I have opened Pandora’s box.
Inside, it are some lies I’ve been telling myself – and, by extension, everyone else.
On Day 61, I wrote, “Because we love ourselves, not so that we love ourselves”. In that post, I shared that I was worried because my 9-year-old daughter decided to do 40 days sugar-free alongside me and I was scared I would pass my food demons on to her.
A few days ago, she decided she didn’t want to do it anymore and instantly I felt tense. Yeah, sure, I don’t want her to have debilitating issues with food – but the truth is, I was thrilled she wasn’t eating sugar. When she decided to start eating sugar again, we were at a friends house for lunch and she had two helpings of dessert. My stomach knotted up and I avoided eye contact with her.
I’ve noticed my reactions to my children eating sugar in the past but I told myself it was because I was so concerned about their health. It wasn’t until I listened to “The Power of Vulnerability” by Brene Brown that I saw beyond the stories and lies I had been telling myself.
Brown said ‘you can’t love anyone more than you love yourself’ – I’ve heard it a million times but this time I heard it. (I can’t recommend the audio-book highly enough – it’s actually a series of talks rather than her reading the audiobook so there’s a lot of anectodes and little quips in it that bring the content to life so beautifully.)
She talked about the nature of love and belonging and how these things cannot exist in the same space as shame because shame stops us from completely connecting. It causes us to hide parts of ourselves and avoid sharing things, even with loved ones, for fear of rejection or ridicule. More importantly, she specifically mentioned the relationship between parent and child and talked about how parents want to love their children unconditionally but, if they’re carrying shame, they will find it incredibly challenging to parent with unconditional love if the child triggers that shame – they’ll either retreat or, worse, engage in shaming behaviour towards the child.
Only a day before listening to that, Mini had asked for sweets and I had said yes. I said yes but pulled such a revolted face that she apologised for eating them. I shamed her.
In the last 24 hours, I’m recalling example after example of the ways in which shame and fear cause me to hide or distance myself from the most important people in my life – and ways in which I have passed that shame on to my children in a variety of situations for a variety of reasons.
Yup, Pandora’s box is well and truly open. It’s taken 80 days for me to realise the extent of the mess I am dealing with and the work it’s going to take to tackle it.
I feel exhausted and overwhelmed right now – but a part of me is still holding on to all the things I’ve said leading up to this point and allowing me to see this as a positive thing. The purpose of this exercise was to call out the demons and I’m fairly certain I’ve finally found the big kahuna.
So I’ll be overwhelmed for as long as I’m overwhelmed and then I’ll get started.
One of the most important goals in my life is to raise my children with a strong sense of self-worth and belonging.
I just don’t think I realised I couldn’t do that without completing the same work with myself first – or quite how much work it would actually involve!