is far harder than what I anticipated. My daughter has seen me send query letter after query letter. She has asked me why I don’t give up. I told her that some of my greatest accomplishments are the ones I had to work at the most to achieve. My hope is that my daughter sees that what truly matters is perseverance and believing in yourself.

4- Instead of focusing on your failures, make a list of the things you accomplished despite feeling afraid or self-conscious. Ask your child to make a list of things he/she worked hard to achieve. The next time you or your child feel badly about yourself, look at the list of reminders of how brave you are. Remind yourself and your children that it takes great courage to put yourself out there.

stay confident and be your own kind of beautiful

5- We all have strengths and weaknesses. We are human, so we are flawed. It is inevitable that there will always be someone that is able to do something better than us. As a recovering perfectionist, I remind myself and my daughter that all we can strive for is to be the best versions of ourselves. Perfection isn’t the goal, but courage and strength of conviction is everything.

6-  Self-care is necessary to incorporate into our life and our routine. Encourage your children to explore what they enjoy and to devote time to it. Our emotional well-being is the foundation for learning to love ourselves.

7-  Don’t rely on others to validate you and feel proud of you. Feel proud of yourself for trying regardless of what others say and do. Remind yourself and your children that there are people that will try to say and do things to make you feel badly about yourself. It is imperative to be your own supporter and cheerleader.

I remind my daughter often that she is not defined by any labels. She is defined by who she is as a person. That means that she should strive for inner beauty instead of focusing on her appearance. My hope is that she believes in herself as much as I believe in her.

8- Be your own friend. When I feel shame or guilt, I often ask myself what I would say to my friend if the same thing was happening to her. I tend to give others far more support and understanding than I give to myself.

When I notice my daughter is being hard on herself, I ask her what she would say to her friend if that person was in the same situation. I then ask her to say those words to herself. That often helps her to put things into perspective.

Giving kindness and compassion to ourselves is crucial in building self-confidence. We need a gentle reminder that we deserve better than how we are treating ourselves.

 

 

The journey to building self-confidence is a long and difficult one. There will be easier days as well as days that are more challenging. Be mindful of the story you tell yourself and the example you are setting for your children. It is inevitable that we will fall down along the way, but like everything in life, we must pick ourselves up and try again. You are enough. We are enough just as we are.