“I’m so stupid.”
“Why did I do that? I’ll never be a good writer.”
“I am such a bad friend/sister/mother/colleague/wife.”
Does this inner monologue I sometimes I have with myself sound at all familiar to you? I’m ashamed to say that at least once a day I berate myself for not being as good at something as I think I should be. Or maybe if I’m really honest, as good at something as I think everyone else thinks I am.
My life negative self-talk had become such a day-to-day occurrence that I didn’t really stop to think about it until a friend shared something her mother-in-law said to her about parenting recently.
But let me back up and tell you about my friend. Jill is a redhead who makes lemonade out of lemons and believes every stranger is her next BFF. So I wasn’t at all surprised when I heard that she and her husband had chosen to foster a little boy of 19 months, just twelve days after meeting him for the first time.
No matter what Jill tries, she is pretty successful. She sailed through school and university loving all the experiences life had to offer her, and she was making a good name for herself as a social worker. When she took on this new role of mother, she expected it to fit her like a second skin. Only it didn’t. Jill admits now that on the outside she was playing the role of happy new parent to a caramel skinned cutie, but on the inside she was falling apart and losing her temper at bath time. She felt like a bad mother.
This is where Jill’s mother-in-law came in with some words of wisdom. She told Jill, “If you see yourself as a bad mother, you will be a bad mother.” She encouraged Jill that instead of writing herself off as the worst mother ever, she should intend say, “I am BECOMING a better mother.”
As Jill made this mental shift from bad mother to becoming a better mother, everything changed. She found herself mothering her son better and enjoying her new role as a parent. Jill even recalls that the first phrases their son learned to say while in their home was, “Well done.” He started to say well done to her whenever she changed a diaper or wiped his bib, and those cute parrot-like words washed over her. At first my friend naively wondered where her son may have picked that up, until it dawned on her that it was something he was hearing a lot from his parents. In that moment she began to believe that perhaps she wasn’t the most incompetent parent in the world, and that perhaps she was becoming a better mother.
I love this story. I love it because my friend shared her heart. I couldn’t stop thinking about this story. A few hours later I told myself, “You’re a terrible cook.” Whoa, I thought, is that even true? Maybe I’m not a gourmet chef but most nights my husband happily polishes off what ever I’ve cooked. I thought about my friend’s story and I reframed my thought as I pulled down a cookery book, “I am BECOMING a better cook.”
For me this story has been the start of viewing myself, and those around me, differently. In fact, I’m probably quite annoying because if you are near me and I hear you say something like, “I am the worst wife.” I’ll turn around, look you in the eyes, and say something like, “No, that’s not true. The truth is you are BECOMING a better wife.”
I’m sure while you are reading this you can think of at least one area in your life where you feel like a failure? Maybe it’s your marriage, or your home, or at work. Do you often tell yourself how badly you are doing? What if next time you hear yourself saying, “I’m such a bad friend/sister/mother/colleague/wife.” You stop yourself and say out loud (or if you’re in a public place type or write it out), “I am BECOMING a better friend/sister/mother/colleague/wife.”
And on the days when you wonder if you can ever really become that friend/sister/mother/colleague/wife, read the words of Paul in Philippians 3:12-14 (MSG): I’m not saying that I have this all together, that I have it made. But I am well on my way, reaching out for Christ, who has so wondrously reached out for me. Friends, don’t get me wrong: By no means do I count myself an expert in all of this, but I’ve got my eye on the goal, where God is beckoning us onward—to Jesus. I’m off and running, and I’m not turning back.
Wendy van Eyck is married to Xylon, who talks non-stop about cycling, and makes her laugh. She writes for anyone who has ever held a loved one’s hand through illness, ever believed in God despite hard circumstances or ever left on a spontaneous 2-week holiday through a foreign land with just a backpack. You can follow Wendy’s story and subscribe to receive her free ebook, “Life, life and more life” at ilovedevotionals.com. She would also love to connect with you on Facebook and Twitter.