It was recently Mother’s Day and I know it can be a day of mixed emotions for many people, for varied reasons. For me, it used to be a day that I spent feeling a seemingly impossible cocktail of unappreciation and at the same time unworthy of appreciation.
Now, I realize this sounds contradictory, so let me explain what would happen in my brain. I would think things about my family that they had no idea I was thinking.
Things like, “They should take over and do all the things I normally do. I shouldn’t have to lift a finger. They should know what I enjoy and plan accordingly. They should get along and be cheerful. They should treasure this day and appreciate me for all that I’ve done and continue to do for them.”
Guess how that worked out for me? Well, to my utter and complete shock, Mother’s Day was just another day to them. They gave me hugs and kisses and wished me a happy Mother’s Day. They made me presents at school for many years.
But here’s the thing about humans: they can’t and don’t read minds.
The mind-reading trap
I took that very personally on Mother’s Day. When the day didn’t go as I planned it in my head, I would get mad. Eventually, that would morph into sadness, and the pity party in my mind would go something like this. “Of course they don’t appreciate me. Of course they aren’t celebrating me today. Why would they? I don’t really deserve it.”
Then the list of all the ways I was failing as a mother or all the times I had fallen short would play in my mind. I’d think about all the amazing mothers I knew that I didn’t measure up to.
I would end up crying alone in my room for some part of the day. It was super fun and awesome, as you can imagine.
I have since learned to love and appreciate myself, no matter what others do or don’t do. I now either ask for what I want or, even more effectively, just plan it myself.
I make all the plans for my birthdays and invite my family along. For the past few years, my girlfriends and I have taken a girls’ trip on Mother’s Day weekend because we decided this was the best way to take a break from our mother duties and show appreciation to ourselves.
This doesn’t mean I don’t still feel inadequate as a mom sometimes or regret the things I say or do regarding my kids. But unfortunately, there’s a lot of that swirling around with me and most of the moms I know.
“I am the mom that I am.”
I once had a mentor share something that shifted her thinking about these invisible and ever-present standards we hold ourselves to as moms.
So she said, rather than trying to be the best mom or like another mom she admired, she decided just to be the mom that she is.
The mom that she is isn’t perfect or terrible; she isn’t inadequate or amazing all the time. She is a combination of all of those things. That is reality.
I am the mom that I am. It is true. It is inarguable. And there’s so much peace in that acceptance.
Past and future thinking
Think about how much of your time you spend thinking about the past and wishing it was different—whether we are talking parenting, weight loss, relationships, career, or whatever.
You know when you’re thinking about the past because there’s a lot of thoughts such as, “I should have. I shouldn’t have. I wish… If only…” happening.
Regret also signals “past thinking.” Regret thinking sounds like, “I shouldn’t have eaten that. I should have known better. I wish that happened differently. I wish I could go back. I wish I had my 20-year-old body again.”
Now think about how much of your time you spend thinking about the future and what you hope is different.
But not in an aspirational way. In a way that makes you feel that you desperately need to escape to somewhere better.
It sounds like, “I can’t wait until I lose this weight. I can’t wait until I get rid of this struggle. I can’t wait until I finally feel happy.”
However, future thinking can also contain the fear of failure and what will happen if you fail.
If we’re in the past or the future, we are not here now.
When we can only look back and see what went wrong or look ahead to what might still go wrong, we overlook what is and that always feels unsettled, unstable, and inauthentic.
Arguing with reality
This overlooking of what is, or “arguing with reality,” is an argument we will never win, as Byron Katie teaches us.
So why do we argue with reality then? If it doesn’t change it, and we lose 100% of the time, why do we focus on what we want to change, what’s wrong, or what we want to be different, instead of seeing and accepting what is?
Why do we ignore what is real? What is actually happening?
Well, often we think acceptance means resigning from trying. We believe accepting ourselves, our bodies, or what is happening now will lead us to give up and not move forward.
Instead, we think we have to focus on what’s missing or what’s wrong to know what we want to do differently.
When we accept ourselves now, we feel love and compassion instead of disgust and dissatisfaction. We show up totally differently for ourselves. We treat ourselves differently. We make different choices.
