The first time I tell people, “Be gentle with yourself” – I say it a lot – they mostly look at me as though I’m speaking some foreign language. I suppose in a way I am. Treating ourselves in a kind and gentle manner is unfamiliar to a lot of us.
We seem to have the idea that there is a ‘Right Way’ and anything other than that way is ‘not getting it right’. When we don’t get it ‘right’ we think we’re not good enough. Thinking we’re not good enough leads to all sorts of nastiness – low self-esteem, depression, addictions, acting out our pain…
When it comes to parenting we are full on! We’re all very busy trying to get it ‘right’ – although, truthfully, none of us is quite certain what that means. I mean look at all the mixed opinions out there.
People, this ‘Right Way’ thing is a very un-gentle and self-destructive way to live.
I was vividly reminded of this recently by my little master teacher who felt it was necessary to give me an in vivo practicum in this lesson. As usual, he wrapped his gift to me in the most stirring of packages.
It was my older boy. I was trying to meditate but he just wouldn’t leave me alone. He battered at me relentlessly. He was truly magnificent in his persistence and determination – and from my vantage point now I can see I did really well in staying calm and managing him gently – but finally I cracked, slammed my way into the bathroom and S C R E A M E D my frustration.
It freaked him out.
It went a little pear-shaped after that.
I was so down on myself afterwards. I didn’t think I’d done well at all. I had a list of wrongs. First I had not kept my cool during meditation. I mean I was meditating for heaven’s sake. I’m supposed to remain unruffled right? There’s a way to do these things. But, no, I’d allowed myself to get riled up, attached to the outcome I wanted. I revealed I’m not a yogi yet. Very disappointing Eilat, I expected more from you. Second I’d gotten angry and acted out my anger. There it is again, not a yogi yet. Thirdly I’d lost control. Fourth I’d frightened my child. And on and on, deep into The Right Way territory.
My confidant laughed at me. “He pushed the boundaries big time! You went into the bathroom to scream. You didn’t let it out at your child. You did your best to protect him from your anger but he got to see it and feel it. Then afterwards you loved him and explained to him. How can it be better? Do you want to raise your child thinking people have always got their shit together? That he has to always hold himself together? How will that help him in the world? You showed him there are limits, that we all lose it sometimes, we all have big emotions and that it’s ok. Afterwards we apologise and make sure our connections are still intact.”
What? It was actually better that I’d been so imperfect?
Hmmm…That actually does make sense to me. Oh, what a relief. Thank goodness for confidants! I can see now that I did just fine. So why was I being so hard on myself?
No good reason comes to mind. And if I‘d been gentle with myself I could have spared myself the beating and enjoyed the gift sooner.
I hope I remember that next time.
So my tricksy little teacher helped me see – again – that the fantasy ‘perfect’ is not actually helpful. Not helpful at all. Neither is getting all uptight about getting it ‘wrong’. After all, if I was ok with imperfect in that moment I wouldn’t have gotten so frustrated.
So. Let me repeat that we may all hear and absorb this.
“Perfect” is a load of nonsense – as is whipping ourselves into shape. It is much more effective to be gentle with ourselves.
You are just fine as you are.