I do believe one of my biggest life lessons is to stop being so bloody hard on myself.
To a vast extent I have achieved this, mainly with the help of a lot of soul-searching, personal development and kinesiology.
The funny thing is, that before I became a mother I actually thought I was doing okay and my self-esteem was in the healthy range. But after becoming a mum, and setting myself impossibly high standards, my healthy self-esteem bottomed out as self loathing. So how did such a major shift happen?
A lot has to do with expectations. I expected that I would be the perfect mum after seeing myself as both a good daughter and a good partner (please note that I didn’t say perfect). I didn’t realise at the time, that this was pure craziness and impossible to achieve. So instead of thriving as an indie (solo) mum, I just beat myself up every time I fell short of being perfect. Silly, I know.
Did I hold other mothers to such high standards? Of course not, so why did I make an exception for myself? I think it comes back to being both a perfectionist (and now, thank goodness, I’m a former perfectionist) and a Virgo desperately trying to hang on to control in the face of domestic chaos. As a new mum, all of a sudden I had this precious being to nurture and protect. Loving her was so easy but when my little darling did not get the recommended amount of sleep, I automatically assumed that I was doing something wrong. A trying case of post natal anxiety did not help either. And could I make my daughter sleep more? Hell no, and hence my ensuing despair and self recrimination. Just writing this I can feel the former tension rising in my body.
Three years later and after the birth to my beautiful son, it was declared by one of the midwives that I had split abdominal muscles. So in the weeks and months following his birth, I dutifully did the recommended exercises to try to rectify the issue. Try as I would, the muscles did not get much closer. Instead of celebrating this and the fact that I had a carried and delivered a healthy, bouncing boy without any drugs or intervention, I criticised my body for letting me down. It was just another case of personal, and this time physical, failure and opportunity for me to be harsh to myself. Did it help? Not in the slightest. In the end, after about six months of religiously doing the exercises, the hospital staff just advised me to let them go.
Fast forward another five years and I have just recently had my unruly locks permanently straightened. As I was sitting at the hairdressers and surveying the result I stopped myself from thinking, “Great new hair but shame about the face.” Instead I sent myself a loving thought. Some self kindness at last. Hooray.