I'm a simple gal, really. I'm tough. A go-getter. I'm a fighter. But I have one worthy nemesis: the nagging, self-critical voice in my head. That voice? Oh, she's brutal. She can tear me apart, from the strands of grey starting to show at my roots to the tone of voice I use with the boys. She whispers some version of "You're a failure. You're not enough. You're a burden." Catty accusations that seem to be true when I compare my epic disasters with everyone else's Pinterest-worthy portraits. For years, I believed her lies. I clawed myself out of the darkness only to be tossed back in again. I avoided quiet moments because I couldn't stand to be alone with my own critic. I call her Lucy. You know, like on Charlie Brown? The one who always yells, "Can't you do anything right?"
Yeah, me and Lucy. She's downright mean. She pokes at my weaknesses. It took a global shut-down for me to realize that Lucy didn't improve my life. She dragged me through the muck of it. Over the past year, I've learned a lot of different, healthy coping skills to help me manage my Lucy. The very best counterattack was one that wasn't really planned. I decided that I would repeat a mantra to myself every morning.
A what? A mantra. I'll be honest. I don't even know if I understand the history of mantra. I meditate, but I'm still a beginner and probably a clumsy one at that. (I keep trying, right? Begin again!). I was intrigued by the idea of repeating affirmative statements to myself every day. If I gave Lucy the spotlight, she'd ground me down to tiny little bits. But if I stepped up to the mic, I could say whatever I wanted, especially about the areas where I fell short. I wrote down some ideas. What would I like to hear every morning? How do I address my biggest triggers?
When I read the list of lines to my therapist, he nodded and asked me what I thought.
"It sounds like I'm talking about someone else," I confessed, sheepishly.
He helped me with some ideas and I tweaked each line until I came up with the following that I can proudly say to myself each day:
I always have a choice.
I choose to embrace that I am enough.
I choose to love the person I am right now.
I don't have to prove my value to anyone, including myself.
Perfection is an unrealistic expectation right now. My Heavenly Father appreciates any effort.
I choose to believe that I am worthy of love, friendship, and acceptance.
I choose to see that I am beautiful, inside and out, with a testimony strong enough to shake the powers of hell. Because of this, I will always be a target for Satan.
I choose to believe that I am a good mom and that my boys' choices do not reflect my competence as their mom.
I choose to acknowledge that my experiences refine, but do not define me.
I run my own race.
I am a pioneer.
I choose to believe that though I may be different, I am not less.
I tackle my mountains with small, doable steps.
I choose to remember that I am known, understood, and cherished.
I know that the choice is entirely mine.
I began my saying the words quietly to myself while I read them from the note on my phone. That wasn't enough. I decided to say them out loud to myself while I looked in the mirror. Face to face. In the moment, the words made me feel like Wonder Woman. It felt nice to hear positive things about myself for a change.
But here's the thing... something happened.
I thought repeating a mantra to myself each morning was simply a way to start my day off right, affirming who I am and what I choose for my day. It became much more than that. Whenever a Lucy line echoed in my ear, "Oh, you suck at being a mom! Look at how you botched that one today," immediately another thought countered lines that became an automatic defense: "I choose to believe that I am a good mom!" When Lucy threatened, "Your family can't stand you. You will never fit in. You will always be an outsider," another thought rehearsed, "I choose believe that though I may be different, I am not less."
I began to notice that Lucy grew quieter and quieter. This self criticism/self affirmation volleyed around in my head until Lucy began to back down completely. Almost like she finally sat down and plunked her head on the desk. Inside, I roared at her, "I run my own race!" And I've left it at that.
Is the criticism still there? That nasty Lucy? Of course she is. She's my body's misguided way to try to help me become a better version of myself. To notice when I'm off. But she's mean-spirited and demoralizing. Her voice had to be tamed a little. When I repeated lines of my mantra every day, they became automatic, subconscious corrections.
I know I'm not perfect. In fact, I have a long, long way to go on that one. Like anyone else, I want to do better, become better. I'm not sure how the Lucy voice became so shrill and cutting. I don't know if anyone else has experienced that same problem. But I am confident that power posing in the mirror, staring down my real self, affirming who I am for everyone [in my bathroom] to hear - better prepares me to tackle my day.
All my love to all of you!