I was reeling in the chaos that is a crowded children’s shoe store on a Sunday afternoon when I had a surprising moment of clarity— I had to let the thick clouds of mom guilt subside first, but once I did, my mood improved drastically as a result. It was a bit touch and go there for a second.
As I straddled the benches and balanced on one foot over piles of shoeboxes, attempting to wrangle my wild toddler, I was already sweaty and frazzled (not to mention hungry and tired)... and then there was the lengthy, in-depth conversation about toddler shoes. My daughter was 18 months at the time— "does it really have to be this serious?!"
But you see, as the saleswoman explained, my daughter had been a walking disaster for the past several weeks because her shoes were way. too. small.
Apparently, her little toes couldn’t grip the way they needed to, thus the constant stumbling, tumbling, and injuring. The saleswoman shared her insights very matter of factly (which in my state of mind, felt more like snark than helpful salesmanship). And just like that, the clouds rolled in:
“How can I not know my own daughter’s shoes are too tight?! What kind of parent goes about her days, just smushing her poor child's toes into little baby feet binders, causing them to trip and fall everywhere she turns?! An incompetent, neglectful one, that's who...”
said my mom guilt in a judgy tone (actually, yeah- that was just downright mean). Until I caught myself: What was that thing I talk to my clients about all the time?
It was time to practice what I preach.
Ah yes, self-compassion.
Self-compassion is a concept I use day-in and day-out with my therapy and coaching clients alike, based on research and clinical work by Kristin Neff, Ph.D. It is comprised of three components:
- universal suffering (you are not alone in your pain),
- mindful awareness (offer nonjudgemental acceptance to what is), and
- self-kindness (don't be a jerk to yourself!).
Because therapists and coaches are also human (we're just like you!), we too need reminders about all the topics we cover so thoroughly in session.
Once I acknowledged the harshness of my inner monologue, I could take delight in the fact that my daughter’s feet were growing so quickly and give myself a little kindness (I'm no shoe expert, and that's ok!).
Reminding myself I was not alone in this crazy parenting experience, I got out of my head and moved on with the transaction from a much more present-focused place.
I mean, crazy thought here, but this whole outing could actually be kind of fun. Next step: ice-cream cones, naturally (self-kindness, am-i-right?!).
In my work with women and men—whether single, partnered, parents or not— the three-headed monster of guilt, shame and negative self-talk is as insidious as that soul-sucking demon from the latest horror movie. It shows up when you least expect it and just won't go the <bleep> away! It's draining, it's ugly, it's just not nice.
The good news is: this demon can be taken down. You can emerge the victor, and I can show you how.
It's a really freeing feeling to be able to walk through this world disarmed and unattached to perfection—just as we are, imperfect and wonderful in all that imperfection... because it's REAL, and deep down, that's what we all want to feel.
Until next time, I wish you peace, courage, strength, and perhaps a new pair of shoes!