I have a friend in kickboxing class who is going through marital problems. Initially, she wanted to work things out with her husband, but it has become clear that the relationship is over. She’s caught him in too many lies and deceptions and her trust in him is gone. Recently, we were talking and she explained, through her tears, how hard it is to take care of her kids right now. She can’t even remember what to make for dinner, much less how to make it. “I’m so stupid,” she said.
I asked her if she would ever say that I was stupid if I admitted that some nights I can’t figure out how to put a healthy meal on the table for my kids. Would she judge me harshly if I admitted that some nights all I can do is heat up some pizza rolls and slice some peaches? She was horrified, “No, of course not!” So why do we talk to ourselves so negatively? Why is it okay to treat ourselves with such a complete lack of empathy?
I strive to be the best Susie Homemaker I can be every day. Some days that means a lovely, healthy, cooked from scratch dinner. Other days, my very best is pizza rolls and peaches. Nobody went to bed hungry after either dinner, which is the point. A little gentleness with ourselves, a little of the compassion that we offer our friends and our children is exactly what we need. I want and expect my friends and my kids to ask me for help if they need it. I can ask them for help, too, if I need it.
We’re all, every one of us, human. We need each other. And we need to be gentle with ourselves instead of berating our perceived failures. I know what happens when I constantly criticize my kid for not doing a good enough job: that kid loses all confidence and withdraws. When I engage in unceasing internal judgment and criticism, the same thing happens to me. And I’m doing it to myself.
Just for today, try to treat yourself like a valued friend going through hardship. Praise yourself for doing the best you could today. Don’t measure yourself against any standard but the best you can do today. Whether you’re Martha or Roseanne, nobody starved.