I want people to know that it’s OK to be themselves. And they aren’t the only ones in the world that feel stupid, or not good enough, or lonely or depressed. They are not the only ones who get angry or experience rage or get pissed off, and that there is a way to be human. ~Debbie Ford
After a long struggle with cancer, one of my favorite spiritual teachers, Debbie Ford, made her transition this week. She was 57. To honor her memory, I want to address the core of her teaching, self-acceptance.
The quote above flows easily enough, but it is hard to swallow. It’s so hard to let ourselves off the hook and admit that being human sometimes means doing things we would rather not admit that we do. We all have our secrets that we don’t want to admit or show to anyone else. Whether they’re bad habits or past mistakes, they get in our way. They eat away at our self esteem and make it difficult to be consistent, productive, supportive, or happy. Of course, those are the things that help us be the kind of parents we want to be, the kind that our kids with ADHD need.
Here’s the truth. We all have our dark shadows! Out of the seven billion people on our planet, at least a few dozen — probably thousands — have experienced whatever you are beating yourself up about right now. Other people get mad and scream at their kids, get fired, are depressed, or stay in bed all day and eat an entire jumbo bag of M&Ms without thinking. We have all experienced these things at some point! In fact, some of us have done them all at the same time!
Some people roll with the punches, able and willing to keep trying and moving forward despite their secrets. Others of us carry them around like 100 pound weights.
Whether we are able to look at ourselves and our mistakes with compassion & understanding, or with shame & guilt, makes all the difference in our lives. Both of these are reasonable perspectives that we could choose to embrace or not. The important word here is choice. Choosing to show yourself compassion — not to beat yourself up — is a choice you can make. We know from working with our kids that they usually respond better to the carrot than the stick. The same is true for us.
It’s time to put down the stick and move forward when you don’t respond the way you want to. Here are some hints that can help:
- Be your own best friend: “If we treated our friends the way we treat ourselves we would all be in jail.” Our friends aren’t perfect. They make mistakes, they miss appointments, they get mad for no seeming reason, and we still love them and forgive them, even when they wrong us.
- Forgive yourself. Whatever it takes. Humans make mistakes. We all do. Some of us over and over again. We all know that relationships don’t survive when there are grudges and hurt feelings. The same goes for our relationship with ourselves. It’s no wonder it can be hard to be your own best friend.
- Be willing to consider that you did the best you could in that moment. If you can do it differently the next time, you will! This is hard to embrace, but just being willing to consider it can sometimes be enough of a shift to move you forward.
So that’s the secret: we all have secrets. Because I’m someone that holds the bar really high for myself, I have to remind myself of this every day. Maybe you do, too. Let’s continue to remind each other, and pass on a legacy for Debbie, and all the other people out there ready to put down those 100 pound weights and enjoy life a little more.