When we pretend not to notice what we’re eating, how we’re taking care of ourselves, or we tell ourselves it doesn’t matter, or that no one will ever know, we are lying.
So many of us are in denial on our weight loss journey. We are in denial of what is actually happening, denying what we are currently capable of, and ignoring what we’re doing and why we’re doing it. We make excuses and we shift the blame. That too, is arguing with reality.
Telling ourselves the truth, allowing ourselves to see and accept who we are and what we are choosing lets us drop the unwinnable argument and find some peace to move forward with.
Accepting the reality of ourselves
Think about the example of thinking, “I’m not a good enough mom.” Or if you’re not a mom, just replace that with any other role or any other thing you want. Notice how you feel when you think you are not good enough or that you should be different in some way.
What is that emotion for you? What feeling does that belief create? Inadequate? Hopeless? Overwhelmed? Shame?
Now try on this thought: I am the mom that I am. Or, I am the _____ that I am. Fill in whatever role you chose there.
When you think, “I am the mom that I am, “ what is the reality of that for you?
Sometimes the mom that I am ignores my children to get work done. Sometimes the mom that I am goes above and beyond to create a magical, special, and memorable birthday.
Sometimes the mom that I am is the one who does all the laundry. Sometimes the mom that I am takes my frustration about my teenagers’ choices out on them by not speaking to them for a week. Yes, that happened recently.
How does speaking the truth to yourself feel? What’s the emotion? To me, it’s compassion. I’m doing my best. Sometimes my best kind of sucks. Sometimes my best is amazing. But either way, it’s what I am right now.
There’s room for improvement and pride. There’s space to grow and learn and no pressure to be any different than I am.
Accepting our bodies
What about arguing with the current reality of our bodies?
This is a big obstacle for many of us because we perceive our current bodies as so unacceptable we can barely look at them or think about what it feels like to be in them.
So what would accepting the reality of our bodies be like?
What if instead of thinking about our body in terms of size, appearance, or our judgment of it, we told ourselves the truth about it? I have this body right now. This is the body I have. This isn’t committing to love it. It’s not committing to embrace it.
Does it feel different than what you currently believe about your body? Now be gentle here. Your brain is going to want to add on.
You’ll try on the thought, “This is the body I have right now,” and your brain will want to add, and it’s horrible, and I wish it weren’t, and it’s unfair, et cetera. That’s okay—no need to argue. Just keep coming back to the present truth.
This is the body I have right now.
Telling yourself the truth about food
One tiny and monumental shift I can remember making was telling the truth to myself about what I was eating.
Now I know this sounds weird because how can you lie to yourself about what you are putting in your mouth?
I always ate mindlessly without regard to hunger, how foods felt in my body, or what I needed. It was just hand to mouth with whatever was near. I had a lot of rules about what I should or shouldn’t eat and what was good and bad.
I was trying to eat behind my own back by eating the foods I wasn’t supposed to be eating and ignoring that I was doing it. Now, this may sound delusional, and it is. However, this is high-level arguing with reality.
I made excuses about it, justifying it, validating it, and then beating myself up after about it.
Telling the truth to myself here sounded like me narrating to myself in my head what I was eating.
It sounded like me saying, “I’m eating this cookie right now. Now I’m eating another one.”
But, when I was literally telling the truth, observing what I was doing, owning what I was doing, absent of judgment, and void of trying to change it, I was allowing myself to see and accept what I was eating.
Doing this took the shame away.
Seeing it required me to face it. Of course, accepting reality also means taking responsibility. But taking responsibility feels so much better than delegating responsibility outside of our control.
Leave the door open for change
Accepting reality and taking responsibility sometimes feels scary. Letting go of or being willing to look at things you believe about you, your body, and your journey can be overwhelming.
Telling the truth here is powerful too. This is what life looks like right now. This is what I believe about me right now.
It is accepting reality, but it’s also leaving the door open for that reality to change.
What would telling the truth to yourself sound like for you?
What would accepting reality look like?
What would it feel like?
What tiny and monumental shift might you make?
This kind of thought work is invaluable on your journey to losing weight for life. If you’re ready to get started, watch my free video on how to lose the first five pounds — and keep going.