I haven’t always been the best parent to myself. Bad decisions aside, I used to be my own worst critic, hurling a ridiculous, endless litany of insults and harmful non-truths at myself daily. Accomplishing even the simplest of tasks required a drawn-out inner battle where me and my strong-willed inner child self would grapple for victory.
It went something like this:
Me: “Sarah, go brush your teeth.”
Strong-willed inner child self: “No! I don’t want to go brush my teeth. I hate brushing my teeth!”
Me: “Sarah, it’s time to go to bed. Go brush your teeth.”
Strong-willed inner child self: “No! I hate brushing my teeth!”
Me: “Sarah, this is ridiculous. You are a grown woman. Why do we have to go through this every single night? Go brush your teeth.”
Strong-willed inner child self: “No!”
And so on and so forth.
Some nights, she’d win and I’d go to bed with dinner rotting on my teeth. Most times though, I’d win and tumble defeated and minty fresh into an exhausted sleep.
This went on every day, at least two times a day, for the majority of my life.
Then, finally, I decided I was sick of it. I was sick of the insults, sick of the relentless battle, sick of feeling bad all the time.
I wasn’t getting anywhere by fighting and guilting myself into each and every task, and I sure wasn’t winning any popularity contests with my inner child by constantly putting her down.
Something had to change.
Now, I’ve read all the self-help books and all of the insightful information about changing your negative thoughts into positive ones by the sheer power of your will, but for some reason, these positive mantras soon gave way to the old and before long, I was arguing with myself in the bathroom mirror again.
Here’s how I fixed it:
I decided to be a supportive and loving parent to myself. I began to tell myself how proud I was, how much I was loved, how truly awesome I was. I listened to all of my complaints, secrets, worries, fears and dreams with an open and loving heart. I gave myself permission to feel my feelings and bought myself treats to celebrate even the tiniest of accomplishments. I gave myself permission to play and have fun. I told myself I was strong and for some reason, I actually believed it; believed it in a way that was deep and soulful and unbending.
And that is how I do everything now, from resisting the urge to hit the snooze button just one more time to brushing my teeth to overcoming my fears – by telling myself:
“Sarah, you are strong enough to do this.”
And I am.