Something that blew my mind after I got pregnant for the first time was seeing this culture of beating yourself up as a mom.
With so many different views of parenting and a deep primitive desire “not to mess up your kid,” it’s a recipe for disaster.
Beating yourself up sounds like…
- I’m not good enough.
- I know better!
- They deserve better.
- My life is just so hard.
- I’m getting it all wrong.
- My kids should have better.
- I really am messing this all up.
And on and on.
I experienced this mindset, too, and it took a lot of doing the inner work on myself to redirect my thoughts to more supportive, kind thoughts.
The result is that I keep myself out of the trap of beating myself up—even when I get it wrong (which is a lot).
The key to doing this is in the five steps I’ve outlined below.
These five steps to stop beating yourself up as a mom will help you feel better about your parenting and be proud of how you show up every day.
1. Let go of wanting to be an “amazing” mom.
Doesn’t it sound so lovely to want to be “an amazing mom”?
I hear this all the time from clients. “I just want to be an amazing mom.”
This is one of those sneaky thoughts that seem really helpful and lovely but is actually very toxic.
It’s toxic because it keeps you striving for an impossible standard of perfection that takes out all your humanness.
You, my friend, are half amazing and half mess. Just like I am. Just like we all are.
When you hold yourself to this “amazing mom” standard you don’t allow room for mistakes. You have such a high standard that when you fall short, you beat yourself up.
The alternative: “world’s okayest mom.”
This is what I call it after learning about this movement (I even bought a shirt that has this saying on it from Etsy).
“World’s okayest mom” means you try your best and half the time it’s amazing and the other half you’re making mistakes and getting it wrong, and this is the way it’s supposed to be. (Because remember, you’re human).
2. Remind yourself that your thoughts are not facts.
Beating yourself up comes from the negative self talk inside your head. This is what I call your “Inner Critic.”
Your Inner Critic is harsh, critical, and judgmental. You don’t have to believe your Inner Critic. After all, it’s just one side of the story.
Your Inner Critic is sharing its thoughts with you. Your thoughts are simply sentences in your head. They’re not facts. They feel like facts. But they’re not.
For example, let’s say your Inner Critic tells you that “you shouldn’t have yelled at your daughter and you should know better.” This is a thought. It’s not a fact. Seeing that this is a thought (and not a fact) is really important because you can then decide how you want to think instead. For example, you might want to think something else like, “I don’t like how I reacted to my daughter, and I’m learning how to stop yelling—this is part of the process.”
Side Note—Take my How To Cope With Negative Thoughts Free Class to learn more about thoughts vs. facts and positive thinking.
There are thousands of thoughts you can think that are more supportive, loving, and kind that will help you shift from beating yourself up to self compassion.
The first step is to become aware of your thinking. Notice your thoughts. Pay attention to them. Separate them out from the facts in your life.
This is doing the inner work that makes such a difference.
- Related: Thoughts Vs. Facts (podcast)
3. Practice positive self talk.
Most of us (especially moms), have a lot of negative self talk.
The more you can redirect your brain to supportive, intentional thoughts, the more you’ll shift out of the habit of beating yourself up.
It doesn’t mean you go to toxic positivity where you think you’re doing it perfectly and everything is amazing all the time.
Positive self talk is about going to the supportive truth.
Instead of “I’m doing a horrible job” it’s “I’m doing my best and sometimes my best is amazing while other times it’s not—and that’s okay.”
Instead of “I just can’t handle this season right now” it’s “this is a really hard season, but I can do hard things.”
Instead of “My kids deserve better than me” it’s “I was always meant to be their mom, which makes me exactly what they need.”
Positive self talk means you’re loving, supportive, and honest with yourself from a compassionate and curious perspective.
4. Decide how to treat yourself when you make mistakes.
It’s easy to have your back when you’re getting it all right. What’s harder is having your back when you make mistakes.
I suggest thinking about how you want to treat yourself when you make a mistake.
Think about how you want to treat your kids when they make mistakes. Typically, you want to hold them accountable, but from a soft and loving place. This way, they know they’ve made a mistake, they can own it, and they can learn from it.
Now turn it around and apply the same treatment to yourself.
Anticipate that you’ll make a mistake in the future (because, as you already know, you’re human and we make mistakes!). Next, decide how you want to feel toward yourself. I suggest feelings like compassion, love, support, and curiosity.
There’s no upside to being mean toward yourself, even when you make a mistake. Let me repeat that… there’s no upside to being mean to yourself when you make a mistake. Why this is so hard for us to get, I don’t know. But the more you practice, the easier it is.
Once you decide how you want to feel toward yourself, come up with some thoughts that you can think about your mistake that feel true for you.
Examples of thoughts to think when you make a mistake…
- I made a mistake because I’m human.
- Nothing has gone wrong here. I simply made a mistake.
- Mistakes are okay. I don’t want to make this same mistake again, but I’m not going to judge myself either.
- What can I learn from this mistake?
You can’t control the fact that you’re a human and will make mistakes in the future. We can all count on that for each and every one of us. But we can control how we treat ourselves when we make a mistake. We can own the mistake and have our own back.
5. Stay out of all or nothing thinking.
When you beat yourself up, you’re often in “all or nothing thinking.”
Examples of all or nothing thinking are:
- I’m either winning or losing.
- I’m either amazing or horrible.
- I’m either the best mom or the worst mom.
- I’m either getting it all right or getting it all wrong.
- I either love my kids or can’t stand them.
- It’s either a really hard season or really easy season.
All or nothing thinking is very black and white.
Your brain defaults to all or nothing thinking because it’s trying to make sense of the chaos in the world. This is a default function of the brain. But the truth is much more complicated and complex than that.
To overcome this and get out of all or nothing thinking, you need to slow down and ask, “what else might be true?” This is where you’ll open yourself up to the grey.
For example, it may be a challenging season you’re in, but you also may really love things about it. Looking for those moments and things you love while still acknowledging it’s a hard season is where you’ll find more peace.
Getting out of all or nothing thinking frees your mind from the extreme thinking that often is followed by extreme emotions. You’ll feel a little bit better equipped to handle everyday life, even during the challenges.
A Final Note
There’s no upside to beating yourself up—ever.
Even when you get it all wrong, fail, and make mistakes, you’re learning and growing. This is part of being human and it’s inevitable.
You can train your brain to think differently so that the mistakes and challenges aren’t so tough; so that you’re kinder and more loving to yourself. This is where you truly start to live with more love, confidence, and inner strength.