Maybe you’re the same? I get teased a lot about my Facebook use. But not by people who get it.
Five years ago, I was in a miserable marriage and experiencing phenomenally low energy levels. I wonder now if I was bordering on depression. I had a nine year-old, a six year-old and a two year-old, and my life pretty much revolved around them because I had to choose to do one thing well. I was 43 and experiencing some intense bleeding as part of peri-menopause and my iron levels were teeny as a result, I was seriously sleep-deprived and I was trying to convince the world I was right about everything.
I was prickly to those who annoyed me and many people annoyed me. I was very, very fragile. I was trying to keep my boys protected from some intense dysfunction within their wider world, and ensure they felt loved but not entitled. I felt isolated and I had some serious self-development to do. I had baggage I needed to sort out. It wasn’t my fault I was in this state but it was my responsibility to change it.
To be clear: I have many dear friends in real life and lots of things I can talk about. I am interested in stuff. But most of my people are busy parents who aren’t always available. My interests have always been eclectic, so finding those who can sensibly discuss things I want to discuss is rare, when in survival mode, it was impossible. Personal development wasn’t new to me but it was on the backburner because there was no space in my head. So I joined Facebook, and it began.
Have you changed after using Facebook? It may seem weird to those who haven’t had it as a lifeline. I did. I found one mini tribe after another that shared my interests: I could be part of a group that got *this* but didn’t have to know *that* about me. I was given new information and new skills to learn. I became more circumspect about whom I told what. I could chat with people at 5.00am or 12.00pm, when no one in my real world was around. I had proper fun for the first time in years. I learned to laugh and tease and flirt with men, and to put in boundaries to maintain greater self-respect, and not be fazed when people didn’t resonate with me and ghosted. I learned a lot about speaking in a way that I could be heard and listening to understand, not to respond. I learned about some really alternative ways of looking at the world.
I learned to be the me I had been before other people had convinced me to be something else that suited them. I ditched the shell and found a spine.
And the response has been outstandingly positive. My sense of self has soared. I have slowly translated all my new self into the real world and am loving life in a way I could never have predicted. I am healthy all round. How about you? Does your online life reflect your real life? It’s an interesting thing to ponder.
As things do, this has cycled around: I am now faced with the reality that some of my online people are Trump people and therefore, not my people. The internet has limitations: no tone of voice, no body language, no instantaneous vibe to resonate with… or not. Interpersonal cues take longer to decipher. It’s a curious thing and I understand why those who don’t get it, don’t get it. In the end it comes down to this: I value my mini-tribes in ways that anti-Facebook people will probably never understand. Cheers to you all and a heartfelt, thank you.
What’s your Facebook experience been like? Are you even on Facebook?
It would have been so easy to judge these young mothers in Ethiopia but they were doing a phenomenal job of mothering
As parents there are so many things we want to teach our children. Of course we want them to grow up to be well-rounded adults who are kind, compassionate, humble, resilient, loving, fun and display sound judgement but each of these traits takes time to develop and serious modelling from us, as parents.
If we are to be role-modelling these positive attributes then we need to have developed them too and realistically some are much easier than others. It is so simple to show love and affection to your child and in doing that helping them to take this skill into adulthood, the same with fun but what about a trait like resilience, humility or judgement?
These skills are much harder to teach and we have to have learned them ourselves first to even be able to consider passing them on. We also have to be willing to take a risk and allow our child to see us in a vulnerable state, when we are admitting that we made a mistake, that life doesn’t always go to plan and that it is wrong to make snap judgements.
It is far too easy to jump to conclusions and make judgements about another person. We see them or a situation and within a split-second we could have made a judgement about who they are or how they live their life but that’s not a good thing. Yes, it might be perfectly natural and until our brains are trained we all do it but that doesn’t make it right. We’ve all heard of the fight or flight response in a situation that scares or worries us and judgement is part of that. Have a read of this short scenario –
We see a very cute, small dog tied up in the street and go over to pet it. Crouching down and chattering away to the dog as you get really close, offering your hand first so as not to scare it. It starts to bare its teeth and snarl, all of a sudden snapping at you and pulling the lead taught. Well, my judgement was off there you think to yourself, I wonder what the dog’s problem is. Then as you turn your back to walk away, you see the owner come back and it is a woman, much like you, same build, blond hair and she shouts at the dog and then hits it and you see this formally brave pup start to cower and whimper and all of a sudden you understand. You represented a risk to that poor little creature, you looked like the woman who mistreats it.
This scenario remind us that we never know the story or a stranger, be it a dog or a person and that is why it is so important that we learn to use judgement in the right way. Of course we still have to make judgements every day and keep ourselves and our families’ safe but we can drop the judgemental behaviour, the looking down on other people and the words and actions that can isolate and even devastate another.
