Mindful parenting begins with cultivating our own sense of self-worth
by Allison Murphy
If you’re reading this article, you’re good enough.
Some of us grow up thinking success will come to us if we acquire specific things, such as good grades (if we are students, or parents of students); an impressive title; or a certain type of house. And that’s okay if we don’t lose our sense of who we are to external rewards, thinking, “If things look a certain way, that’s what matters.” When we focus on being good enough on the outside, we can unconsciously prolong the search for self-love and reside in self-loathing. Nothing we buy or use can get us to self-love; it’s simply knowing and feeling that we’re already good enough, because we were born that way. But I get it: “Being enough with yourself” sometimes doesn’t sound like enough.
Take technology, for example. Social media, if not managed, can allow us to develop the disease of codependency. Each hit on our social media page or posts releases “feel good” hormones that can be addictive. Like alcohol or opioids, they take away that “not good enough” feeling. That’s what drugs are supposed to do—take the pain away. If I were a child today, trying to perform (in school, in sports, in college applications) without a true sense of my own worth or adequate coping skills, I would want that pain to go away too. That’s why some of us turn to certain substances or behaviors—so we don’t have to feel “not good enough.” In my opinion, the larger problem is not the substance or behavior we pick up, but what motivated us to pick it up in the first place.
As parents, if we’re not careful, we can give our children the “I’m not enough” disease. Here’s how it happens:
If I’m a parent who doesn’t feel good enough myself, I might use my children as a way to “self-medicate,” to relieve my own sense of inadequacy. I might micromanage their time and activities so much that I take away their ability to make decisions for themselves. I don’t allow them to learn valuable lessons because I don’t want to feel the uncomfortable feelings associated with their decisions and behaviors that go along with making mistakes. That’s because I think what they do and how they do it is a reflection of me. I prevent them from establishing their own sense of self-worth, instead telling them, in essence, “You’re not good enough to make decisions yourself, so I’ll do it.”
If we’re not careful, we can grow the disease of perfectionism/codependency through our lifestyle (never mind medicating with technology or drugs), by depending upon things and the approval of others rather than teaching our children how to focus more and rely upon themselves. I know that this is not an easy thing to admit.
The good news is that we can also have the opposite effect on our children through mindful living and parenting. I had to take a close look at my own codependent traits (like worrying about what people thought of me, and micromanaging my child’s life) so I could reclaim my lost self. When we no longer abandon ourselves and we know our worth, our bodies gain a vitality and clarity that can reduce or even eliminate physical, emotional and spiritual disease.
Allison Murphy, MEd, a licensed health and science educator, health coach and yoga practitioner, lives in Carmel, NY.