A Mom’s Guide to Finding Self-Compassion

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Moms, we’re all guilty. Of putting ourselves last. Every day and all day long. It happens. It kind of comes with the territory, right? When we become moms, self-sacrifice stares us in the face stating, “I’m here, and I’m not going anywhere for a while. So I suggest you put any sense of yourself aside.” How easily we sink in the quicksand that is self-sacrifice. And sure, with the rush of hormones and bodily changes, not to mention the emotional rollercoaster that is motherhood, we sometimes convince ourselves that giving all of ourselves to our children and families is a decision not to be compromised.

I’m not saying that self-sacrifice is entirely a bad thing either, for most of us find purpose and meaning in the giving of ourselves to our families (I’m almost overboard with this!). But as we continue to self-sacrifice so adamantly, we slowly begin to deny our own self as a priority unless we conscientiously put forth the effort.

When we lose compassion for our own self, we put ourselves at risk for unhappiness, stress, and more. We all know that when we do feel good by allowing ourselves a minute or two, we become better moms because of it. So, here are some tips I try to keep in mind to better foster a healthy mind, thus a more self-compassionate person, and an even better mother.

  1. Self-compassion is not narcissism.

Self-compassion does not mean self-absorption. It does not translate into ‘you-do-you and forget the kids.’ Rather, self-compassion means being gentle with yourself. Showing yourself the same kindness you work so hard to show your children. Making the choice to not stare in the mirror only to criticize your post-baby body or to examine those crows feet. Forgiving yourself when you don’t meet your own expectations. Saying to yourself, “So I didn’t do everything on my list of 100+ things to do today, I’ll try again tomorrow or even throughout the next couple of weeks.” And honestly believing that you did your best today.

2. Perfectionism is not attainable.

Re-read this tip. This is a big one for us moms. (Especially in the South!) Moms who, if you’re like me, enjoy posting pictures of our families and kids in beautifully-dressed seer suckered outfits and properly manicured hair skipping along in a beautiful field of flowers. Tra la la. Or my detailed Pinterest-ed birthday parties complete with personalized everythings. Because that’s really what life is like, isn’t it? Nope.

Someone once shared with me, “Perfectionism is the denial of courage.” When we have perfectionistic tendencies, we protect ourselves from hurting. Right? Because what we’re doing is acting far from vulnerable by putting on a show in order to resist feelings of shame, unworthiness, embarrassment. Now if I was being entirely realistic, the photos I choose to post would be the ones where you see the sweat stains under my armpits on a dress I wore a thousand times; you’d see my son’s bedhead from 8 hours earlier accompanied by a pouty face for making him wear something itchy; the rainclouds that just happened to appear the exact moment our photo session began. And that birthday party? These days I’m lucky if I even get the invites sent out before the day of the event. That’s more like it.

What I’m trying to say here is, if we hold perfectionism as the standard for ourselves as well as those around us, we ultimately will end up disappointed- especially in ourselves. Thus, it becomes difficult to show ourselves the self-compassion we are hoping for as we continuously try to meet too high of expectations we place on ourselves.

3. Shower (or take a bath) daily.

That’s right, I said it. Daily. Does this seem unrealistic? You owe it to yourself to do this. To pamper yourself even for a few minutes. To rid yourself of the grime, bodily fluids, leftovers, and beyond. Taking a bath or a shower is a way of coming up for air and allowing yourself a break when you are pulled in a million different directions. A way to stop and restart the never-ending treadmill that we run on. So light your favorite lavender candle and indulge in a nicely scented body wash. You deserve it, so soak it up.

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4. Treat yourself.

If the last tip was difficult to grasp, this one sure may seem unattainable but it isn’t. This is why self-compassion takes effort. What’s your favorite snack? Enjoy a mani or a pedi? How about a new pair of shoes you’ve had your eye on? Maybe even a quiet walk outside alone? What about to step away and take a deep breath for 30 seconds? A treat sometimes indeed. The list goes on for little pleasurables we enjoy indulging in life. They’re just easier to accept when they come from someone else, right? Or, such treats are even easier to give to someone else than to think of doing them for ourselves. I dare you to try to give to yourself that something special.

