We all make mistakes in life. We all do things we wish we hadn’t. We blame ourselves, feel ashamed and get down on ourselves.
When it’s someone else who messes up, it’s the same cycle over again: blame, shame and withdraw. We do to others what we do to ourselves.
Why do we find it so hard to forgive ourselves? To forgive others? Why is it so hard to practice compassion and unconditional love?
A lot of us grew up with conditional love – at home, at church and at school.
I will love you if…
- You behave in ways I like
- You don’t talk back
- Your values and opinions are the same as mine
- You live out the script I have planned for you
The long-term effect of conditional love is denial of the true self. We end up being what we think others want us to be instead of being who we really are. We end up being critical of ourselves and critical of others.
The alternative is acceptance, compassion and empathy – both for yourself and those you love.
Begin with the assumption that other people are doing the best they can – and so are you!
Let’s take the energy we spend on judging and put it toward compassion.
We carry judgmental voices in our heads – voices that were used with us – and we pass them on.
- “What were you thinking!”
- “You just need to try harder!”
- “What do you think you’re doing?”
- “What’s the matter with you?”
This doesn’t need to be the end of the story.
We can change from judging to accepting, from shaming to showing compassion, from withdrawing to drawing closer.
- Ask yourself: Is what I’m going to say necessary?
- Don’t get into things in the heat of the moment. When you’re tired or stressed, your best self doesn’t come out. Those old voices do. “We’ll talk about this later when we’re both in a better space.”
- Remember the “Don’t freak out rule.” When you freak out, you teach your kids not to bring you their “stuff.” Respond in a calm, rational way. “What do you think you should do?”
- When you become frustrated with your child’s behaviour, remember that all behaviour is logical. What is the logic behind your child’s behaviour?
- When you’re not your best self, ask yourself what’s going on inside you?
- Catch your own inner critic. Talk back to it.
- Pass on words of support and encouragement to your child, and remember that support is not just conveyed in the words we speak but also our tone of voice. Children hear with their hearts. They will not remember what you said. They will remember how you made them feel.
“Be kind. For Everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about.” – Plato
This is especially true for parents who often feel like they are making it up as they go along. When you forgive yourself for your own imperfections you will be able to find it in your heart to forgive the imperfections of others.