Updated: Oct 15, 2018
I went to my neighborhood’s park the other day and laid on the field as I often do. There was a father and son on the field practicing lacrosse. I was immediately triggered by the father’s relentless “help” he was providing to his son. In every word, every facial expression, every movement, it seemed to me, he was telling his son how displeased he was by his performance. This reminded me so much of my own childhood and subsequent relationships, where I was told over and over that nothing I did was right. In fact, this reminded me so much of my past, that I almost had to leave because I didn’t want to hear it. However, something told me to stay. I sat there and just tried to be present with my feelings. I sat there with my discomfort and the feelings this encounter brought up; feelings of not being good enough, not doing anything right. I wanted to scream at the father – “You jackass!!!!! He’s doing the best he can.” Then I realized. So was the dad. Here was this father, on a Saturday night helping his son (I’m assuming with some lacrosse moves the son was finding difficult). Instead of focusing on the “negative”, I suddenly saw the positive. He had made room in his life for some one-on-one time with his son to help him with his challenges. It really made me think, if we can choose to see the love in situations, how much it changes our perspective.
It also acted to bring to my awareness, that so much of my current negative self-talk was carried over from my past. Things I didn’t do to someone else’s standards. Things that I was insecure about; not being coordinated, being clumsy, making mistakes. I used to think I was inept in almost every way. Listening to my dad’s constant criticism fostered this belief. The funny thing is that my largest issue with most activities (and life in general) was my anxiety. So, no matter how much my dad tried to help me, his way of helping just inhibited me even more. I couldn’t be present with myself long enough to focus on anything and his attention just brought me more angst. However, I had never really viewed it from his point of view before this moment on the lacrosse field. What if my dad was doing those things because he wanted me to be the best I could be? What if he was doing them because he loved me? What if he did them because he didn’t want me to make the same mistakes he had?
For those of you reading this saying, “Oh, that’s horse shit – what your dad did was emotional abuse.” And guess what? You may be right. But the truth is, there’s absolutely nothing I can do about it at this point. And, I’m not my dad and I wasn’t in his shoes, so I have no idea why he did the things he did. But I do know one thing, negative self-talk had been holding me back from so many things. And at this point in my life, I do have control over it. I have control over the thoughts I think. I have control over the way I treat myself now. If I continue to think that my dad did and said those things because he was an evil person, is that doing anything positive for me? The resounding answer is no.
So, what if I tried to find compassion and understanding for my dad? What if I flipped the script and decided to look at those things as love? Perhaps, even though my dad was struggling with his own anxiety and fear, he still took the time to care enough to try to help me in the only way he knew. You see, none of us are doing things to hurt each other. We are all just doing the best we can, with the skills that were passed along to us. Albeit some shitty skills, but sometimes you gotta work with what you have until you learn something better. That’s what this journey is all about. Doing the best with what you have at the moment, until the time comes that you learn a healthier way of doing things. When we become aware of our habits, then we can take little steps to change them. Our biggest challenge is that in our society of instant gratification, we give up on anything before we can see the results.
We all get so bogged down by thinking that little things aren’t going to make a difference, but that’s exactly how we change isn’t it?! We take these little baby steps every day until we reach our goals. What if I made a conscious effort to just love myself and to guide my thoughts in a more positive direction? So, I’m also gonna challenge you to look for love in your life. Pick one small thing you’d like to work on in your life and focus on that for the next 30 days. It can be something that at first glance, you consider insignificant: being nicer to yourself, not drinking as much coffee, smiling (genuinely) at that person who really rubs you the wrong way, making your bed, (committing and actually doing 😊) 10 minutes of mediation or yoga, or reading a few pages of a self-help book every night. Whatever it is, pick something and do it consistently, what’s the worst thing that could happen? I know one thing for sure - If you don’t start, you’ll never finish.