Combating the inner critic – choose encouragement

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I came across this in my social media feeds today and although it’s nothing I haven’t heard before, today it resonated. Maybe because it is a Monday or maybe because it is important right now to me and many others.

It’s just 9am on a Monday morning. Many people will have completed the commute and be on their way to the office, those who work at home will be sat in front of their screens, maybe with an empty bowl of cereal nearby. Teachers will be well into teaching their first lesson of the day. Parents may have just finished the school run, some mothers will be building up the will to get through the day after a sleepless night, some, like me, will be sat in a slight daze as their little one has their morning nap wondering if they have time to do the list of jobs piling up on that ‘to-do’ list. All of us navigating the thoughts in our minds.

How have you begun your day? Have you already given in to that well of criticalness that seeks to take over? Have you been a ‘Monday moaner’?

The sunshine at the weekend changed people’s moods. There were smiles and a sense of being upbeat. However, there was still the tendency from some to start with the critical ‘It’s too hot.’

There is a sense that whatever circumstances we are in, the voice that tends to be the loudest is that of the critic.

I know that you have an inner critic who gets at you all day long, I know that often a way to deal with it is to become negative or sharp tongued with others.

The truth is, we all crave a bit of encouragement, a sense of being built up, of being offered an alternative but despite that we rarely offer it to others.

For Lent this year, I am following the #40 acts challenges and today we are asked to have ‘an attitude of gratitude’ you can check out further details here 40 acts

We have been asked to write a thank you note. I was quite convicted as I can’t remember the last time I did this. I have sent emails and texts but not a hand written note or card.

I know how much I like to receive cards and notes and yet I don’t offer that to others very often.

Sometimes we spend so much time and energy on combating our own inner critics that we don’t reach out and help others with theirs. Surely it would be easier to share the load?

So instead of listening to your inner critic, instead of letting that be your voice and shape your words, how about letting the encourager take over for today?

So many of us get caught in a shadow of discouragement – how about offering an alternative? A way out for those that you are in contact with today? You never know, you may even silence that critic for yourself.

I would love to know how you get on! Please feel free to leave a comment telling me how it goes.

Letting go of 'perfect'

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So, my son fell asleep and I placed him in his cot for his nap and I thought that I would make a cup of tea and sit quietly for a while…
Then a large lorry drove up, parked outside the house and now incessant drilling echoes.

It made me smile because I realised how often life is like that. You have these intentions you carry around with you each day about what you are going to do when you have a moment and then the moment arrives and… Roadworks, the phone rings, there is a knock at the door, an unexpected email hits your inbox or a random thought takes hold and distraction kicks in, the moment is gone, disappearing into the ether.

But, does it have to? My initial reaction was one of annoyance that this loud, unnecessary noise would dare to ruin a time I wished to spend in quiet contemplation.

Now, I realise it has given me an opportunity to face up to the fact that there are no ‘perfect’ moments. Things are never going to be exactly as you want them and coming to terms with that can be hard – we create this delusion that perfect moments can be obtained and work so hard to achieve them when in reality they cannot be.

I don’t mean to sound depressing, of course we have moments we enjoy, that we love, that we want to hold on to and desire to capture – these days we do it in a filtered photo that we have re-taken three or four times to ensure the ‘perfect’ shot. The fact is, if we wait for the right time, the ‘perfect’ time it is unlikely to come and we hold ourselves back. We put limitations on ourselves that don’t need to be there.

So today, instead of having my time of silent contemplation, I wrote this post. If the drilling hadn’t been going on maybe I wouldn’t have as I tend to wait – ‘I won’t write yet.’ It’s almost like the drilling woke me up a little to a weird mindset I had fallen into and I wondered if other people may have fallen into it too?

I wonder what I have been missing out on because I have been waiting for the right circumstances.

Sometimes, I wake up not wanting to see the world and feel like hiding because I don’t feel I have anything to offset.

Sometimes, I tie myself up in knots about ‘what ifs’ and ‘what do people think’

Sometimes, it takes every ounce of my being to get going and walk out of the front door.

I am not perfect, far from it. My hair needs a cut, I wear it tied up all of the time to avoid thinking about it and because it is far easier as a Mum to keep it out of the way. I can get overly emotional, I can be quite antsy at times and negative.

There are people who will tell you I don’t care enough and people who will tell you I care too much. Some people would describe me as clique-y and some as inclusive.

I can’t get it right for everyone all of the time and the only pressure to do that comes from myself and this striving for perfection and the perfect moment and perfect circumstances.

This post could be better no doubt and it would have been so easy to delete it but I didn’t because it’s time to accept that there is no ‘perfect’ and to stop hiding, holding back and avoiding.

Where are you with this concept of perfect?

