In 2011 I brought you the Mindful Mothering Challenge which I received lots of positive feedback from. At the conclusion of the 22 challenge series, I hinted that I would be reviving my challenge series in January. Well, January is here and so is the new challenge.
Inspired by Dr. Laura at Aha Parenting, I have created The Unconditional Love Challenge. This is a 10 part challenge based on Dr. Laura's series on Ten Steps to Unconditional Love. I will be posting challenges and results on the 1st and 3rd Monday of each month giving you two weeks to tackle each step. You can work as quickly or as slowly as needed.
From Dr. Laura: “We all know that children require unconditional love to thrive. But how many of us feel capable of giving it? We can't, quite simply, give something we don't have inside. Loving your child starts with loving yourself.”
Strike a chord? Ring a bell? Vigorous head nodding? Yes, I thought so. Me too.
How many of you women, mamas, men, and fathers really, truly love yourself? I am not talking about some surface level love either. I am talking about a DEEP love, a strong love, a powerful and raw love that is rich and organic. A holistic love. True, unconditional love of self.
If you answered yes, then you can move along to some of my other posts. Oh, you are staying right here? Again, I thought so. Let's get on to the first challenge!
As always, you can read Dr. Laura's original post here.
The premise of this challenge is pretty clear. We are human and human cannot be perfect. So instead of beating yourself up over your imperfections, accept them, forgive yourself, and move on.
I read a lot of comments from mamas who are wracked with guilt and shame because they are not living up to some “standard” of mothering. They belittle themselves for yelling too much, for not cloth diapering, for not co-sleeping, for not babywearing, for having a baby who cries and fusses and for not having their stuff together in general. Guess what! This is OK. If you are trying the best that you can with the resources and knowledge you have, then you are being a great mother! There is room for improvement certainly and that is something to mindfully work on. But you will be a worse mother if you are constantly second guessing yourself and finding fault with who you are.
Dr. Laura outlines 8 steps to help master the art of forgiveness of ones' imperfections. For this week's challenge, I would like you to tackle each of these steps.
1. Become a recovering perfectionist – mistakes result in growth and growth results in a better person. Allow yourself to err. Embrace that which makes you human. If you are too focused on perfectionism you will move away from expanding your heart and growing your love for yourself (and others).
2. Change your internal chatter to support and reassure yourself – stop berating yourself for mistakes big and small. Acknowledge your misstep then remind yourself that you are human and that you are worthy of loving yourself no matter what you did or did not do.
3. When your mind starts catastrophizing, change course – I am guilty to the umpteenth degree on this one. I am a worrier and a worst case scenario planner. I look at the negative outcomes before the positive outcomes. I find fault with more than I should. But seriously, is this a healthy way to live life? Nope. Your brain wants to protect you at all costs and many of us turn a simple decision into a monumental issue that you replay in your mind all day long. When you find yourself doing this, take a moment to consciously let go of your thought. Watch it float away on a cloud and then move away from it. Just be – in love and genuine trust in yourself and your decisions.
4. Choose love – this is easier said than done but make a conscious effort to choose love. Love yourself, love others, love your actions, love your choices. You might not always LIKE these things and that is ok. But let go and move away from the negativity creeping into your thoughts. Dr. Laura states that every choice is basically rooted in either love or fear. Work through your fears one at a time, as they creep up, so that you can choose love.
5. Forgive yourself – children need a PRESENT parent who tries to live a mindful life and consciously parent. Children do not need a perfect parent. Children need to see imperfections so that they learn what being human is really all about. They need to see their mama hold her head up high, admit her mistakes, apologize, forgive herself, and get on with life. Brooding and wallowing take away valuable space that you hold inside yourself for your children.
6. Make reparations – problem solve and reconnect after you have made a less than stellar choice. In parenting, children need to see us work through our failures. But more importantly, children need to see us showing our genuine self by repairing riffs and strengthening relationships.
7. When you notice that you are criticizing yourself, change gears and find something you appreciate about yourself – pretty self-explanatory. Don't wallow in the negative. Let go of self-pity. Instead of scorning yourself for having an adult tantrum, boost yourself up by recognizing that this does not happen often and that you immediately took the steps to reconnect with your child after you melted down in front of them. This practice moves into all facets of your life. Had that extra slice of cake? Don't curse yourself for how “fat” you will be tomorrow. Allow yourself that small indulgence and appreciate the fact that you take care of yourself by typically eating healthy.
8. Try a forgiveness practice – Dr. Laura says it better than I could: “Nurture yourself with infinite tenderness. Let your heart stretch past its boundaries. There is nothing you need to change or do to deserve love. You're already more than enough, just the way you are.” A forgiveness practice such as a simple meditation, a daily mantra, deep breathing, even stretching and really feeling your limbs can open you up to forgiveness. Every single day you should include a forgiveness practice. Perhaps at night when you are lying in bed you can simply say “self, I love you and I forgive you. You are perfect just as you are.”
Good luck with Challenge #1! I look forward to seeing you back here in two weeks!