I made French toast for my kids this morning before they went to school. It wasn’t the weekend where I had plenty of time to cook and we had a leisurely breakfast with plenty of time to laze around. No, I had to get my butt in gear and whip up those egg-battered, cinnamon-flavored pieces of bread in record time to keep everyone on schedule. No frozen toaster waffles or bowls of cereal for anyone this morning. No, siree. Mamma made French toast! I thought to myself, “What a great mom I am.”
Then I stopped and thought, what if I didn’t make French toast? Would that have made me a “bad” mom? No, I don’t believe that. But, what I have been charged with by my psychiatrist this week is to pay attention to my self talk. So, I think it is beneficial to notice the other side of the coin when I look at what I say to myself when I screw up. What am I saying to myself when I do something good?
I am realizing that labeling myself as “good” when I behave positively and labeling myself as “bad” when I behave negatively are both detrimental to my mental health because either way I have come to associate my behavior with my core being. I have come to equate my actions with my true self.
In other words, if I forget a date with a friend, I am a awful friend. If I lose my temper with my children, I am a terrible mother. If I “have a headache” in the bedroom, I am a horrible wife. If I have too much anxiety to go visit my parents, I am a bad daughter.
Rather than seeing myself as a innately good and kind person who makes mistakes, attempts to set boundaries, or tries to deal with an illnesses that is beyond her control, I make these things into attacks on my character. Why do I do that? How does one get to a point of so much self-loathing; so much misperception?
I suppose a lot of it goes back to clichés such as “actions speak louder than words.” Plus, people always judge you by your actions not your intentions. On the outside, people would merely see a mom yelling at her kids unnecessarily; a wife being frigid towards her husband, and a daughter neglecting her parents. So, I guess I am judging myself in the same way, which is what my doctor has challenged me not to do.
I think I can rise to her challenge, because unlike those on the outside, I know my own intentions. I can change the conversation in my head based on my intentions: I will make mistakes. This fact I cannot change. I can decide what to do with my body at all times. It is mine alone and no one else’s. And ………..
Wow, I can’t seem to bring myself to deal with that last one about the anxiety and visiting my parents. I don’t visit them often because of the far drive, and the visit itself brings on more anxiety. I feel guilty about it. Some issues just run deeper than others, I guess. Those involving your parents usually do, don’t they? It’s better than it used to be, thank to therapy; still a work in progress. I have hope.
So, what is the point of all of this? I think what I am learning or need to drive into my thick skull is that ISOLATED behaviors do not define WHO I AM. Who I am is already established; it is a constant state that will not change. Who I am is my values, my truths, my being, my spirit, my consciousness – all the things that remain stable and sound across the years and forever.
I love this video that explains about who our “real self” is. It is an idea I try to hold on to. It is kind of a deep concept, but I found it very helpful, especially in coming to terms with my mental illness.