Have patience with all things, but chiefly have patience with yourself. Do not lose courage in considering your own imperfections but instantly set about remedying them — every day begin the task anew. ~Saint Francis de Sales
I like this quote because the words “self-esteem” are nowhere to be found, but it is all about self-esteem.
How often do you “consider your own imperfections”? How many times a day do you berate yourself for something? As moms, I think we do this so naturally that most of the time we don’t even know we are doing it. Was I too harsh? Am I not strict enough? Why can’t I do what “so-and-so” does? She always has it together. And then there’s my favorite phrase which I have personally used. It pretty much covers it all: “I suck.”
Sometimes, the negativity comes from the explicit and implicit messages we got when we were growing up. Let’s face it, even if we had “perfect” childhoods, there’s still baggage we carry with us about ourselves based on what we experienced when we were younger. Sometimes we are successful at overcoming that stuff, or at least we think we are. Then we become moms.
The sabotaging thoughts re-emerge and we start to lose our courage, our steadfastness in our abilities. Motherhood seriously shakes us to our foundation, doesn’t it? We get caught up in the self-recriminations and start to internalize garbage, and we question things about ourselves we never gave a thought about before babies showed up. We start wondering where our self-esteem went. Have you caught yourself telling a friend, or the woman in the mirror, “I just need better self-esteem?”
Maybe you are like me. I used to believe that there is some magic self-esteem level out there and if I just would get to that level, I would finally be happy or people would treat me better. Or I would be a better mom.
This quote tells us that is not the case. First off, St. Francis de Sales tells us to have patience with ourselves. Hey, ladies, the babies and toddlers and preschoolers did NOT come with owner’s manuals. I know, I was just as surprised as you to discover that. But take that deep cleansing breath and chill out, mama. Deep breathing clears out the stress hormones and creates space for you to be patient with yourself.
St. Francis goes on to tell us not to lose courage when considering our own imperfections. We all screw up. Be brave and admit that you aren’t perfect. Admit that you royally get it wrong sometimes. Note I said “sometimes.” Start looking at all the things you get right. There are more of those than you think. Have the courage to let go of your mistakes, because those aren’t the defining moments of your mothering. It’s the kisses, the hugs, the unconditional love you give your little ones that they feel most.
Then there’s that part where he says we should “set about remedying [our imperfections].” I think this also means accepting our imperfections as much as anything else. We can teach ourselves to have more patience with our kiddos. But as we learned from Jan’s talk about personality traits, we are just wired a certain way. And the cosmic sense of humor shows up to give us a child who is our polar opposite. There’s no real remedy or permanent fix for that as much as there is the opportunity to learn, and find places to make space for “both/and” in that relationship. Accept you are not perfect. Concentrate on what you do well and pat yourself on the back for your strengths.
Self-esteem is not a destination. It’s a journey. “Every day begin the task anew.” We get to start each day with a clean slate. It’s shiny and fresh and full of opportunities to breathe deeply and do something differently than we did it yesterday. We can stop beating ourselves up. We can bravely accept all our flaws and love ourselves anyway. Our theme this year implicitly says you already have self-esteem, mama. Be you, bravely. And maybe St. Francis de Sales’s words can help you remember it’s a journey… and you got this one.
I am a mom, wife, daughter, friend, professional coach and licensed marriage and family therapist who is always seeking ways to be a better person today than I was yesterday.
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