Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Letting Go of Guilt, Replacing it With Positive Self Talk and Love, and Helping Our Kids Learn the Same

A lot has changed since I first started this blog in late 2010.  Lots. Races trained for. Travel. Motherhood milestones. Lessons learned. Love gained. And so much more. As I look back, I see a very different ME. A version of myself that carried a much heavier bag of everything: expectations, fear, fearlessness, immediate goals for improvement, invincibility, and that big ugly G word: GUILT. 

Gosh, I had a lot of motherhood guilt back then. Wooo wee, I'm so glad I've let some of that go! Amazing what a difference three years can make. Don't get me wrong, I still have high expectations. I still have goals and dreams.  And I still have a fair dose of guilt that creeps in and clouds my vision of all the really great and positive things I'm doing as mother, friend, wife... that voice that comes out at the end of the day to remind me of all the things I forgot to do or messed up with, leaving me feeling like I'm not enough. The voice that says things like:
  • You yelled too much.
  • You could have reacted to that meltdown differently.  Or not reacted at all.
  • You forgot to read with your middle child.
  • Did you remember to do that project with _______ like you promised?  
  • You didn't say YES to anything today.  
  • You forgot to....
  • Gosh, I think you nagged more than talked normally today. 
When I look back on the self I was just a few years ago, I'm mixed with feelings of wanting to hug myself and take away the pressure and hurt I was filled with and wanting to slap myself around and tell myself to stop being so overly sensitive and dramatic. What a process we go through in life as we learn and change.  Thank goodness we get to learn and move on, right?!  But, no matter where we are in life, we are where we need to be. 

I'll always have things I'd like to improve upon. Setting goals and making reflection part of my life habits are here to stay. However, I no longer let guilt linger for too long. I don't go to bed every single night beating myself over the head with a long list of all the ways I feel like I failed.  Instead of swimming in a muck of guilt and feeling of failure, I take note of the things I'd like to improve on for the next day and I make a point to do just that. I'm easier on myself: more love and grace. With every thought of something I feel like I kind of messed up with, I tell myself something I did well that day.  I give myself lots of positives and acknowledge the GOOD STUFF that I AM DOING RIGHT!  This is perhaps one of the greatest lessons I've learned since starting this blog.  I'm finally able to do so much more of the stuff that I've written about in regards to helping our children do for themselves: positive self talk and self love.

As much as I see a very different person when I read back over some of my past posts, I I've also been reminded of some pretty important lessons or ideas that I find helpful now.  One particular post on Helping Our Children Love Themselves written in December 2011 was written after what was then a very difficult experience for me as a young mother. It was the first time I had to deal with something and I was extra sensitive (as mothers often are with their first borns). I was definitely harder on myself than I would be now but it led to some good family lessons. I forgot that we even used to do family meetings with compliments and "bucket filling"...this was a long time ago!  But I'm thankful for the reminder and I hope to try some of these things again in working to help my children (and myself) with positive self talk and love.  

Reading this post again made me aware that in addition to going easier on ourselves and, there are so many things that we can be doing for our kids that can help them do the same for themselves. Self love and positive talk is perhaps one of the greatest things we can teach them. Some highlights from this post:

"After doing some repairing of feelings by assuring my daughter that she is wonderful and great despite the mistakes she makes, we had a brief talk about the power of self talk.  I used the bucket metaphor which isn't anything new and certainly not all my idea.  Lots of teachers and therapists use it.  Basically, I explained:
  • When you say bad things about yourself like "I can't.  I'm no good.  I hate myself.  Nobody likes me.  I'm stupid...." you are filling your heart bucket up with gross, smelly black stuff that you don't want to be around.  Nobody else wants to be around it either and before you know it, it is so stinky and heavy and black that your heart is heavy and sad and you feel awful about yourself. And when you say these things to others, you are taking away from their buckets or filling them with YUCK. 
  • When you love yourself and fill your brain with positive thoughts like "I love me.  I am beautiful.  I am smart.  People love me.  I CAN DO THIS!  I am kind.  I am loving.  I am a good friend." these things will BE!  You are filling your heart bucket up with brilliant color and love and beauty.  You want more of it and you will feel good.  Others can sense this positive self worth too and when you think thought of love and positivity, you are a person that others feel good around.  
  • You ARE WORTHY of LOVE.  Even when you make bad choices. We all make bad choices sometimes.  WE need to love ourselves and others and just keep picking ourselves back up and trying to improve on the things we can control.

