Mamas, what is our deal?
Could we be any harder on ourselves? Honestly, think about all the energy we expend keeping ourselves on the hook for our failures. God knows we need someone to give us a break. Turns out all we need to do is look in the mirror because we are that someone.
We are ruthless interrogators, constantly finding new ways to reprimand, shame, and devalue ourselves when we screw up. It’s as if we can’t handle the truth about who we are, which is love and goodness at the core, by the way.
We have a hard time accepting ourselves as perfectly imperfect women doing the best we can with what we know. This self-bashing needs to stop. Like yesterday.
Can you imagine if we treated our kids as poorly as we treat ourselves every time they made a mistake? If we went on and on with soul-crushing reminders about what they did wrong? No, we can’t imagine because we’d never do that! We love them too much. And therein lies the problem: we don’t love ourselves that much, or much at all sometimes.
So how do we learn to self-forgive when it feels like we are wired to eat guilt for breakfast, lunch, and dinner? I started to unravel the answer to this question when I learned what Brené Brown has to say about shame and perfectionism.
For me, as a mom, it all starts with perfectionism. Maybe you relate to being driven by the need to be perfect when it comes to how you raise your kids.
I’ve always tried to be a perfect mom because I never wanted my kids to hurt the way I did growing up. I never wanted them to suffer or experience any trauma, for sure not as a result of faulty mothering on my part.
Then I heard this definition of perfectionism from Brené: where perfectionism exists, shame is always lurking. In fact, shame is the birthplace of perfectionism.
Shame is the birthplace of perfectionism.
I don’t know about you, but this stopped me in my tracks. Especially when you also consider Brené’s definition of shame which she came up with after ten years of shame research: Shame is the intensely painful feeling or experience of believing that we are flawed, and therefore unworthy of love and belonging.
My heart heaved.
All this time I thought guilt was my problem. But guilt and shame are two very different things. Guilt says I did something bad, whereas shame says, I am bad. Huge difference.
I’ve spent decades believing I was flawed and unworthy of love and belonging. No wonder I wanted to be a perfectionist—for all the wrong reasons. I haven’t been scarfing down guilt, but rather steeping in shame. Ugh.
I believe this is why so many of us struggle with self-forgiveness. If we think we have to earn or hustle for our worth, instead of just claiming something that’s already ours simply because we exist, then we’re going have a hard time ever finding it.
Note to ourselves: we are worthy of love and belonging. Period. We are good. Period.
This is what we want our kids to believe, right? What’s true is always true. #truth
But here’s the other thing when it comes to self-forgiveness, again something I learned from Brené. The common thread she found in her research about forgiveness was this:
“Forgiveness is so difficult because it involves death and grief. When it came to studying forgiveness, I originally looked for patterns in my research for people extending generosity and love but not in people feeling grief. Given the dark fears we feel when we experience loss, nothing is more generous and loving than a willingness to embrace grief to be forgiven. To be forgiven is to be loved.”
So, Mamas, we need to love ourselves first if we want to forgive ourselves. Which means a necessary grieving about losing the construct we’ve established about being a perfect mother. When we let go of this unkind and unreasonable pursuit of perfection, we can heal and finally love the love we are made of. Finally put shame to rest and believe in our worth, offering ourselves grace when we have less-than moments along the way.
This was a contributed post from Shelby Spear. Shelby is a sappy soul whisperer, sarcasm aficionado, pro-LOVE Jesus adoring mom of 3 Millennials writing stuff & doing life w/ hubs of 25 yrs. She is the co-author of the book, How Are You Feeling, Momma? (You don’t need to say, “I’m fine.”) You can read her open heart about the revelations, screw-ups, gaffes, and joys of motherhood on her blog shelbyspear.com, around the web, and in print at Guideposts.
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