Thursday, June 11, 2015

The Number One Parenting Tool That Nobody Talks About

I'd like to elaborate more on the idea of "enoughness." I think everyone (including myself) needs convincing that being hard on ourselves so we don't become lazy, narcissistic, or [insert bad thing you are afraid of becoming here] doesn't actually work. It seems like common sense that if we punish ourselves, we will want to avoid punishment in the future. We also think that if we feel bad about ourselves, the solution is to build up our self-esteem by doing wonderful things. The good news is that the research shows these things are not true. The bad news is that the real remedy to our problems still requires work.

I am a big fan of Kristin Neff. She is a researcher who has done work on self-compassion and self-esteem. Her research shows that rather than following the highs and lows of self-esteem, we should develop self-compassion instead. Self-compassion is the tool that will help us develop the sense of "enoughness" that will keep us on an even keel.

Self-compassion involves three things. The first is the recognition that we are suffering, and being kind to ourselves as a result. Instead of soldiering on through a hard day, we recognize that the day has been difficult and try to offer ourselves what we need. Instead of being angry with ourselves for yelling at our kids, we recognize that we are upset without berating ourselves. The second part is common humanity. We recognize that we are not the only ones suffering, that other parents have gone through the same things we have. The final component is mindfulness. We recognize that we are suffering and allow ourselves to feel the emotion we are feeling without wallowing in it.


Obviously these three things are not easy to do. If we are used to repressing our emotions, it can be difficult to feel them again, not to mention the difficulty in not getting carried away by them. However, practicing self-compassion is the only way off the worthiness hamster-wheel. We cannot effect real change in ourselves without it.

For Further Thought:

1) What are you afraid of becoming if you don't keep yourself in line?

2) What are you worried will happen if you allow yourself to feel the full extent of your feelings?

3) What do you think is your biggest obstacle in practicing self-compassion?

For Further Reading:

"Self-Compassion" by Kristin Neff (watch her TED talk here)

Self-Compassion:  What Self-Compassion is Not and Why We Should Stop Chasing Self-Esteem and Start Developing Self-Compassion and Does Self-Compassion Mean Letting Yourself Off the Hook?

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