Special Needs Parents: Stop being so hard on yourself
I learned a great life lesson the other day, and I wanted to pass it along to all of you.
I was watching Oprah (not so uncommon), and she was interviewing Tracy McMillan (American author, television writer, and relationship expert). Oprah asked her, “What life lesson took you the longest to learn?”
Her answer resonated with me, and I think it is something that all of us could benefit from, especially those of us raising children with special needs.
Tracy’s answer to Oprah’s question was: compassion for myself.
She said, ” I used to be very hard on myself because I thought I was supposed to know things before it was even possible to know them.”
That statement resonated with me. I think, as parents, we believe we are supposed to know things before it’s possible to know them.
There is no definite way to confirm that we know anything at all;
only from our direct experience can we claim any knowledge about the world. ~
I agree with this statement from Farnam Street.com
Our life is continually unfolding, and new things are always happening; this is true for our children as well.
So, how do we learn or show compassion for ourselves?
First, let’s define the word compassion.
Compassion is defined as a mixed passion.
It is then compounded with love and sorrow.
Compassion involves suffering in some way with another; painful sympathy.
So, back to the real question… how do we learn or show compassion for ourselves?
I think we can start by accepting a new normal for our life.
And, to be OK with writing a new story for our lives.
Let go of the way we might have envisioned our life and our kids in our heads.
Unfortunately, life doesn’t work the way you want it to, and what you envision is not always reality. But, that doesn’t mean life is worthless.
I say, “Create a new story that will serve you and your children better.”
Begin by being more compassionate with yourself.
You can start by using these three practices adapted from Allison Abrams, LCSW-R, for ways to cultivate more self-compassion and stop being so hard on yourself.
1: Treat yourself as you would a small child or a good friend.
Would you berate a small child or a friend that’s hurting or did something wrong? Or would you provide kind words and a hug? Start treating yourself accordingly and be kind to yourself.
2: Practice mindfulness.
When you get distraught and overwhelmed about how much, and how far, you might you have to do, or go, catch yourself when you’re beating yourself up with self-criticism. Saying things like, “I’m a failure,” and “I’m never going to be able to do this,” don’t help in this situation.
Stop yourself and change your thoughts. Adopt a new attitude.
I like to use either of these two sayings: The first one is by Joyce Meyer’s that says, “I’m not where I need to be, but thank God I’m not where I used to be. I’m OK, and I’m on my way.
“The second, and said another way, is also a favorite of mine by Maya Angelou: “Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better”.
These quotes help me and also move me into the third practice.
3: Remember that you’re not alone.
You and I are not alone; we are humans. Over seven million other humans are raising a child with special needs and are going through and experiencing this journey.
And, NOT ONE OF US is perfect: “Nobody’s perfect.”
I like the way psychotherapist and wellness coach, Megan Bruneau, put it: So many of us believe that we’re “broken” or “screwing up,” says Bruneau. When, in actuality, “we’re all fumbling our way through this script-less experience together.”
If and when we recognize our shared humanity, we can begin to feel more connected to others with a sense that we’re all in this together.
Every day we are growing and learning. It’s about taking little steps, moving forward, and making progress.
Starting today, learn to be kind to yourself and begin practicing compassion for yourself.
When the self-criticism starts in your head, quickly change your “attitude channel.”
Don’t give up…you’re making progress!
In case no one has told you today,
You’re doing a Great Job!
Be good to YOU!