What I’ve found is that the amount we judge others normally equates to the way we feel about ourselves. If we are 100% happy with our lives then it is unlikely that we will take the time to find fault with the way someone else looks or dresses but when we feel down on ourselves then it is so much easier to justify our own failings by picking theirs out too.
It is therefore impossible to drop the judgemental attitude without working on some other fundamental character traits like humility and contentment and of course it isn’t always easy at first when we want (or know we need ) to change. It can be painful but it will be really worthwhile.
Here are some tips to help us teach our kids (but first ourselves) not to judge –
- Be mindful – catch your own thoughts and realise what you were thinking, negative judgements may still pop into your mind but push them away and replace them with positive affirmations
- Pause and then think before you speak or act – such a simple one but really necessary. When you catch those thoughts, don’t let them turn into actions or words, remember how they are likely to wound someone else.
- Think the best of people – look for the good in everyone, it is there. Even your neighbour that drives you crazy has some redeeming qualities and when you choose to focus on them you will shift the whole balance of your relationship.
- Depersonalise – When someone says something that you don’t like or agree with, let it go. They are just expressing an opinion or living life in their way, it is not all about you.
- Look for the connection – One of the things I have discovered whilst travelling to new countries in the last few years is that even though on the surface situations might look so different, we are more alike than different. At the end of the day all the mothers I have met just want the best for their children.
- Fight the fear – when you judge it comes from a place of fear but when you seek to acknowledge and address the fears you can be free from them
- Get involved – in initiatives that open your eyes to what is happening in your neighbourhood. I volunteer at the local food bank and winter night shelter and it would be so easy to judge the people who come into the food bank with smart clothes and a pristine iPhone but then I might find out their house burnt down and they didn’t have insurance, so yes they really do need the emergency food parcel.
- Stop judging yourself/ Feel good about yourself – Life is so much easier when you are kind to yourself. We are all fallible humans and we make mistakes, life isn’t perfect and you will fall short of your own expectations at times but that is OK. No-one ever became the best they could be by beating themselves up. Admit the mistake, look for the learning point and move on.
Being content and free of negative judgement is an absolute blessing and I think Brené Brown sums it up well: “If I feel good about my parenting, I have no interest in judging other people’s choices. If I feel good about my body, I don’t go around making fun of other people’s weight or appearance. We’re hard on each other because were using each other as a launching pad out of our own perceived deficiency.”
If this is an area you have struggled in and worked through then I’d love to hear any tips that you have that might help others too.
I had a little ritual with my son when he used to be little.
Sometimes when snuggling I would sit him down and tell him a little story.
I would tell him about the biggest most precious gift I ever received.
It has been ages since I told him that little story, but I still remember my son’s eyes turning big in anticipation as I got to the end of the story, revealing what the gift was.
“The gift was you,” I said.
And I proceeded to tell him how happy the gift made me and how loved he was.
No matter how many times I told him the same story, he never got tired of hearing it.
And I never got tired of telling him the same story.
I had promised myself very early on in life that if I ever had children, I would make sure they knew they were loved. As far as I was concerned, they would never have to deal with low self esteem or feel unwanted.
For most of my childhood, I spent time excusing myself for being me.
I tried to change myself, copy others, or suppress things that were typically me.
I apologized a lot. When you spend that much time being aware of what you are not supposed to be, you’re under a lot of pressure.
I used to bite my nails almost to the point of bleeding and I was shy and clumsy.
I broke things, I fell a lot, I bumped into things. It was a hard task, trying not to be me.
Today when I look at my middle child, who is almost like a copy-print of me, I laugh at my attempts.
That kid is so present, so alive, so wild, so loud, so emotional, so outspoken, so amazing.
There is no way to tone that down. And what a waste would it be to do so.
My kids have taught me that it is okay to be exactly who you are and that the flaws and the twitches are what makes a person unique.
My kids have helped me accept myself. I see myself when my daughter is persistent. I see myself when my oldest child gets emotional, I see myself when my kids do silly dances and I see myself when one of them nestles on the couch and disappears in a book.
It doesn’t bother me that my daughter feels too shy to speak around strangers, or that my son is difficult when he feels overwhelmed. Nor does it bother me that my daughter is chaotic and would forget to bring her own head to school, if it wasn’t attached to her body.
I see me.
Whenever I look at my kids, really look at them, my heart bursts with love.
I have always promised myself that whenever I had kids, I would give them the space to be themselves.
What I never expected was that through my love for them, I would learn to love and accept myself more.
And that is truly a gift.
What gift have your kids added to your life?
This is an original post to World Moms Blog by Mirjam of The Netherlands. Photo credit to the author.