Be kind to yourself, others are listening


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I always wonder if I’ve told my children I love them enough times in a day or if I’ve remembered to tell them how proud I am of them. I often think about the ways I could have shown love better.

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I always wonder if I’ve told my children I love them enough times in a day or if I’ve remembered to tell them how proud I am of them. I often think about the ways I could have shown love better.

Did I pay enough attention or actually stop what I was doing (even when I was busy) to listen to them? Did I indulge their requests for me to watch them do just this one part in a video game or hear some corny joke in a YouTube clip I would otherwise have no interest in if it wasn’t for them?

Did I let the little one have one more story past bedtime or, in the very least, have the courtesy to put my phone away during conversations? Did I ask the right questions about their day? Was I kind? Patient? Accepting?

I am constantly questioning myself, hoping I am at least getting it right most of the time. The thing is, sometimes (more than sometimes) I don’t offer myself the same consideration and grace or show myself love, kindness, patience or acceptance the way I ought to, and the way I strive to do for my children.

I can be quite the bully to myself.

The other day, I was out with my friend and Free Press colleague, AV Kitching. We were at opening night of Royal MTC’s Burning Mom, sitting there before the play started and somewhere in our conversation, she looked me dead in the eye and she said: “Shelley, the other day you were talking about yourself, and you were being really, really mean.”

For context, I had to have my photo taken and I felt quite insecure about it.

I have a lot of body and self-image issues — that is a part of myself that I am very critical of. Unless I am actively working against those things, which I do sometimes, this kind of overly critical sense of self is my default setting and a pattern that I tend to fall into.

I complained about having my photo taken to AV, and then casually without even thinking, said some terrible and mean things about myself. If I’m being honest, I didn’t even notice the negative self-talk until she called me out on it.

“What would you say if you heard a friend talking like that?” she asked me in a bold, matter-of-fact tone. “What if your daughter heard you say those things about her mother?”

That was a tough but necessary thing to hear. A reminder probably many of us need every now and again. We owe it to ourselves (and our children) to be compassionate and kind to ourselves.

My daughter would be hurt that I talked about her mother like that. She has probably heard me do it several times over the years — since I seem to do it without even realizing it. Though my words aren’t directed at her, I am passing down my insecurities and teaching her what not to like about herself.

We both deserve better.

I know there will be other instances going forward where I make a cruel joke at my expense or be extra hard on myself for something that I would extend grace to for someone else.

I know that I’ll have days, maybe even weeks or months, where I am trying to fit into a standard or expectation that just doesn’t fit me and won’t ever fit me. And I will probably be insecure about the next photo.

It’s good to have friends who call us out for this behaviour and remind us we are worthy of love and kindness.

If anyone hasn’t told you in awhile, please take this column to heart. You deserve kindness and love, especially from yourself.

Twitter: @ShelleyACook

Shelley Cook

Shelley Cook
Columnist, Manager of Reader Bridge project

Shelley is a born and raised Winnipegger. She is a proud member of the Brokenhead Ojibway Nation.

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