I follow a great blog called Premmeditations whose author recently wrote a letter to herself, you can read it here. She found that writing a letter to herself helped her work towards giving up guilt. I’ve written before about my guilt that I don’t do enough therapy with Jacob (you can read about it here) and I’ve probably skirted over the large amount of times I have felt responsible for Jacob’s disability (here) but many of the things I feel guilty about are nothing to do with Jacob and his disability. In fact in thinking about writing this I realised what I normally feel guilty about is something else entirely:
I once heard someone say “we use other people as a mirror”, that what we believe (or imagine) they think of us is actually what we think of ourselves. This came as a revelation to me. I have always worried far too much about what others think of me and felt that much of what they thought of me was negative. I reckon this will come as a huge surprise to people who may have known me for a long, long time. This is because I am fairly good at putting on a show, an act; a confidence act. I know that self doubt will get me nowhere, so I squash down those negative thoughts and just, well, bloody well get on with it. Feel the fear and do it anyway.
Many (many, many) moons ago at school we played a game when we all wrote down one thing about each member of our circle of friends in secret and then each read our own. There was no nasty-ness (girls school but we were proper friends, right?!) but I couldn’t believe it when many of mine said “confident”, “very very confident” and the like. I can remember thinking “I’ve spent almost every day with these people for 4 years and they don’t know me at all!”. They don’t know that inside of me is an ugly, twisted little creature who constantly shouts “You’re not good enough, no one really likes you, you’ve made an idiot of yourself”. This creature shouted loudly and often when I was younger, now less so, but still daily.
Anyway, rambling on, so back to the idea of other people as your mirror. I’ve always thought that others think badly of me, that I’m not doing things right, that I’m not doing well enough, that I should be exceeding expectations not just meeting them. When it comes down to it, I feel that other people expect me to be perfect. Always full of energy, always running around getting things done, doing them brilliantly; but the moment I heard this phrase I realised that it is me that expects all these things of myself. It is me that reads nuances and subtext into things that are said to me, looking for the bits that imply I’m not good enough.
So, my friend, you need to cut yourself a break. You need to treat yourself gently, kindly and recognise all that you do achieve. You need to take a bloody great chill pill and stop expecting to be bloody perfect, OK?! You will burn out, you are probably close to doing so, so you need to listen.
You try your best. Yes of course there are times when things get too much and you possibly don’t deal with things in the best way possible but, you know what you’re human and although you might be full of faults, so, my dear, is everyone else and so you really mustn’t constantly beat yourself up for not being perfect.
When you get fed up with dealing with the umpteenth tantrum of the day and get a bit shouty and cross this is because you are human. Loads of people find two year olds a strain to deal with and they possibly don’t have a child with sensory processing disorder pulling their hair out every time their sibling has a tantrum. Most people would find this stressful to deal with. Finding it stressful does not mean you are a failure and when others try to insinuate that you should not be stressed, just ignore it, they just haven’t walked a day in your shoes. I repeat, feeling stressed does not make you a failure.
Lots of people find parenting hard and tiring without a child who gets out of bed multiple times throughout the night and repeatedly head-buts his own bedroom door. So give yourself a break, it is difficult to retain a sense of perspective when you’ve not had an unbroken night of sleep in approaching three years. Tiredness makes everyone ratty. You’re not, in some way, worse than others because you sometimes feel like you can’t cope.
Forgive yourself for not being perfect and not always dealing with the challenges life throws at you in the perfect way, at the first opportunity. You don’t have to be perfect, in fact, expecting yourself to be perfect is probably a bad example to set your children. No, NO, stop it, SEE your criticising yourself again! Move on from that thought please, nothing to see here…
Look at how far you’ve come. Think back to the days when you endlessly lay awake at night worrying about Jacob and what could be wrong. The crying phone calls with your Mum when you went over and over the same anxieties. The fraught conversations with your husband about your concerns when he wanted to believe that all was still well. You have moved on, you have made progress and that’s something commendable, feel proud. You’ve moved forward with the life you’ve got. You’ve overcome a serious illness and the fear that you might not be here to see your children grow up, you recovered, and although your body will never be as strong as it was, you’re still here and not only that you’re doing the best you can in often difficult circumstances. It is OK that you are sometimes tired or in pain and occasionally need a day when CBeebies does the majority of the parenting.
Instead of thinking about all you could have dealt with better, of all the things you should have done but didn’t, think about what you have accomplished that day, think of the things you dealt with well, of the fun times you’ve given your children, of the things you have done for other people. Don’t just constantly berate and punish yourself for not being perfect. You don’t have to be.
Love me x