5. Ask for help and say no to others.

If you didn’t know — we moms? We think of ourselves as superwomen. (There’s that perfectionism again.) It doesn’t matter if you’re a stay-at-home mom or a working mom. The fact is, we can handle it, whatever it is. Toddler diaper explosion? No biggie. Vomit in the car? Got this. Homework helper tonight? Yes indeed. All of the above plus a job, phone calls to return, emails to answer, and/or a house to clean? It will be done, alright. However, sometimes things are done more easily when there are four hands taking care of all of this, not two. So, it’s okay to ask for help when you’re feeling overwhelmed. The days when the superwoman cape was never taken off the hanger. People want to help you, be it your husband, your partner, your friends, or anyone in your support system for that matter. It’s possible to ask for help, and it’s also possible to accept it. The latter part is even more crucial. Furthermore, it’s even okay to say no to others when your list of priorities does not include extras that you try to get done to appease others.

6. No more comparing.

Every experience of motherhood is unique. Just as one snowflake is to the other, or one child is to the next, so too is the journey as a mom. Moms need other moms supporting each other for sure, and it benefits us greatly when we meet people who can relate. At the same time, within that support is room to compare ourselves to the others, and this is totally a natural thing to do, but we have to be careful with it. Self-compassion teaches us that we need not go there. Once again, “I did my best today” is a compassionate way of replacing, “How could I ever do it like her?”

7. Change is okay.

So you couldn’t keep up breastfeeding for as long as you had hoped. Or you didn’t get to stick with the all-organic diet. You’re not working out as much as you thought you would. Your body feels completely different. You send your child to daycare. You stay at home instead of going back to work. Using self-compassion, we can learn to grieve the loss of what we had in mind and accept the new reality that was a difficult choice to make or a situation that had to happen. Give yourself permission to be sad about these things and know it won’t be the last time change occurs.

8. Be present.

You run that house. And you pretty much manage what goes on inside of it. Simultaneously many things occurring for what seems like all at the same time. And alas, there’s your precious child or children. Doing what children are supposed to be doing: playing. Dancing, singing, frolicking, being silly. Whatever it is, do it too. With them. You owe it to yourself to escape the recipe that sits on the counter with its ingredients waiting for you and shouting your name. They can wait. To let the washed clothes hang out in the washer a few minutes longer. To leave the backpacks unpacked and the shoes scattered. You’ll get to it later. But for now, it’s time to play, to clear your mind, and to find the child within you that lives in the wonderment of and with your sweet ones. If only for a few minutes, play and encourage yourself to focus on nothing else but those moments of the present.

In what ways do you try to show yourself a little compassion?

Samantha is a newer resident to Baton Rouge having moved here with her sweet boy Holden in 2011. Her love for blogging grew when she began writing about life as a twenty-something single mom, and her personal blog became an outlet for inspiration throughout her journey of vulnerability, shame, forgiveness, personal growth, and the joy of motherhood. Having an undergraduate degree in psychology from the University of Notre Dame, years later she decided to pursue a masters in counseling from LSU, and she is now in practice at Legacy Behavioral Health of Louisiana, LLC. For Sam, it is privileged work to walk alongside someone during times of difficulty and confusion and join with towards wellness and empowerment, a process in which she has found a personal capacity to understand. She has recently gotten married to the love of her life, Nick, or “Kick” as Holden re-named him, native of New Orleans, and together they raise Holden, now almost 5 years old, on a little slice of the country in St. Gabriel. When spare time isn’t being spent as superheroes hunting for bugs and monsters while keeping from falling in hot lava, Sam enjoys friends, running, painting, reading, and fundraising. For Sam, being a mother continues to be a limitless experience of unconditional love, laughter, and life lessons.

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