Category Archives: Quote

10Dec/12

Love Me When I Least Deserve It

Recently I have been talking with my kids about the need to show each other more love, not less, when one of us is tired, or grumpy or ‘misbehaving’.  I know this is counter-intuitive because our main instinct is to punish or cold-shoulder someone who is being rude or mean.  But, as we say in our family, when someone is behaving badly, there is a large chance that this is because ‘their heart is feeling bad’.

When our ‘hearts are feeling good’ – i.e. we are happy with ourselves, proud of our actions, feeling loved and a have a powerful sense of belonging and purpose – we find it easy to be kind, loving, happy and competent.  So therefore, even though we might not think that someone ‘deserves’ to be loved when they are acting badly, this is really when they need our love the most.  They need their heart to be repaired, or recharged, or just soothed, so they can recover their equilibrium and be themselves again.

While this all makes perfect sense to me, it is something that I find really difficult to practice.  I am, I have realised, somewhat grudgingly, someone who finds it hard to hide their emotions. I wear my heart on my sleeve, as they say, especially within the safe confines of my family. Therefore, my family knows exactly what mood I am in, at any particular time of the day, and often the reason behind it.  This is better than hiding everything, but I would prefer to reach the middle ground of being able to control some of my negative emotions when it would help those around me if I did.

This personality trait of mine makes it quite difficult for me to control my irritation, anger, frustration and resentment at other family members’ rudeness, anger and tantrums. (I know this is a double standard, but I’m working on it!)  Nearly 11 years of parenting has shown me that shaming, punishment and anger in response to a child’s ‘misbehaviour’ is ineffective not just in the long-term but the short-term too.  It just doesn’t work, not to mention the harm that it can cause. So I have to use this experience and evidence to remind myself to go the other way.  Sometimes (when my heart is feeling good) I can offer real love at those moments when my children need it, even though they often don’t accept it.  At other times (when I’m low on energy and resilience, AKA ‘my heart is feeling bad’) I have to force myself to offer words of forgiveness and love through gritted teeth.  I have been known to cuddle an angry child who is trying to calm down while simultaneously making angry faces that they can’t see just because I can’t control my own anger. I know! It’s really immature of me, but at least I’m going in the right direction.

So when I was Christmas shopping last week in Horsham and saw this (above), I had to buy it as an early present for my family.  It is now up in our kitchen to remind us all that this is what we are aiming for. We won’t ever be able to do this all the time, but by having it as one of the guiding principles of our family life, I am hoping we will learn to tolerate and help each other when we need it the most.

27Nov/12

“Everybody Hates Me!”

Zach with his bags packed ready to leave home.

Recently I’ve been having a bit of trouble with my youngest son, who is 5.  One minute he’s the most loving, thoughtful and happy little boy, and then suddenly he can change into a crazy ball of dynamite hurling punches, kicks and hateful words at anyone who is in the area. I know that all young children can switch their mood at what we adults think is the slightest upset, but he has always had more of a tendency to declare that he hates his family, is leaving home, and packing his bags, than my eldest two.

At first I put it down to his personality – he was just different, perhaps more independent, maybe more fiery, than his siblings. But then he started saying he didn’t want to go to school.  He would refuse to get in the car, or get out of the car at school, but I knew that he actually loved it when he was there.  He always talked about what he had done at school, he loved learning and ‘working’ in school more than many 5 year olds do, and the teachers said he seemed happy, and had many friends.  It was really hard to see him obviously upset about something, but not knowing what it was, and how to help him.  And then when he wrote to Santa and said ‘I rile need a noow famlee’, it broke my heart. We are a loving family and are always telling him we love him, and giving him cuddles, playing games with him, etc.  Why was he feeling like this?

Last week as he was telling me again that the reason he didn’t want to go to school was because there were bullies and he had no friends, it finally dawned on me what was happening.  I realised that he believed that whenever someone disagreed with him, or was mean to him, or told him off it meant that they hated him.  So when that happened he went into attack mode to protect himself.  After talking some more it became clear that where his friends at school were concerned, if they had been mean to him once then it meant that they hated him forever.  He now thinks that one of his best friends hates him because he pushed infront of him in the dinner line.

Given that this little 5-year-old spent most of his day with other 4, 5 and 6-year-olds at school, and then with two older bossy siblings at home, and a mum who is a control freak about behaviour, then there was no wonder that he wanted a new family and a new school.

So, since then, we’ve been talking to him about how friendships and families work. That we can get angry,or grumpy and do things that are a bit mean and selfish to our friends, or even do things by mistake, but that doesn’t mean we hate each other. It happens in all relationships – especially when young children are still learning about friendships and controlling their impulses. It’s difficult to know how much he is taking in because he is still focussing on a couple of ‘small’ incidents at school as evidence that other children hate him.  But I think if we keep telling him we love him (I also try to say this while I am telling him off or when I’m defending myself from his punches, but I don’t always manage it!), and not take his anger personally, we will in time help him to see disagreements and arguments as part and parcel of school and family life.   And maybe he’ll eventually stop packing his bags and leaving home quite so often!

08Apr/11

Perfectionism: A definition.

Brene Brown, shame and perfectionism researcher. Visit her blog at www.ordinarycourage.com

Today I am going to share Brene Brown’s definition of perfectionism with you.  She talks about ‘shame, judgment and blame’ as being the emotions that perfectionists want to avoid and which drives their need to seem perfect to others.

Perfectionism is a self-destructive and addictive belief system that fuels this primary thought: If I look perfect, live perfectly, and do everything perfectly, I can avoid or minimize the painful feelings of shame, judgment, and blame.

Perfectionism is self-destructive simply because there is no such thing as perfect. Perfection is an unattainable goal. Additionally, perfectionism is more about perception – we want to be perceived as perfect. Again, this is unattainable – there is no way to control perception, regardless of how much time and energy we spend trying.

Perfectionism is addictive because when we invariably do experience shame, judgment and blame, we often believe it’s because we weren’t perfect enough. So rather than questioning the faulty logic of perfectionism, we become even more entrenched in our quest to live, look, and do everything just right.

Feeling shamed, judged, and blamed (and the fear of these feelings) are realities of the human experience. Perfectionism actually increases the odds that we’ll experience these painful emotions and often leads to self-blame: It’s my fault. I’m feeling this way because “I’m not good enough.”

14Mar/11

Pushing a Heavy Rock up a Mountainside.

The words below are not mine. They were written by Tal Ben-Shahar in his book The Persuit of Perfect.  These two paragraphs illustrate how striving for perfection will never make us happy.

The Greek myth of Sisyphus tells of a man, the most cunning of mortals, who was punished for his pride and disobedience. Sisyphus was condemned by the gods to push a heavy rock up a mountainside and then watch it roll down again, repeating this process for all eternity.

Psychologically speaking, the Perfectionist is like Sisyphus. But whereas the punishment of Sisyphus was inflicted by the gods, the Perfectionist’s punishment is self-inflicted. No success or conquest, no peak or destination, is ever enough to satisfy the Perfectionist. When he reaches the summit of one mountain or another, when he achieves some form of success, there is no delight, no savouring – only another meaningless journey toward a destination that inevitably disappoints.

A Perfectionist's Life