I am reminded of the song ‘Perfect’ by Alanis Morisette that ends with the line :
‘We’ll love you just the way you are, if you’re perfect’

I will admit that is how I often feel and I know it’s not right.

I don’t want to pass these ideas and feelings on to my son. I don’t even want him to entertain them – so why do I allow it for myself?

So today, I am not re-editing, I am not waiting, I am not engaging with myself in striving for perfection. I am going to be my unadulterated self and I am going to love it just the way it is!

5 things new mothers should know

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1. You will never take enough photos to satisfy yourself.
A strange thing happens when you have a baby, you suddenly become obsessed with photos and having records of every moment – remember that they are for you to enjoy – don’t miss them all hiding behind a lens!

2. Every baby is different.
No matter how many books you read, advice you listen to or experience of other babies you have, your baby will be different and that’s ok. You will become an expert in your own baby. It is completely normal to obsess about feeding, sleeping and nappies and despite what you think, you will.

3. Develop a thick skin.
Whether you breast feed, bottle feed, use disposable or cloth nappies, wear your baby, co sleep, put them in their own room, wean with a spoon or do baby led weaning, post photos or don’t post photos, you are going to upset somebody. Unfortunately, there will be plenty of comments that will smart a little, there may be some snarkiness and you will unintentionally touch nerves. Be prepared for this and build up a network of people you can discuss unhelpful comments with so they don’t take root.Choose your forums carefully, what’s app and FB private groups can be great places to vent and discuss intricate details out of the public domain.

4. Don’t do it alone and be honest.
You don’t have to do it all alone. There are plenty of groups, meet ups, baby classes, forums, social media communities, friends and family members who want to help you – let them and be honest. No one expects you to enjoy every second of motherhood and if anyone says they do they are lying. Be honest about things and ask questions!

5. You are doing a great job.
You won’t get it right all of the time. You won’t feel yourself all of the time but you are doing a great job. No one else can care for your baby like you – trust me you’re amazing.

The 'I'm not good enough' mantra

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I’m currently lying in bed attempting to sleep and failing miserably.

My issue is I have the ‘I’m not good enough’ mantra playing on repeat in my head. I have managed to pause it for a while but then that wave of sickness hits my stomach and off it goes again.

I have always had it, ever since I can remember and I spent years believing I was the only one.

The fact is, we all have it at some point. In some way, about a particular part of our life or perhaps all if it. Sometimes it quietens for a period but then it rears its head once again and traps us in a spiral of self doubt.

Being a new mother mine currently stems a lot from my belief that I’m not good enough at it. I replay my labour, the first days and weeks of my son’s life and mentally berate myself – the ‘should haves’ fly around and are slowly fought off with the realisation that all is well and all was well. Just because I don’t have a hundred photos of me in those first days doesn’t mean I have failed. I did in fact cuddle my son enough, I do interact with him enough and yes sometimes I take him out of the house in his pyjamas but why is that even an issue? Why is it something I feel I have to explain, as if it even matters?

Before motherhood became my all consuming ‘I’m not good enough’ it was work, marriage, family, friendships, faith. They still arise sometimes just so I don’t get too complacent.

There are a whole barrage of thoughts that I wade through on a daily basis that seek to wear me down and sometimes they do, if I leave them in my head.

This post is raw, it is unadulterated vulnerability and it is scary to write but I have to. Fear tells me not to. Fear says to keep quiet.

I write this to dispell the lies I tell myself about not being good enough and I write this for you.
I write this for every single one of you who is hindered each day by a sense of not good enough.

You are good enough.

Whatever is playing on your mind right now, whatever you are in secret turmoil about, whatever pulls you down.

It’s a lie. The mantra is a lie.

You are good enough.

Behind the scenes life… Living unedited

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I posted this image on my Facebook page recently –

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It seemed to resonate with many people and yet we all continue to do it.

It started me thinking about how I could live more of my behind the scenes life in the open. I don’t want people to think that they know me, or create a version of me from my highlight reel.

Truth be told much more of my behind the scenes life can be seen on Twitter rather than Facebook. This is partly because of the nature of the sites and also personal choice. I have made attempts to be more open by sharing my blog posts on Facebook, something I never would have done a year ago.

I also decided I needed to show more of my behind the scenes life day to day too. It’s scary and it makes you highly vulnerable but there is something really releasing in it. The realisation that there are people who accept you just as you are, exactly where you are.

I experienced this on Friday firstly with friends from our antenatal class – It had been a tough night with little man and my energy levels were at an all time low which in turn affected my conversational ability and a I felt a wreck but I walked to our baby sensory class and was met with hugs and support. We then had lunch and I could just sit and be, nothing was expected of me.

I then visited a friend, another mum, someone who doesn’t quite realise how brightly she shines in what can be a very grey world. Someone who despite feeling rough herself was happy to hang out ‘warts and all’ and who without knowing it reminds me who I am and can be every time I am around her. I truly live my behind the scenes life with her and it is when I am most alive.

