“The Work” of self awareness and discovery is hard.
There’s no way around it.
Circa 2018 or 2019: “Mom, I know you’ve lost weight and have done a lot for your health, but you act the same. I don’t see much of a difference.”
That was my daughter, Katherine’s comment to me after I reached my weight loss goal, referring to my emotionally reactive self which still rears her ugly head on the daily, though exponentially less these days.
Man did that one sting.
We Cause Our Own Suffering
In “Loving What Is” Byron Katie teaches that most of the harm and suffering we cause ourselves and others is by staying attached to the thought that reality should be different.
Should is the key word in that sentence.
Does the reality that you will cause harm and suffering in others, even your children, give you a punch in the gut?
Hitting Rock Bottom
I hit rock bottom in September 2019, after a perfect microburst storm of grief over my mom’s death, transitioning to a reality I couldn’t deny that my oldest was going away to college, and resigning from my job after enduring years of whistleblower retaliation and toxic gaslighting.
To be honest, though extremely painful, and as difficult all the above were, the additional pain and suffering I was adding to the mix by how I was showing up as a parent with my daughter, Audrey, was the icing on my dark-times bitter cake.
Keep in mind, all of this was pre-pandemic.
I was down on the mat and down for the count, soon to be a colossal loser because of my attachment to my belief that Audrey should change for me to feel better about myself as a mom. It was clear in my ever-blurrier vision that Audrey was a problem I needed to fix and solve.
From the Mouths of Babes
Keep in mind, my kid is a great kid. She’s brilliant, fearless, and doing great things in the world.
I have lost every argument with her since she was 3.
Flashback to 16 years ago, potty-training the most adorable child to exist with buns squished on the toilet seat, feet turned in and talking through a PhD level logic thread while sucking her thumb:
“Hey, you don’t control my body.”
“I don’t even control my body.”
“God controls my body.”
“Wait, God doesn’t control my body.”
“If Jesus is God’s son, why would he kill his own son?”
“If Jesus is really God, why would God kill his self?”
“Fine, Audrey. All pigs can fly. You keep crapping your pants.”
Flash forward 16 years to when I resigned from my job:
“Mom, you’re just bored.”
“You do nothing all day.”
Since our teens live in gotcha culture, failures are weaponized.
Negative Self-Talk & Pursuit of Perfection Spans Generations
It makes sense. When you are raised by hyper-competitive, external achievement focused, perfection driven Gen X parents, it’s going to seep in.
Years of attachment to my negative self-talk, inner critic, spilled over and since I had minimal to no self-compassion and taught her that I could control suffering and avoid failure, I provided Audrey a lot of robust evidence that Mom must be a failure.
Mom’s a loser and now’s my chance to let her know every time she tells me to study, come out of my room, and gets in my lane.
Byron Katie is an enlightened genius, and I couldn’t recommend her work more. When I say, work, I mean, “The Work” which are four seemingly simple questions that will lead you through personal inquiry to self-discovery.
What Are the 4 Questions of Self Awareness and Discovery?
The Four Questions:
- Is it true?
- Can you absolutely know that it’s true?
- How do you react, what happens when you believe that thought?
- Who would you be without the thought?
We cringe thinking of doing “The Work” or any work on ourselves.
Isn’t it easier to just change up other people so that we can feel a certain way?
“The Work” is a gift of personal inquiry, of self-awareness and discovery. The only reason you may be really frightened, even terrified to do “The Work” is because you are terrified of what you will discover. That all this chasing down the external and changing yourself up to make yourself feel a certain way, to prove you are worthy, that you finally fit in, has not only been a colossal waste of time, but has also caused unnecessary suffering.
It seeps over to our teens.
Maybe you aren’t willing to do “The Work” of self awareness and discovery for yourself, but I guarantee you are more than willing to do “The Work” so you are able to show up as a loving and supportive parent for your child.
I can assure you leaning into doing “The Work” has been a transformational gift in my life.
Right now, you may be white knuckling through life, fighting off reality like a failed superhero at every turn.
You most likely come to parenting with some baggage, so having grace and compassion for yourself is the first step.
Also, staying out of perfection. Perfect doesn’t exist. Perfect parenting doesn’t exist.
Let me know when you’re ready to do “The Work” on yourself.
That’s your first powerful decision.
Dr. Karla, ActivistMD