This Moment Changed the Words I Choose Forever
I want to share a moment that legitimately changed the way I speak and the words I choose. I have known for a while that women should not talk badly about our own bodies in from of children, especially daughters. I knew that. Since they were three and one, I have been conscious to never say bad things about my body, weight, or shape in front of my daughters. It has taken daily effort, and I've been proud of how I don't trash talk my body around my girls or my boys. I find that especially hard when we’re trying on swimsuits, and I’ve made it through by biting my tongue more than a few times, but I have managed to stay the course.
A few years ago, one of my daughters, who is amazing, by the way, was crying in her room because of some mistake she made. As I comforted her and told her that we all make mistakes, she burst into sobs and said, "but Mommy, I just know I will never be able to live up to your expectations."
Now, I am her BIGGEST fan. I always thought that all I ask is for them to be the best them that they can be at any moment. I always thought that I celebrate their greatness and come at mistakes from a growth mindset, "you'll get it next time" way of thinking. I tried to boost her up,
talk it through, but when she said that thing about my expectations, I asked her more of what she meant so I could understand why she feels that way. What she said next stopped my heart for more than a beat.
"Because, Mommy, I think you're AMAZING, and you talk badly about yourself all the time. You say you're a mess or a "mess-up" or a loser. You say you don't know why you're so messed up, why you can't get it right. If you're so amazing and STILL not good enough, how will I EVER be?"
Yeah. THAT made my stomach hurt.
I never once thought any of the harshness I applied to myself would rub off on them. But why not? I was constantly saying things about myself
"if I had my shit together I'd have done this better."
"I'm such a mess."
"Well, because I'm just a loser."
Why did I not think that would spill over onto them, or that they would apply that hypercritical lens to themselves? I mean, it wasn't until after she said that that I started to even think about how I speak about myself as a human. And what I found when I paid attention is that I am so harsh, I am so mean, I have superhuman expectations, and I focused on my deficits. Out loud. With words. All. The. Time. It made me so sad to think that my ridiculous expectations were being unintentionally imposed on my amazingly super and awesomely human kids.
I began catching myself all the time, and rephrased and repaired what I was saying. I'd like to say that I've gotten better. I think I have, but I STILL catch myself talking down about myself from time to time. Although I am getting better, I continue to work on this. It will be a lifetime effort. Have I been able to reverse any of the damage this toxic habit had on my kids? I sure hope so. Have I been able to reverse any of the damage this toxic habit had on myself? I sure hope so. Only time will tell. But I have stopped new damage from sinking in. I have become more aware. And there has been an unintended consequence – in my efforts to be a better mom to my children, I have become kinder to myself. Which made me realize: I must also be careful what I say about mySELF out loud. MY brain hears what I say out loud, too.