How do you know when you’re actually doing a good job as a parent?

I was recently at a sporting event with my sister and her husband. David, the kids, and I had seen a professional photographer to get some nice photos done. I got a notification that the pictures were available to view, and right there watching the game, my inner “mean girl” kicked into overdrive. I started picking myself apart, focusing on how bad I thought I looked and ignoring the other three beautiful people in the pictures, and I couldn’t stop! My sister said I might be suffering from some form of body dysmorphia, a mental illness of obsessive focus on perceived flaws in appearance.

Well, I’m working on loving myself as I am, but I use this story to draw an analogy. As a parent, you may tend to have “parenting dysmorphia” and dwell on the “weak” aspects of your parenting ability, or the things you hate about yourself. Now, that’s normal to do, BUT it’s not kind to yourself or healthy for your mind. Just like in the Michael Jordan meme: “Stop it! Get some help.” That help begins with you proactively adjusting the way you talk to yourself.

In the same way that your kids listen to you and the way you talk to them informs the development of their inner voice, you influence your own inner voice with the way you talk to yourself! You have a tremendous opportunity and responsibility to initiate your own growth and change, starting with wherever you are right now. Your children are the exemplars of unconditional love. They give hugs, make drawings and other small gifts, and show love without reservations. Internalize that. Learn (or re-learn) to be kind to yourself, and you will reap the rewards in the way your behavior changes toward everyone around you.

Back in the dark days when I was plagued by “mommy guilt,” I noticed that tiny things that didn’t bother me when my students did them made me livid when my children did them! Be sure to examine your triggers. If something your spouse or kids do sets you off, get curious, not furious. You get the opportunity and responsibility to understand why you feel certain reactions to certain stimuli, and you get to learn how to respond appropriately to triggers. If you can name it, you can tame it.

As you meet each day with an abundance of grace and compassion for yourself, you will feel better about your parenting ability, and you will share that grace and compassion with others. Remember: you’ve got this!

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