I lived unedited, unfiltered. I need to do it more and I think you do too.

It scares me, it’s uncomfortable, it’s far easier just to hide.

But…

It becomes all consuming living a highlight reel. The desperation to post the beautiful photo, the clever status, to come across as the perfect mother, sister, wife, friend, worker, Christian. It’s tiring. It’s unsustainable.

It’s a waste, a waste of us.

I chose Nurture – How am I doing?

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At the beginning of the year I chose nurture as my #oneword365 and as we are now in February it’s probably an idea to think about how that is going.

I am currently sat in front of the television with a blanket wrapped around my shoulders and my husband’s monster slippers on. I have a cup of decaf tea and a bowl of sugar puffs.

My 4 month old has gone down for a nap and my slippers and cardigan are in the same room.

I consider the week ahead, our timetable of events. I feel more awake than I have for a while thanks to a good night’s sleep.

As a parent, I realise that talking about sleep, naps and being pleased my son does both can be a source of contention. In fact talking about children in general opens you up to a plethora of responses – some less than desirable. The only thing I know about is my own son. I don’t paint myself as an expert, a super parent or earth mother.

In some respects to nurture myself as a mother I should simply avoid opening my mouth to speak about anything child related but that has never really been my style. I have learnt that you need to have a thick skin and to keep talking. I have also learnt that the world of motherhood can be the most cliquey arena of all. Let’s all just talk to each other a bit more hey? At groups, in coffee shops etc… It’s not a competition, why don’t we try nurturing each other a bit more?

As a Christian, I acknowledge that I have fallen into the trap of believing there is a specific mould I should fit in to and that had rendered my silent for a while. Instead of nurturing my faith I hid away becoming slightly insular, turning up but not really being there. That’s stopped now. I speak, I contribute, I use my voice. It was quite easy to convince myself that nurture was about keeping safe and quiet.

As someone who likes to blog, I wrote a post at the beginning of the year about nurture and then stopped blaming time constraints or making excuses for my lack of posts. So easy to do, so easy to avoid writing posts but as someone who is fairly creative it wasn’t nurture just simply avoidance and giving in to the ‘I’m so busy’ mentality. The same with reading…

So it could seem like I haven’t been doing so well at nurture.

But I don’t feel that way. This isn’t a post about beating myself up because I think I have failed.

It has been about discovery, for the first month of this year I have been discovering what nurture isn’t and challenging my own perceptions of it.

I have spent a lot of time with friends, enjoying their company, asking for support when needed.

I have begun to realise that I need to allow myself to be nurtured by others and have taken steps to allow myself that vulnerability.

Nurture isn’t about hiding away, it’s about growing. It isn’t about being quiet, it’s about finding your voice and using it. It’s not about making excuses but about being proactive.

One month in and I don’t think I’m doing so badly at nurture at all.

Competitors or companions? How we define each other

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I tweeted this quote from ‘Am I Beautiful?’ yesterday because it really spoke to me.

The world is too broken for us to be preoccupied with feeling ugly. And life is too short not to feel beautiful.

What I tend to do with books is devour them in a matter of hours and then reflect on them but something has prompted me with Chine’s book to take it one stage at at a time and not rush to the end. There are far too many gems and deep truths to decipher in one sitting.

This one quote provides enough to write a hundred blog posts on – it opens up so many avenues of thought.

Firstly, why, especially as women are we often preoccupied with feeling ugly?

For some, it becomes a default setting and it works in distracting us from the broken world around us.

What a master stroke of genius to ensure women ignore their attributes and abilities. What a way to keep us silent, static, solo.

Admit it, when you meet other women there is an element of comparison that takes place as a first thought.

There is a deep rooted sense of competition that hits us before we even consider the wider benefits of companionship. Why?

What are you and the world missing out on because you wrote that woman off as a competitor rather than a companion?

It comes down to this seed that plants in us, this word ‘ugly’.

In my previous post Beauty, Identity and asking the question I asked when we first acknowledged and had an understanding of beautiful and now I ask the same about ugly.

We all have our own definitions but where did we get them from and when? Why do we allow ourselves to be held captive by it?

What have you failed to do, say, step out into because you have allowed yourself to become defined by these words?

Think about it. Think about the women you know, those who you have allowed to become companions and those you keep at arms length as competitors. Do you need to have a rethink have you unwittingly caused someone to feel ugly because of your decision?

Do you need a rethink? Do you need to reach out? Do you need to be vulnerable and admit exactly where you are at?

Do it today. ‘Life is too short not to feel beautiful.’ this applies to you but who else needs to know it today?

To those women who I have written off, made to feel ugly or placed as competitors – I am sorry.

We need each other – we are not enemies.