“Is it enough just to be me?”
I wrote this last year for a talk....and decided to share...
I spend a lot of time reading about parenting styles and advice, thinking and praying about how to parent our 4 kids, I stress about it a lot.
As parents it is easy to feel like we are failing a lot of the time. And I think this really affects our own sense of value and esteem.
Whether it is because we can’t get our baby to sleep through the night or to go to sleep without being rocked, or to sleep in their own bed.
Or we have given up on trying to get our toddlers out of nappies, or for our children to have a dry bed,
Or we can't manage to get the kids to school on time, or to make that healthy lunch/tea we had intended
Or we have run out of milk again
Or forgotten their reading books
Or sent them to school without a coat (oops)
Or we lost our temper when helping with homework and we shouted, even though we keep deciding that we are not going to shout any more
We can feel like a failure when we feel lonely, because aren’t we supposed to just be able to cope.
I don’t know your story, your family situation, your challenges, but what I do know is that parenting is the most difficult challenge that I have ever faced, I think that most parents would say the same.
All of this can lead us to a place of feeling that we are not enough.
We might feel that we are failing in our marriage or relationships,
Or in our jobs.
Why is what we think and feel about ourselves important?
I love the researcher and writer Brené Brown. She wrote this:
“If we want our children to love and accept who they are, our job is to love and accept who we are. WE can’t use fear, shame, blame, and judgement in our own lives if we want to raise courageous children. Compassion and connection – the very things that give purpose and meaning to our lives – can only be learned if they are experienced. And our families are our first opportunities to experience these things.”
I find this so challenging.
We can think that we are failing, worthless and bottom of the pile. Most of the time, perhaps, we can cope with our failures and mistakes and know that we are not a failure or a mistake. But sometimes we start to believe those things about ourselves. We can live in shame…thinking we are not enough.
But we have a choice as to whether we agree with that thought.
If we need to love and accept ourselves in order to teach our children how to love and accept themselves then this is high priority in my book.
In my role as a play therapist, one of the keys to therapy is my acceptance of the client, exactly as they are, behaviour, attitude, words, everything, total unconditional acceptance. They receive my acceptance as a communication of their high value and worth. They are valuable and worthy of love just by being themselves. If I don’t value and accept myself, then this would be empty and ineffective.
To quote Brene Brown again:
“How much we know and understand ourselves is critically important, but there is something that is even more essential to living a wholehearted life: loving ourselves.”
We can't give our children what we don’t have.
If we want our children to grow up with a strong sense of self worth and knowing that they are loved and lovable, then we need to demonstrate this ourselves in the way we love and accept ourselves.
Where do we get our sense of worth from.
If it is healthy for our relationships to engage with the world from a sense of worthiness, where do we find our sense of self worth?
Some people were born into families where they were told how valuable and loved they are …. That’s a good start.
Even those people may have gone on to experience bullying, abuse or trauma, telling them they are not enough, not worthy, not valuable, not lovable.
So how do we find our value so we can love and accept ourselves?
“Then God said; “ Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness”
Genesis 1 v 26
That is the starting point of truth for all of us. We are valuable, worthy of love and belonging because God made us and we are made in God’s image.
We actually reflect Him. Every single one of us. It does not say, “men” are made, mankind, not white people, not any particular nation, not just Christians, all mankind, male and female. No human is excluded from this statement . We are all made in His image.
Secondly, Psalm 139:14
“I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made”
SO he is actually pleased with you. You are wonderfully made.
The truth is that we are not perfect. We make mistakes but God has chosen to love us anyway. He doesn’t love us because we are good. He loves us because we are us. He sent Jesus, his son, to die for us. That is how valuable we are to him. He desires closeness, relationship with us so much that he was willing to pay that price for it.
So how do we grow in our love and acceptance of ourselves as individuals and as parents?
We can start by deciding to give this some time and attention. You are important, valuable and worthy of love, so have a little think about how you treat yourself. Are you kind to yourself? Are you quick to blame yourself? Do you feel shame? Do you need to find someone to blame? Are you able to forgive yourself and others for mistakes?
Accepting our own imperfections and allowing God to clear them away helps us to accept others’ imperfections and to forgive.
I don’t know about you but some of my most precious moments have been seeing my children immersed in play together.
As you would expect from a play therapist I have a high regard for play and creativity. I want to encourage each of you/us to invite play into your life.
Did you know that Jesus is playful? God created laughter and play. Have a think about how can you make room for more playfulness in your life?
As we journey in accepting ourselves, make time to play and connect with our children in a playful way, as we make room for love and laughter, we reinforce the truth that we are enough as we are. God loves us unconditionally, we are worthy of love and belonging.
I love this parenting manifesto that I have borrowed from Brené Brown.
"The Wholehearted Parenting Manifesto:
Above all else, I want you to know that you are loved and lovable. You will learn this from my words and actions—the lessons on love are in how I treat you and how I treat myself. I want you to engage with the world from a place of worthiness. You will learn that you are worthy of love, belonging, and joy every time you see me practice self-compassion and embrace my own imperfections. We will practice courage in our family by showing up, letting ourselves be seen, and honoring vulnerability. We will share our stories of struggle and strength. There will always be room in our home for both. We will teach you compassion by practicing compassion with ourselves first; then with each other. We will set and respect boundaries; we will honor hard work, hope, and perseverance. Rest and play will be family values, as well as family practices. You will learn accountability and respect by watching me make mistakes and make amends, and by watching how I ask for what I need and talk about how I feel. I want you to know joy, so together we will practice gratitude. I want you to feel joy, so together we will learn how to be vulnerable. When uncertainty and scarcity visit, you will be able to draw from the spirit that is a part of our everyday life. Together we will cry and face fear and grief. I will want to take away your pain, but instead I will sit with you and teach you how to feel it. We will laugh and sing and dance and create. We will always have permission to be ourselves with each other. No matter what, you will always belong here. As you begin your Wholehearted journey, the greatest gift that I can give to you is to live and love with my whole heart and to dare greatly. I will not teach or love or show you anything perfectly, but I will let you see me, and I will always hold sacred the gift of seeing you. Truly, deeply, seeing you." (from "Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead" by Brené Brown)