Some things I learned from this experience:
  • Kids need to feel safe sharing things with us or they will bottle things up and this will cause them stress.  It depends on the kid of course.  Some, like my oldest daughter, are more private than others.
  • I'm definitely harder on my oldest than I think I will be on my younger two.  I think this is normal.  My standards are pretty high and I can sometimes be too hard on  her.  If I'm not careful, I'm just one big nag of a mom and she can end up feeling like she can do nothing right. These feelings can stay for a long time.  
  • Every difficult situation we work through with our children is a learning opportunity.  I'm thankful for some conflict and difficult times NOW because it will only help make them stronger for LATER.  
  • You can never overdo it when telling your kids that you love them.  
  • It is so important to find moments to praise our children and catch them in their efforts and hard work.  I try not to praise them as a person but more so their choices and actions.  Instead of saying "You're such a good girl or a good boy", I say things like "I really love the way you folded your clothes! Thank you".  I don't want them to judge their self worth off of how good they are.  I want them to always feel worthy of love and feel self confident even when they do make bad choices.  This is tricky. I'm probably not making sense here as I am typing rather quickly and my time is running out.  
  • Positive self talk is SO IMPORTANT for all of us.  Athletes, mothers, children, self.  So much power in how we talk about our self.  I am smart, I am beautiful, I am a good friend, I am worthy of love, I am a child of God, I am funny, I am fast....these things are so POWERFUL in BEING what we want to be.  I can't stress this enough for my children.  We've really been working on saying these things before we go to sleep at night." 

Last night when I went to bed, I did my usual reflection of the day.  But unlike the ME from the past, I was able to simply look at the things I did well and think of the things I wanted to be better at the next day.  So much more self love and grace these days!  And because of that, I'm not quite as hard on my kids. I'm better at modeling love and positive talk for them since I'm better at doing it for myself.  We've all benefited from this.  However, I think this is always something to keep working on. I think tonight we will have a family meeting with compliments and imaginary bucket filling!  

Here's to growing!  


I don't write here as often as I used to but you can find Runninghood mostly on Instagram or: 


  1. I adore this post. Because it's right on. If we don't love us, how can anyone else? Kindness and love exudes love and kindness- and so on and so forth. GREAT POST!


  2. What a great post!!! Isn't that what it is really all about? Growing and letting go of the things we aren't happy with - seeing progress in ourselves from year to year!!!
    I'm glad that you have let go of the guilt - guilt has been a part of my life from the time I was about 13 or 14 - still working on letting go.

    1. Takes a long time to let this stuff go! Thanks Kim. Good to hear from you.

    2. And because I know how long it takes to let go of beating ourselves up with guilt and feeling like we are not doing enough, I'm trying not to pass this on to my kids by letting them see me constantly be so hard on myself.

  3. That last paragraph was so nice to read. Being able to look back at the positives of the day and congratulate yourself for them and being able to acknowledge the less good without beating yourself up. That's pretty impressive and something I still need to work on.

    1. Don't let me fool you Char, I fall off the guilt/beat myself up wagon more often than I made it sound here. ha! Just last night in fact. But then I remembered this post and my goals and I made that mental list of all those things that I did well that day.

  4. This was wonderful to read. It's so weird, but I look at things like this and realize that I was always hard on ME during my childhood, during growing up, during life now. And I realize how I would talk to my children, because I never knew some of this was so bad for me when I was growing up. I was focusing on other damaging stuff that I won't get on about during this comment.

    And I wish I could just go to bed and not think of things I did wrong. I am working on it, but it's been a VERY slow process. So, thanks for the reminder that I need to get back to it.

    1. Thanks KW. Good luck with your process! Thanks for commenting. Good to hear from you.

  5. It is so much harder to be a mother than I ever imagined. I love the perspective I always get from your blog. I will never forget a post you had where you talked about how you had yelled at your kids, I had just done the same thing and was feeling awful. I still yell from time to time, but I am learning to back up and re think the situation first and yell a lot less. I don't want to be a yeller. Love your blog :)

  6. Hey Christy! Yes, definitely harder than I imagined. Hard work! Thank you for your kind words. Yes, I don't want to be a yeller either....definitely takes some conscious work for me in stepping back and watching how I react and respond. Good to hear from you.