The Power Of Self-Compassion in Motherhood
Modern motherhood can be an unwelcoming and stressful place. No matter what you do as a mother, you are harshly judged for your choices. And this judgment can chip away at the mother’s mental health. It can sap away the joy out of any situation, and make difficult situations completely unbearable.
But what if I told you that there is a very simple practice that you can incorporate into your daily life, that can help safe guard you from the effects of constant judgment and criticism you receive as a mother. This simple practice is called Self-Compassion. And you can learn how to cultivate self-compassion starting today.
What is Self-Compassion
According to Dr. Kristin Neff, self-compassion means you are kind and understanding when confronted with personal failings, instead of mercilessly judging and criticizing yourself for various inadequacies and short comings. The goal of self-compassion is to honor and accept your own imperfect humanness.
What Self-Compassion Is Not
Often, when people think of self-compassion, they confuse it with self-pity, sympathy, or even self-indulgence. But the point of self-compassion is not to feel sorry for yourself, wallowing in self-pity, or allowing yourself to indulge in harmful pleasure .
Self-pity is egocentric and puts one in victim mode. Self-indulgence leads us down the path of doing things for pleasure that we know are harmful to us. Self-compassion, on the other hand, is acknowledging our interconnectedness with other humans and the shared human experience. It empowers us by reminding us that other people have had these experiences too and it’s ok to feel the way we feel about it.
So, do not be afraid to be compassionate to yourself. Most of us are far too critical, and in desperate need of healing through a compassionate approach.
Ways To Be Self-Compassionate As A Mother
When you become a mother, a lot of trauma can be brought up from the past. It may be a big event, like an instance of abuse from a trusted adult, bullying from peer(s), or death of a loved one. Or it may be a collection of smaller emotionally painful events that happened frequently in your childhood (i.e. neglect, constant criticism, not being able to freely express emotions). And because we are in an emotionally vulnerable state, we can’t fight or suppress the emotional effects of those traumas. This is where developing a compassionate voice becomes paramount to our wellbeing as mothers.
In addition, as mothers, we are a constant target of shaming and criticism from many other people, and it’s important to overpower those voices with a voice of compassion and deep love for ourselves. Otherwise we start doubting our own abilities, can becomes anxious or depressed, and start feeling like we are simply not good enough and don’t provide our children with what they need.
1. Acknowledge The Pain Behind The Critical Voices
Whether the critical voice comes from within or without, acknowledge that this voice is a trauma response. When our personal inner critic comes out and berates us about everything, it’s important to take a moment and acknowledge it. We need to realize that our inner critic doesn’t mean harm. In fact, our inner critic developed itself as a protective mechanism and only has our best interests at heart. That however, does not mean that our inner critic should continue its work unchecked, and accidentally continuing to cause us harm, while trying to protect us. This is where self-compassion becomes important.
And when this critical voice comes from our loved ones or even random moms on the internet, we should also acknowledge that their voice is a trauma response. They have been traumatized in the past, and in their warped way are trying to protect us. That however, does not mean we need to allow them to trauma dump on us. This is the time when it’s imperative that we put up our boundaries, and let them know that we are not interested in hearing their criticism.
2. Forgive Our Inner Critic
As I said before, our inner critic has been doing their best to protect us. However, our inner critic typically forms when we are children, so it is not a mature voice. It is typically either an echo of the critical voice of our parents or our childish interpretation of our parents’ criticism. In either case, it is a voice of a scared child that is doing their best to keep safe.
Knowing this, we need to forgive our inner critic just as we would forgive our children for doing their best in a situation.
By first acknowledging and then forgiving our inner critic, we are showing compassion to this part of ourselves. This part has been tirelessly working all this time to keep us safe, so we can thank it and assure it that we got it from now.
3. Start Developing Our Compassionate Voice
After we forgive our inner critic, it is time to replace it with our Compassionate Voice. We can develop this voice by performing self-compassion exercises and by reframing our responses to every day situations.
Self-compassion exercises are mindfulness exercises that allow us to view ourselves differently. They give the same benefits that any mindfulness practice gives us – reduce anxiety and depression, allow us to think before we react, improve our overall mental and physical health, promote better sleep. But they also have a plus of reprogramming our inner voice and allowing us to feel supported instead of torn down during our times of need.
Sometimes self-compassion exercises are as simple as reframing your critical and berating thoughts into self-compassionate ones. And finding new more positive ways of describing situations.
If you are interested in learning more about how to incorporate Self-Compassion into your life and motherhood, check out my Motherhood Metamorphosis Coaching Program. It’s a unique 3 months coaching program where we utilize the power of EFT (Tapping), Self-Compassion, and various other coaching techniques to provide deep healing.
4. Realize That Being “The Good Enough Mother” Is All You and Your Children Need
Part of self-compassion work is realizing that perfection is not only unattainable, it’s also incredibly harmful. Perfect mothers do not exist and trying to be one is not only pointless, but also damaging. Instead by using our self-compassionate voice and approach, we can help ourselves understand and accept that being “the good enough mother” is, well, good enough.
What does that look like? It looks like allowing your kids to watch an extra hour of TV because you really need a nap. Because once you’re done resting, you can be a much more present mother and are not going to yell all the time. It’s realizing that homeschooling or having a Montessori home is not for you. Or it means having easy to eat frozen meals a few times a week because you just don’t have the capacity to cook from scratch all the time.
Find what works for you and what is good enough for your family. It will look different for everyone and that is ok. Part of self-compassion is giving yourself grace in understanding your personal limitations.
5. Prioritize Healing and Nurturing For Yourself
Part of self-compassion is prioritizing your health. It means addressing not only your physical pain, but also your emotional and spiritual pain. It is imperative that mothers understand that their own wellbeing is not only vital to the wellbeing of their family, but also sets the tone for the whole family.
So, as part of your self-compassion practice you should be prioritizing nourishing and nutrient dense foods (not junk and sweets, as this falls into self-indulgent pleasure), exercise, time outdoors, creativity outlets, time with friends, and “me time”. Self-care needs to become a priority because it is important to your wellbeing. (If you’re looking for some self-care ideas you should check out Parent On Board’s Self-Care Category for ideas.)
While it may be a huge and difficult shift in the beginning, with time you will see that approaching yourself with self-compassion has positive effects on the whole family.
Final Words On Self-Compassion in Motherhood
While this post is not meant to be all inclusive, I hope it gives you enough ideas about how to start finding and strengthening your compassionate voice. Bringing self-compassion into motherhood allows us to experience motherhood through a different lens. A lens that allows us more freedom, flexibility, joy and less pressure. When we approach motherhood with self-compassion we not only benefit ourselves (mothers) but our children as well. They see a version of mom that is vibrant, forgiving, loving, confident, and filled with joy instead of guilt, fear, and anxiety.
So, see how you can incorporate self-compassion into your every day. And let me know how it’s going.