Mothers are notoriously adept at self-deprecation. Where in the world does this come from? Are we born with thoughts about being fat, ugly, not good enough, stupid, or lazy? I don’t think so. God isn’t mean.
As we grow up, many of us see other girls and women and believe they have better lives than we do. We want the approval of our second-grade classmates, the attention of the popular guys in high school — and we want our girlfriends to love being with us. But in most of these situations, we feel we don’t quite get these. Almost, sometimes, but usually, we fall short.
At least I know I did. As an adult, in fact, whenever I remembered myself in grade school, I pictured myself as chubby, and in high school I remembered myself as downright fat. That was, until I looked at pictures of myself at those ages. I was shocked to see I had been neither chubby nor fat.
So why did I remember myself that way?
Self-contempt. Many of us live with anger toward ourselves. This is the anger that comes if we shut a finger in the car door and yell out loud how stupid we are. This is self-contempt. But where does it come from?
Well, it comes from many places. Some of us were told we were fat and stupid repeatedly by nasty people. Some of us felt awkward, unpopular, ugly or too pimply. Some had friends who told us these things, while others were bullied. But for many, the thoughts came even though we can’t recollect a specific moment when we were told these things.
It doesn’t matter. The root of each of them is shame. And it comes from many places.
There is one thing I know as a mother and woman and it is this: NONE of us should hold onto shame. Whether it came from parents, friends, teachers, a spouse or trauma, shame can eat us alive and there is no place for it in my life or yours. We need to give it a healthy whack.
When those ugly thoughts or feelings enter our minds letting us know that we are — stupid, ugly, dumb, fat, not wanted, not appreciated — whatever, stop them dead in their tracks. They do not belong in the minds of beautiful women like us.
I know this because God believes we are beautiful. So we should, too. He didn’t make our minds to repeat ugliness about or to ourselves, so we must take control of it. When a thought comes in your head, write it down. Stare at it. Hear the words — as ugly as they may be — that your mind said and write them on paper. Then reject them. Fight them. Give them a whack. And when they return, do the same.
You will find that as you beat them down, those thoughts need to be replaced. What will you put in their place? Write those down, too, and make them truthful and good. You are kind, you are lovely, you are just the perfect weight, you are smart, capable, a great mother.
Make your own list and then after the whack, put those thoughts in.
Let’s kick shame where it needs to go — out of our lives. The only way I know to get there is to battle the beast with one powerful word: NO! You can’t live here. Not in my mind.
Dr. Meg Meeker has practiced pediatrics and adolescent medicine for 30 years. She is the author of the online course, "The 12 Principles of Raising Great Kids," part of The Strong Parent Project.
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